The brand new issue of Metal Hammer features a deep dive into the classic 1987 horror movie Hellraiser – the product of author and director Clive Barker’s twisted imagination and the film that introduced the world to iconic hell priest Pinhead, as played by the incomparable Doug Bradley.
The movie and its countless sequels – including brand new Hulu reboot – have influence countless metal bands down the years to write songs based on this depraved cult classic. Some, such as Ministry, just sampled lines from the movies, while others simply borrowed the movie’s instantly recognisable iconography – notably Motörhead, who roped in a Pinhead-costumed Doug Bradley to appear in the video for their single Hellraiser, despite it being nothing to do with the film.
But several other bands have leaned into Barker’s gory S&M nightmare, writing songs directly inspired by its lyrics. Here are 10 killer metal tracks that wouldn’t exist without Hellraiser…
Dimmu Borgir – Hybrid Stigmata (2001)
Dimmu Borgir borrowed a snippet of Hellraiser’s script when writing their 2001 track, Hybrid Stigmata. Pinhead’s line, “Demon to some, angel to others” pops up as the track’s final lyric. It’s not the only Hellraiser reference the Norwegian symphonic metallers used on the Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia album, either. The artwork features a naked female torso bound in barbed wire in front of a design similar to the adornments on the Lament Configuration, the musical puzzle box used to summon the Cenobites from their hellish dimension.
Ice Nine Kills – The Box (2021)
Ice Nine Kills wrote The Box for their 2021 album The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood. The horror-centric metallers were inspired by the Lament Configuration and the torment unleashed upon its opening. Lyrics such as ‘All hail the priest of hell/ Master of sin/Bow to the needles and pins’ capture the tone of the film perfectly. There’s even some Doug Bradley-style spoken word narration, too.
Entombed – Hellraiser (1993)
Swedish death metal linchpins Entombed didn’t just name their track after Hellraiser — they also sliced samples from several key scenes. Sitting at the tail end of their 1993 EP Hollowman, this sludgy track offers snippets of main anti-hero Frank’s grizzly reunion with his lover Julia and Kirsty’s confrontation with the Cenobites. They also used Frank’s iconic line, “Jesus wept”, spoken seconds before – spoiler alert! – he’s torn apart.
Stellar Corpses – Hellbound Heart (2018)
Horror-punks Stellar Corpse named their 2018 album and its title track as a homage to Barker's original novella, The Hellbound Heart, on which Hellraiser was based. The lyrics are written from the Cenobites’ point of view and paraphrase some of their lines; Some call us angels, some call us demons, I have so much to show you, and ...furthest reaches of pleasure and pain. This is a fun mash-up of bleak, gory lyrics and upbeat punk energy.
Anaal Nathrakh – Revaluation of All Values (Tractatus Alogico Misanthropicus) (2004)
Extreme metal has a special fondness for Hellraiser, and Brit grindcore duo Anaal Nathrakh are no exception. Revaluation Of All Values (Tractatus Alogico Misanthropicus) opens with a sample of Frank saying, “Jesus wept”, complete with clanking chains and Kirsty’s shocked weeping. It really sets the nihilistic tone for this face-melting track.
Necronomidol – Lament Configuration (2021)
‘Kawaii Pinhead core’ doesn’t exist, but if it did, this would be it. Japanese idol group Necronomidol blend bouncy J-metal with lyrics written from the Cenobites’ perspective. Once translated, the track is a trove of delightfully disturbing lyrical gems like, Choke back those tears/Your suffering will go to waste and Your soul is mine/Eternal agony awaits. It even starts with a music box melody to set the scene.
Vatican Falling – Lament Configuration (2020)
Another song referencing the Lament Configuration. Vegas-based deathcore band Vatican Falling beefed up the terror factor by sampling Kirsty screaming “Go to hell” as she closes the box and sends the Cenobites back to their own dimension.
Blitzkid – Hellraiser See (2001)
If the Cenobites had their own ’80s kids TV show, this would be the theme song. American horror rock outfit Blitzkid dedicated a track to Hellraiser on their 2001 album Let Flowers Die. Their upbeat pop punk style jars playfully with lyrics like, ‘We'll torture your body to proportions so mythic and if you cheat us we'll tear your soul apart.’ It’s good, gross fun.
Mortician – Hell on Earth (2004)
When it comes to Hellraiser samples, Mortician’s track Hell on Earth can’t be beat. The first two minutes is an audio clip of Kirsty’s confrontation with the Cenobites. It culminates in Doug Bradley’s epic line, “We’ll tear your soul apart” before the grindcore duo launch into blast beats over growled, Hellraiser-referencing lyrics such as: ‘Box of terror/Pain or pleasure/Open the door/Death and torture.’ They’ve even included an audio clip of Frank’s recapture at the end of the track, so there’s really no need to watch the film at all…
Coil – The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser (1987)
Clive Barker originally asked industrial/electronic pioneers Coil to wriet the soundtrack for Hellraiser. As a friend and fan of the band, he felt their atmospheric, post-industrial sound would suit the tone. They recorded a demo, but New World Pictures ultimately gave the job to their in-house composer, Christopher Young. Coil chose to release the demo as their fourth album, and it’s every bit as creepy and unhinged as you’d want it to be.
The brand new issue of Metal Hammer, featuring a deep dive into the making of the original Hellraiser movie, is out now. Order it online (opens in new tab) and have it delivered straight to your door.