Halloween Haunts: Beyond the Monster Mash: Five Spooky, Literary Bangers for Your Next House Party! By Brian Asman
“The Children of the Night—what music they make!”
Why hello there, Halloween people. Brian Asman here, author of the viral hit Man, Fuck This House and the upcoming Christmas horror comedy Return of the Living Elves. When I sat down to write something for the HWA blog, I racked my brain for spooky topics on which I’d be particularly qualified to pontificate. After all, I already wrote an article about Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, which is basically my only artistic influence. What else could I possibly talk about?
Luckily, I was listening to music at the time. I know, weird, right? Who listens to music these days, when there are approximately thirteen billion true crime podcasts, plus the NyQuil chicken challenge or whatever the devil children are doing these days to have fun/send themselves to the ER. Well, I’m at that age where I’m sort of becoming a dinosaur, and I’m into all kinds of oldfangled nonsense like rock and roll. But you know when I’m especially into? Spooky rock ‘n roll! It’s all part of my 24/7 horror deathstyle.
Without further ado, I present to you five of my favorite terrifying tracks, all based on horror books and carefully cultivated to shiver the spines of the most jaded, devil horn-thrusting, denim vest-wearing, mall-security-guard-antagonizing badass headbanger. If you’re looking to refresh your stale Halloween party playlist, look no further!
- “Annabel Lee,” Tiger Army
If you’re not from Southern California, you might not realize that rockabilly music and horror are inextricably linked in the minds of every chick with an Elvira haircut and every dude who spends ¾ of his paycheck on pomade, in the form of the fusion genre psychobilly. Originated by seminal SoCal stalwarts The Cramps, the genre’s proliferated over the years, and the Berkeley-founded, Los Angeles-based Tiger Army have been standard bearers for upright bass-driven rock since the ‘90s. “Annabel Lee” is a hard-driving yet plaintive cut that conjures the pathos of Edgar Allan Poe whilst simultaneously making you want to headbutt the closest human being.
Check it out here.
- “Cabal,” The Big Bad
The Misfits might’ve invented horror punk (or at least popularized it), but West Virginia’s The Big Bad is certainly keeping the genre alive whilst simultaneously penning odes to some of their favorite horror books and movies. “Cabal” is a dramatic recounting of Clive Barker’s Cabal/Nightbreed (and strangely the second song they’ve written about it), with a heartbreakingly rockin’ chorus that’ll take you right back to Boone’s cruel manipulation at the hands of Dr. Decker: “A murder scene, tell me it’s not true/I may be a monster, but I burn for you…take me away, singin’ the same mad song/lay this nocturnal soul/at the gates of Midian.”
Check it out, it’ll rock your face off.
- “Saints of Killers” by the Goddamn Gallows
Not going to lie, most of the songs on this list are either horror punk or psychobilly, for obvious reasons. This next one is about one of my favorite comics of all time, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher, and the devastatingly bleak badass the Saint of Killers. Yes, I know Preacher isn’t a book, and it’s arguably horror, but this is my list, okay? Like seriously, make your own, that would be awesome, I’m always on the lookout for more spooky music!
But on to the song—it’s got a fast-paced, western twang that summons up images of Boot Hill, where the Saint of Killers slumbers until he’s woken up by two dumbass angels. While he’s known for hating just about everything, I think he’d hate this paean to his bloody exploits just a little less. When the Goddamn Gallows sing, “The Lord is runnin’ and a-hidin’ from him, Saint of Killers wants revenge” it’s physically impossible to not through your hands in the air.
Shoot yer six guns in the air here.
- “How the Hell Did We Get Here?” Matt Skiba and the Sekrets
Best known for founding seminal Chicago punk band Alkaline Trio, as well as a multi-year stint in Blink 182, Matt Skiba’s long been known for his horror-tinged lyrics, recounting every breakup like a dissection. Lesser known is his love for the book House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, but in 2012 he wrote a total banger of a tribute for his side project’s debut album Babylon. That same year, he also attended Danielewski’s birthday party, which in my humble opinion is totally #writergoals. Whether you’re a fan of House of Leaves or just see people talking about it all the time, lyrics like “Now I gotta level with you baby I am lost and alone/
At the end of this hallway maybe this house of leaves is a home” provides the sort of danceable creep factor perfect for any swinging wake.
Marvel at the fact there’s a song about House of Leaves here.
- “Red Right Hand,” Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Embarrassing horror confession—I’ve listened to this song a ton of times (sometimes during the intro for Peaky Blinders) and never realized it was about Stephen King’s The Stand. But hey, like Nick Cave himself said in a 2007 interview with Q magazine, “A good song has the ability to continue to reveal itself to you long after you’ve actually written it.” Now, to be fair, the man on the edge of town Cave sings about also bears plenty of resemblance to Judge Holden from Blood Meridian, which is also arguably a horror novel, but word on the street is it’s explicitly about King’s magnum opus. And when you listen to lyrics like, “He’s a ghost, he’s a god/He’s a man, he’s a guru,” well, it’s not too hard to picture Randall Flagg himself, walking a pandemic-ravaged America with his right hand dripping red.
Take a stroll with the Walkin Dude here.