What rock songs freak you out? I've put together a list of scary tunes that dabble in the paranormal, introduce us to some unsettling characters, or chill the blood with their inventiveness. You might not want to listen to these in a big, empty house all by yourself.
AC/DC - "Hells Bells"
To help push a scary song over the edge, you need a creepy sound effect. Few freaky rock songs utilize this technique better than "Hells Bells," which opens with an ominous clanging bell, which conjures up all types of images from horror movies and gothic novels. This song, the opening cut from AC/DC's Back in Black, features lyrics that celebrate evil in general and Satan in particular. And when singer Brian Johnson threatens to drag you to hell, the song's stunning hard rock power makes it an invitation that's hard to refuse.
Taking a bath with your girlfriend ought to be romantic and sexy, but with "Digital Bath" Deftones turn that scenario into a scene for a murder. Over menacing guitars and keyboards, Chino Moreno sings to his lover, making it clear that "Tonight I feel like more," snuffing out her life while they're in the tub together. The dark pull of the music is seductive, which makes the lyrics' unemotional ambiguity all the more upsetting.
E, the leader of Eels, makes sexual desire sound unsettling in "Fresh Blood." Playing a horny guy looking for action in the middle of the night, E conjures an atmosphere of dark foreboding complemented by the stark drums and spooky keyboards. The song comes from the album Hombre Lobo, and E definitely howls like a wolfman on this track.
As disturbing as it is inscrutable, "Jizzlobber" (from Faith No More's brilliant Angel Dust) opens with sounds of a swamp before segueing into chilling keyboards. The lyrics you can decipher from frontman Mike Patton are screamed or shrieked and don't make much sense: "I'm ready to make love to concrete;" "My skin is a layer of soot/I'm spending my days scrubbing." What exactly is going on? It's hard to tell, but between the heavy metal riffs and those slasher-film synthesizers, it's clear the narrator has gone through a traumatic ordeal. Even at the end of "Jizzlobber," nothing is revealed or resolved, which makes the finale (and its ominous church choir and organ) all the more mystifying and terrifying.
During Marilyn Manson's heyday, he was able to unnerve conservative watchdogs with just about every song he wrote and every concert he gave. He's got several blood-curdling tracks, but for this list I'm going with "The Dope Show," which made a life of rock 'n' roll excess sound akin to living in a world of ghouls and goblins.
Lullabies are usually beautiful, soothing songs about sweet dreams and happier tomorrows. But not with "Enter Sandman," in which Metallica lay out a nightmare scenario in which going to bed simply unleashes all the terrors of the mind. Never has sleep felt less relaxing or restorative.
The Downward Spiral, the magnificent 1994 album from Nine Inch Nails, is filled with unsettling songs about kinky sex and suicide, but "The Becoming" is especially stunning, marrying horror-movie screams, abrasive industrial rock and Trent Reznor's vitriolic self-loathing. In the song, Reznor seems to be transforming into a monster so loathsome that even those closest to him are repulsed.
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has always had a gift for the dark and the brooding, but on "Ava Adore" he went jet black for a twisted ode to a lover as demented as he is. There's nothing romantic in his portrayal of their relationship: Instead, it's an affair consumed with angry, ugly, desperate need. At one point, he declares, "Lovely girl, you're the murder in my world/Dressing coffins for the souls I've left behind," and the music (with its electronic loops and anxiety-ridden beats) is just as menacing.
Scary music doesn't have to be loud to be deeply unnerving. Take a listen to Bruce Springsteen's superbly stripped-down "State Trooper," an exceptional song from his early-'80s gem Nebraska. Aided just by a ghostly acoustic guitar being lightly but urgently picked, Springsteen sings in the voice of a desperate man driving fast in the middle of the night to get back to his girl. "License, registration, I ain't got none," he tells us, "but I got a clear conscience/'Bout the things that I done." We're never sure what it is exactly he's done, but "State Trooper" is so disturbingly spare in its arrangement and mysterious in its lyrics that you start filling in the blanks yourself.
A lot of Jack White's songs are consumed with romantic complications, but none of them are quite like "Little Ghost. In this White Stripes ditty, which has the aura of a campfire sing-along, White tells of falling in love with a beautiful woman. There's only one catch: She's a specter. So, yes, it doesn't make for the easiest of courtships: "I'm the only one that sees you/And I can't do much to please you."