The 10 spookiest heavy metal songs of all time

Photos of Cradle Of Filth, Ghost, Slipknot and Chelsea Wolfe
(Image credit: Cradle Of Filth: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images | Ghost: Mick Hutson/Redferns | Slipknot: KMazur/WireImage | Chelsea Wolfe: Press/Ebru Yildiz | Composite by Metal Hammer/Future)

Ever since Black Sabbath were inspired by a ghostly shape appearing in Geezer Butler’s bedroom, heavy metal has loved to scare everybody. Countless bands have tried countless different ways to frighten your pants off over the years, from masquerading as masked gremlins to layers and layers of makeup. However, all this amounts to nothing if the music can’t be creepy at the same time. Here are 10 times heavy metal artists were able to sound legitimately spooky.

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Iron Maiden – Fear Of The Dark (Fear Of The Dark, 1992)

Fear Of The Dark is a track that takes you by the hand and walks you through a dark woodland, and you can’t help but feel a little vulnerable when plunged into its dark embrace. It’s relatively simple, but its steady riffs and repetitive lyrics really play into a deep, overwhelming sense of paranoia. We’re never turning our lights off ever again.

Slipknot – Iowa (Iowa, 2001)

Iowa is the sonic embodiment of evil. Slipknot’s 15-minute epic locks you alone in a room with Corey Taylor and a corpse, a festering sense of intoxicating dread growing with each line. As deranged distortion grows in magnitude, the madness becomes inescapable. Taylor also recorded the vocals while stark naked, vomiting and cutting at himself with glass, which only amplifies his alarmingly sinister performance.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath, 1970)

Inspired by bassist Geezer Butler’s hallucination of Satan materialising at the foot of his bed, Black Sabbath’s eponymous song explores the notion of being confronted by the Devil. From the initial pondering of ‘What is this that stands before me?’ to the eventual urgency to resist the clutches of Hell, this menacingly slow burn thrums with a fear of mortality and the unknown. 

Ghost – Ritual (Opus Eponymous, 2010)

It’s time to come to Papa! In a shimmer of glisteningly demonic heavy metal, Ritual lures unwitting listeners in towards the altar. Amping up Ghost’s typical theatrical grandeur, the track’s lofty sound masquerades as holiness as it cries for an act of human sacrifice. In all its twisted ceremonial majesty, Papa Emeritus and his Ghouls nailed it here. Nema!

Slayer – Dead Skin Mask (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)

Thrash icons Slayer have a confession to make: they want to wear our skin as a mask. Dead Skin Mask unravels this unhinged desire (inspired by killer Ed Gein), Tom Araya’s roars relishing in the idea of grazing the skin with their fingertips. It’s a ghastly song that serves up unnerving dreams with a psychopathic grin, giving murderous ideas a creepy yet charismatic voice.

Cradle Of Filth – Her Ghost In The Fog (Midian, 2000)

Her Ghost In The Fog is haunted by despair. With Dani Filth’s scratching vocals tormented by the gorgeous, floating voice of a deceased beloved, this Cradle Of Filth hit drowns in an air of rich, gothic mourning. As Dani laments and the music descends into flourishing piano, this ghostly anthem feels tailor-made for a foray into a very metal haunted house. 

Mayhem – Freezing Moon (De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, 1994)

You can always count on Norwegian black metal heathens Mayhem to serve up a perfect spooky anthem or two – and they over-delivered with Freezing Moon. Totally possessed, this track is packed out with blast beats and growling, slurring vocals. It’s a chiller that feels ravaged by cannibalistic desire, lusting after the taste of human flesh in the dead of a haunted night. 

Type O Negative – Black No 1 (Little Miss Scare -All) (Bloody Kisses, 1993)

With Peter Steele’s brooding baritone vocals at the forefront, Type O Negative tracks have a tendency to feel a little sexy. Black No 1 (Little Miss Scare-All) is no different, capturing that iconic gothic metal charm with a sprinkle of bleak Halloween imagery. It somehow transforms lust into a twisted carnal infatuation, resulting in a classic drenched in darkness.

Opeth – The Grand Conjuration (Ghost Reveries, 2005)

Swedish prog metal maestros Opeth can always be trusted to craft a stunning yet startling soundscape. The Grand Conjuration perfectly balances dark and light, gradually amassing an air of mystery – all before growling death metal ruptures the gloomy tension. With a cry of Satanic howls and some intense instrumental torment, this fan favourite unfolds into cries of totally ghoulish blasphemy.

Chelsea Wolfe – Vex (Hiss Spun, 2017)

Chelsea Wolfe is a sorceress in disguise. Existing in an echoing vortex, Vex is more of a sonic hex than anything else. The singer/songwriter’s feather-light siren vocals dance alongside eerily twisting, doomy instrumentals: the contrast is somehow both devilishly haunting and bewitching. The Hiss Spun cut gradually builds into outright clawing, rumbling metal vocals, and it is masterfully harrowing.

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Emily Swingle

Full-time freelancer, part-time music festival gremlin, Emily first cut her journalistic teeth when she

co-founded Bittersweet Press in 2019. After asserting herself as a home-grown, emo-loving, nu-metal

apologist, Clash Magazine would eventually invite Emily to join their Editorial team in 2022. In the

following year, she would pen her first piece for Metal Hammer - unfortunately for the team, Emily

has since become a regular fixture. When she’s not blasting metal for Hammer, she also scribbles for

Rock Sound, Why Now and Guitar and more.