“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”
From the bloated, shrouded revenants of living death that haunted medieval folklore to the dishy, pouting teens of post-millennial young adult fiction, the vampire has somehow remained relevant over centuries, stalking a long and strange route through what a bell-end might call ‘our collective psyche’. A teeming amalgam of sublimated sexual desires, xenophobic stereotypes and fears of infectious disease, there’s a lot of dark shit going on under that swishing black cloak and slicked-back widow’s peak.
So draw the curtains and sink your fangs into these batshit-crazy vamp classics, each taking their own distinctive approaches to the enduring theme of plasma-guzzling, garlic-dodging undead bastards.
1. Venom – Bloodlust (Black Metal, 1982)
Just about the world’s most extreme metal song in 1982, Venom's Bloodlust is a beautifully ragged and turbulent rampage, Abaddon’s drums a blur, Mantas’s guitar cranked up to full aggro machine-gun mode, solos a sadistic noise. Cronos has seldom sounded more wild and beastly, gleefully recounting his fondness for quaffing haemoglobin direct from source (as well as ‘spurting my load on the meek and the mild’), before introducing himself with a vain flourish: ‘I’ll sink my fangs in your neck as you dream/I am Count Cronos, Vampire Supreme!’
2. Misfits – We Bite (1982)
You’d think the New Jersey horrorpunks Misfits’ catalogue would be bulging with vampiric anthems, but even this raging classic – recorded in 1982 but unreleased until 1984’s Die Die My Darling single – is far from explicit about the nature of the threat. Glenn Danzig’s lyrics mostly repeat ‘When I get your blood I rip your throat… I want your blood, I rip your throat to drink some blood’ in the catchiest way imaginable; it could be describing vampires, werewolves, or just hematophagous psychopaths, either way it’s a bloody riot.
3. Judas Priest – Love Bites (Defenders of The Faith, 1984)
A brooding nocturnal anthem with a slinky, neon-dappled pulse, Judas Priest's Love Bites was released as a single in the US with an egregiously glammy sleeve and workaday performance video, neither giving any hint of vampiric tendencies. But Rob Halford’s cheeky lyrics use dark, creepy imagery as bawdy sex metaphor (not for the first time): ‘Across you I bend’; ‘you smile as I sip’; ‘It drains you to white’; ‘So come in my arms’; with these fulsome innuendoes, Rob seemed to be penning a homoerotic sequel to Carry On Screaming!.
4. Slayer - At Dawn They Sleep (Hell Awaits, 1985)
On the thoroughly evil-sounding Hell Awaits, Slayer unloosed an infernal panoply of demons, psycho killers, Satanic priests and necrophiliacs, but the nastiest shits of all are the ‘Bloodsucking creatures of the night’ that dwell within this irresistible thrash classic. Needless to say these vampires are no frilly-shirted romantics; these are the pitiless, ravenous ghouls of medieval folklore, ‘Apparition[s] from the pits of Hell’ who ‘Lock their jaws into your veins’ and generally make Max Schreck’s titular villain from 1922 movie classic Nosferatu look like Emma Bunton.
5. Skin - One Thousand Years (Blood, Women, Roses, 1987)
First song on the first album from this Jarboe-fronted Swans offshoot project, this dark acoustic avant-goth-folk meditation on loneliness approaches vampirism with perhaps more subtlety and introspection than the metalheads in this playlist. ‘I live by the heart of the things I kill’ is our only cryptic clue to the protagonist’s blood dependency, the song’s predominant impression being one of existential woe, Jarboe’s haunting vocalisations playing out the tragedy of the godless immortal in devastatingly concise observations like ‘I destroy what I love’ and ‘This body won’t die’.
6. Type O Negative - Suspended In Dusk (Bloody Kisses, 1993)
Surely Type O Negative’s most severe slab of slow’n’low gloom’n’doom, this monolithic epic was originally a bonus track on the digipak edition of mordant gothic masterpiece, Bloody Kisses. A defining song for the band, it’s hard to believe this album was ever released without its mournful profundity. Much-missed frontman and lyricist Peter Steele, like Jarboe, zeroes in on the tragic essence of vampiric immortality: ‘I can do nothing but sit by and watch my loves grow old and wither’ – with crushing poetic empathy.
7. Mercyful Fate – Return of The Vampire (In The Shadows, 1993)
Originally a demo from 1981, King Diamond’s crew presented a wholly literal, no-bullshit take on the vampire legend here, a 1930s Universal Pictures milieu where the antagonist flaps from his lair on batwings. King offers some solid advice (‘You gotta drive a stake right through the heart of the living dead’) before evidently succumbing to the creature (‘My shadow is gone… I know what you’ve done!’). When re-recorded for Mercyful Fate’s long-awaited comeback LP. Into The Unknown, drums were pounded by the band’s friend, fellow Dane and superfan Lars Ulrich.
8. Cradle Of Filth – Funeral In Carpathia (Dusk And Her Embrace, 1996)
The vampire theme is slightly obscured by Dani Filth's abstruse antiquarian sesquipedalia, all ‘lucifugous kisses’ and ‘erubescent veils’, but the protracted cry of ‘Supreme Vampyric Evil’ hits it on the nose for any slowcoaches. The title is another clue, swiped from a mournful James Bernard piece from the soundtrack of Hammer Horror’s classic 1958 movie Dracula, Carpathia being the mountainous landscape around the Count’s Transylvanian homeland. The song itself is just about the definitive Cradle classic – 8:22 of melodic, jet-black gothic metal that couldn’t be anyone else.
9. My Dying Bride – A Kiss To Remember (Like Gods Of The Sun,1996)
Thanks largely to two Hollywood blockbusters – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With A Vampire (1994) – you could hardly move for darkly sexy bloodsucking fun in the 90s, and this impassioned undead love song saw Bradford gothic doom titans My Dying Bride squeeze all the sinister romanticism and morbid longing from the theme. Lurching between propulsive, twisting riffs and achingly sorrowful downtempo melodies, augmented with Martin Powell’s forlorn violin and Aaron Stainthorpe’s lovesick croon, A Kiss To Remember nailed the zeitgeist in all its erotic elegance.
10. My Chemical Romance – Vampires Will Never Hurt You (I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, 2002)
It’s nearly 20 years since New Jersey emo darlings My Chemical Romance launched their career with this sprightly, stripped-down single, frontman Gerard Way telling Twitter in 2013 that he regards it as “my favourite song of all time”, adding “Still my fav vocal performance I have ever done”. Pre-dating the mid-00s Twilight boom by a few years, MCR aren’t remotely seduced by the dark side here, Gerard demanding that if the vampires convert him to their undead legion, he wants a stake through his heart. C’mon Gez, live a little.