10. Autopsy - Sewn Into One
Death metal legend Chris Reifert always cheerfully acknowledged that many early Death and Autopsy lyrics came via VHS splatter flicks. In later years he preferred to plunder his own warped imagination, but in 2009 – the year of Autopsy’s reunion – came a film so stomach-churningly foul it seemed tailor-made for an Autopsy song.
The film was The Human Centipede, and the song was this unpleasant number. Chris told Fangoria in 2014: “Once in a while something will come along that really makes a mark. The last time that happened was when I saw the first Human Centipede movie.” If you don’t know what happens in the movie, count yourself lucky. Don’t watch it over breakfast.
CHOICE LYRIC: “No escape, caged and whipped / Paraded for dark pleasure / Intestines pump, throats consume / Ingesting pure infected doom”
9. Dokken - Dream Warriors
Many fans argue the best Freddy Krueger movie is A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and not just because this killer Dokken track is on the soundtrack. Although that certainly helps.
The continuing saga of nasty old Freddy, this time focused on killing the last remaining children of the people who burned him to death, it was a suitably ridiculous and tasteless addition to the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. And that’s why we love it.
Back in 1987, Dokken were metal heavyweights in the US, which made this a bloody and bombastic match made in Hell.
CHOICE LYRIC: “I lie awake and dread the lonely nights / I’m not alone / I wonder if these heavy eyes can face the unknown”
8. Bulletbelt - Deathgasm
When writer and director Jason Lei Howden needed a title track for Deathgasm — his 2015 heavy metal splatter comedy – he turned to fellow New Zealanders Bulletbelt. “I put it to them: ‘I love films like A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 and Trick Or Treat, which have a heavy metal theme song, and that’s what I’m really looking to do,’” explains Jason.
Bulletbelt’s Steve Francis adds: “I was given the film script to write the lyrics before the film was even made so I had to visualise and feel the vibe of the movie. I think we nailed it!” We can’t disagree: the movie’s titular theme is a headbanging showcase of blackened thrash malevolence.
CHOICE LYRIC: “Accursed, recite the ancient hymn / Scarlet tide wants the key to death / Driven, blood gushing from their eyes / Hell and pain awaits all the rest”
7. Cradle Of Filth - Tortured Soul Asylum
Cradle Of Filth’s fourth album, Midian, was conceptually based in the deranged world of Clive Barker’s novel Cabal and its subsequent big-screen incarnation, Nightbreed.
The rest of the songs on the record were inspired by other characters that Dani Filth imagined might exist within Barker’s hellish realm, but Tortured Soul Asylum was a direct salute to the book and movie: a gleefully twisted trek through Midian’s demon-infested streets that echoed the grotesque, nightmarish aesthetic of Barker’s second directorial effort.
His first was Hellraiser, of course, and it’s Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley’s voice you can hear at the start of this epic slab of extremity.
CHOICE LYRIC: “These visions struck like a furious fuck / Nailing wet lips to cold cemetery walls”
6. Orange Goblin - The Fog
Directed by John Carpenter, supernatural thriller The Fog is an iconic 80s horror classic, and Orange Goblin’s tribute is a masterclass in ghoulish doom. “It was one of the first horror movies I fell in love with and always felt that it’d make a great basis for a heavy metal song,” says singer Ben Ward.
“When the guys played me the riffs, it bought to mind images of the creeping fog bank in the movie and the menacing figures of the ghosts hellbent on revenge for what had happened to them 100 years before. I still love the movie to this day.”
CHOICE LYRIC: “A nameless horror / Eye for an eye / An ancient lust for vengeance lies beneath the tide / Malefic demons, here comes the night”
5. Mastodon - Creature Lives
No strangers to the realms of fantastical beings and monstrous beasts with music to match both, the most surprising thing about the Atlantan quartet’s journey into the murky depths of the Amazon is how genial it all sounds.
Taken from their streamlined 2011 masterpiece The Hunter, Creature Lives may well be the simplest song in Mastodon’s catalogue, the trippy synths and blissful choral vocals written by Troy Sanders and Brann Dailor for bandmate Brent Hinds as a touching tribute to his love of the 1954 Universal monster classic, Creature From The Black Lagoon.
CHOICE LYRIC: “I saw the creature fall / Into the swamp from which he spawned”
3. Rob Zombie - Living Dead Girl
While the song itself is a veritable smorgasbord of horror references, including nods to Lady Frankenstein (1971), Daughters Of Darkness (1971) and The Last House On The Left (1972), it’s perhaps the video for the track that features the most obvious tribute, coming straight from the showreel of one of cinema’s first horror masterpieces, 1920’s The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari.
Rob Zombie himself is cast as the titular Doctor, alongside wife and frequent collaborator Sheri Moon Zombie in the role of the Living Dead Girl in a gloriously daft, black and white ode to horror’s earliest days.
CHOICE LYRIC: “Crawl on me / Sink into me / Die for me / Living dead girl”
2. Possessed - The Exorcist
Before its current acclaim as classic, era-defining cinema, 1973’s The Exorcist was reviled as sick, corrupting filth. The VHS was banned by the time Bay Area teens Possessed wrote their take, for a debut that was ground zero for death metal.
The film’s theme, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, was plucked out on synth by young producer Randy Burns (soon to become the go-to thrash/death sound guy), and the lyrics come from the perspective of a turbulent, Pazuzu-infected mind. The film’s happy(ish) ending is reprised in Jeff Becerra’s demonic roar: a soul is saved, but at what mental cost?
CHOICE LYRIC: “Exorcism takes control / Beneath my body help my soul”
1. Alice Cooper - He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)
We talk to the Godfather Of Shock Rock about the Friday The 13th anthem that revitalised his career
The year is 1986. Nine years after a spell in a sanitarium to recover from alcoholism, Alice Cooper is preparing his 16th album, Constrictor, with a sharp new perspective on his career.
As the mainstream media veered away from Alice’s signature heavy sound, favouring schmaltzy power ballads, the godfather of shock rock needed a blunt-force trauma to bring his villainous alter-ego back to his former glory. Cue a chance meeting with metal guitarist, Kane Roberts.
“I panicked with Constrictor because they wouldn’t play hard rock on the radio,” Alice admits today. “I had four power ballads in a row that were hits and my audience started to think I was mellowing out, but the rest of the album was heavy and they just wouldn’t play it.
"So I got with this metal monster Kane and put a band together that was relentlessly heavy for two albums based entirely on splatter movies. I wanted my album cover to say ‘featuring no ballads’!”
As the album was coming together, the team behind 80s horror mega-franchise Friday The 13th approached Alice to pen a theme song for Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. They tasked the right man to embody the hockey mask-clad baddie for the song that would become He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask).
“I started thinking, ‘Who is the man behind that hockey mask? What is driving this thing to kill people? What’s his motivation?’ Kane and I were writing monstrous songs about survival at the time, then we ended up working with Tom Kelly who wrote a lot of Madonna’s hits.
"We came into the studio with a heavy version of He’s Back, and Kelly changed the whole bassline but it danced this time. It still had the creepy factor because my lyrics were still there, but it moved really well. It had an almost-Michael Jackson beat.”
In the process of making Jason Voorhees into a proper household name, the man born Vincent Furnier recognised the masked murderer as a contemporary of his own Alice Cooper character – a dangerous and inscrutable individual.
“The scariest part about Jason, and Halloween’s Michael Myers, too, is that they show zero emotion. Killing for them is just like swatting a fly – it’s business as usual and you don’t see them getting mad,” Alice observes.
“Freddy Krueger’s face gets all contorted when he does something, but Jason can put a butcher’s knife through a guy’s chest and stick him to the wall, then cock his head and look at his work.”
Alice’s iconic ode to the Crystal Lake maniac reached a whole new level of meta when combined with the seemingly limitless Alice Cooper miscreant of his own design.
“If you think about it, the Man Behind The Mask is Alice Cooper, who wears a mask. I put the makeup on and I hide behind the mask. I become the villain and I have total control over everything, and that sets the character free…but as soon as the show’s over and I take the makeup off, I’m back to being a very nice guy!”
Ironically, Jason’s new theme song topped the charts in Finland and Sweden, despite the two countries’ bans of the Friday The 13th franchise movies for excessive violence. Alice credits his and his writing partner’s ability to spectate horror from the inside looking out.
“Kane and I see that rock music, horror and comedy are in bed together,” Alice admits. “You can’t have horror just for horror’s sake, it has to get so ridiculously over the top that you start to laugh. That scene in The Evil Dead when a shotgun accidentally hits a pipe and the pipe bursts and every inch of this guy is covered in blood – I burst out laughing, like, ‘You can’t put any more blood in this movie!’”
Horror movies became hot property in the 1980s, as the Friday The 13th and Halloween sagas competed at the box office with A Nightmare On Elm Street. The key to a successful splatter franchise is not the array of victims their antagonist chooses, but the supernatural and often comedic elements of their survival against any and all methods of death and destruction.
“In the first Halloween movie, Jamie Lee Curtis puts a knitting needle through Michael Myers’ ear and he goes down. The next shot you see him sit up behind her and you realise right there that he can’t be killed. You see the world opening up and now there’s gonna be 25 of these movies because you can’t kill him. I’d love to be at the writers’ sessions and they’re discussing how he died in the last movie: ‘They’ve blown him up and he’s in a puddle of mud – it just so happens that mud is what brings him back to life!’”
A horror junkie, Alice may have seen it al both onscreen and onstage, but he admits that sometimes the scariest horror movie concepts are those that feel a little closer to home.
“I rarely see a horror movie that makes me flinch. If you asked 100 people for the scariest movie ever made, they’d say The Exorcist. You can laugh off Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, they’re the boogeymen that live under your bed, but when you’re talking about demon possession of a little girl that’s documented and has actually happened, it speaks to your soul.”
Alice also played Freddy Krueger’s drunk adoptive father in 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, luring him into another classic horror universe. Although he welcomed the opportunity to play a character that didn’t involve guillotines and gallows on a stage in front of metal fans baying for fake blood, he’s more at home with his own psychotic shock rock persona.
“I always show the audience that I’m playing this relentlessly arrogant bastard that never says ‘thank you’ or talks to the audience, because if he did he would be human,” he notes. “I never want them to see Alice onstage as human. I want him to be truly phantom-like!”