It is widely known that one of the most usual topics in the rock and metal genres is the occult. Apart from the lyrics, many rock/metal artists and bands composed really evil, scary or sick music songs, as far as the musical style and atmosphere are concerned. But have you ever wondered which are the most evil, scariest and/or sickest songs in rock and metal history, lyrically and/or musically? Myth of Rock searched the rock and metal archives and came up with a list, that's presented to you in this article! Some are spooky, others are sick, all of them are famous for their special character. Of course, we could have picked songs from the black metal or death metal genres (from Venom to Marduk and Cannibal Corpse), but then the list would be rather gigantic! Read this article and listen to the following 21 songs at your own risk!
1. “I Put A Spell On You” - Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (1956)
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was an American blues singer and songwriter, who was distinguished due to his passionate, often grunting and gurgling vocals and his wild stage performances. He was a forerunner of the shock-rock genre and became famous with the classic hit “I Put a Spell On You”. It is a rhythm and blues song, impressing and captivating, which initially was composed as a ballad and later Hawkins transformed it into a powerful, spooky tune. Hawkins had written it as a lament for the loss of a girlfriend he wanted back. The first version of the song featured various grunts and groans and was banned by most radio stations. “I Put a Spell On You” was highly influential and was many artists, for example Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Animals, Nina Simone, Joe Cocker and Marilyn Manson.
2. “Fire” – Arthur Brown (1968)
A classic late sixties heavy rock song, “Fire” is the most known composition of Arthur Brown, which topped the singles charts in England and Canada and reached number two on US Billboard chart. Brown was very influential to the shock rock and heavy metal genres, due to his flamboyant theatrical performances, his wide-ranging voice and of course, his flaming crown and demonic make-up. “Fire” stands out as a great heavy Hammond rock tune, with great melodic hooks, the amazing vocals of Brown and the characteristic keyboards of Vincent Crane. Everybody who says that Brown was a one-hit wonder, should listen to the entire “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” album and the discography of Kingdome Come. Respect the “God of Hellfire”!
3. “Season of the Witch” – Vanilla Fudge (1968)
One of the first psychedelic rock songs in history, it was written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips and released in Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” (1966) – the first recording of the song features Jimmy Page on the guitar. Here we enlist the cover version by Vanilla Fudge, from the 1968 album “Renaissance”. Hard psych rockers Vanilla Fudge really transformed the song, giving it a scary character – just listen to the spooky keyboards, the eerie guitar and the haunting, insane vocals. It’s a song that I don’t want to listen during the night - it could easily be used as the soundtrack of a Hammer Films movie. During Led Zeppelin's sound checks, they often warmed up by playing this. The song allows for lots of jamming when played live.
4. “Black Sabbath” - Coven (1969)
Coven is the first occult rock band in history. They were formed in the late sixties and their debut album, “Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls” (1969), shocked the world of pop culture. According to metal historians, not KISS, not Dio, but Coven used first the devil’s horns gesture. Their lyrics and image were absolutely satanic and they even recorded first a black mass, which was included in their debut. “Black Sabbath” is representative of the band’s satanic aesthetics, since the song’s typical psychedelic rock sound had a warm, mysterious and mystical feeling. As Jinx Dawson sings the satanic phrases, you feel you are surrounded by laughing witches!
5. "Black Sabbath" - Black Sabbath (1970)
Black Sabbath wasn’t the first band to play so heavy, but metal historians and fans agree that this is the official beginning of the heavy metal genre. The eponymous opus of Black Sabbath opens the debut album of the band – the bell is tolling, it is raining, the protagonist finds himself at a black mass and the classic guitar riff along with the desperate vocals of Osbourne gives you goosebumps. “Black Sabbath” is one of the scariest songs ever recorded, a real heavy metal hymn, a doom metal diamond, which shines in the dark. Just see the artwork of the album, listen to that particular song and you will get in the dark atmosphere! The title of the song was lifted from the title of a 1963 horror movie, starring Boris Karloff, which was directed by the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava.
6. “D.O.A.” - Bloodrock (1970)
A morbid song, for sure, it was the biggest hit and the most-remembered composition of American psych/prog hard rockers Bloodrock, from their second album, “Bloodrock 2” (1970). Some say that this band was a one-hit wonder – well, maybe they haven’t listened to the band’s first three albums, which are a must for every fan of hard psychedelia. “D.O.A.” lasts 8.30 minutes and it’s a gory tune, which refers to the aftermath of a plane crash. The keyboards resemble a British ambulance siren, the vocals narrate us the horrible story in a theatrical tone and the epic structure of the song convinces even the most demanding listeners. “D.O.A.” was banned by FCC and many radio stations refused to play the song.
7. “Timothy” – The Buoys (1970)
This morbid song tells us the story of Timothy, who was trapped with two of his friends in a collapsed mine. Two of the three finally resorted to … cannibalism against the eponymous character, Timothy. This gruesome tale comes in contrast with the music style of the song, which is almost cheerful and relaxed. “Timothy” was written by Rupert Holmes and recorded by the pop/rock band The Buoys, in 1970. Since the band wanted to get popular, Holmes suggested a novel solution to the problem: to purposefully record a song likely to be banned, thus generating publicity for The Buoys! So this cannibal song was born! It’s so terrific, if you combine the lyrics and the pop/rock music. By the way, I like very much the brass section and the orchestral arrangements!
8. “Come to the Sabbat” – Black Widow (1970)
“Come, come to the sabbat, Satan’s there!”, that’s how the refrain goes. Black Widow was an English heavy rock band of the 70s and are considered to be one of the occult rock pioneers. “Come to the Sabbat” is a hymn to Satan, but we should not emphasize on the lyrics that much since its music content sounds like a sonic treasure. If you explore the song, you will find folk, classical and jazz elements in it! Indeed, it’s a rainbow of sounds, an excellent piece of art that plays with your mind. However, the imposing vocal performance of Kip Trevor, who goes insane on the refrain, will haunt you. Are you sure you want to listen to this song at midnight?
9. “Satz: Ebene” – Klaus Schulze (1972)
One of the most disturbing and intense albums I have heard in my life, “Irrlicht” is the mind-blowing debut album of krautrock pioneer Klaus Schulze. The German electric rock god begins his first album with this improvisational song of more than 23 minutes. It’s space rock music and it could be used in a sci-fi horror movie, without a doubt. If you want to see how krautrock sounds like, just listen to this atmospheric, dramatic work of art. The incredible is that Schulze, who before launching his solo career, was a member of German prog rock acts Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and The Cosmic Jokers, recorded this cosmic rock masterpiece without synthesizers! He made early organ drone experiments, using a broken and modified electric organ, a recording of a classical orchestra rehearsal played backwards, and a damaged amplifier to filter and alter sounds. Space horror music at its best!
10. “Tubular Bells” – Mike Oldfield (1973)
Mike Oldfield’s masterpiece couldn’t be left out from a list like this. It’s a long, mostly instrumental song, comprised by two parts of more than twenty minutes each and was released in the same titled album in 1973. Oldfield’s debut opus was used on the soundtrack of one of the greatest horror movies of all time, “The Exorcist” (1973) and gained great success. Musically, it is an amazing work of progressive rock, where Oldfield plays almost all the instruments, and its main melody is utterly scary and frightening, especially if you have seen the movie. It was orchestrated in 1973 by David Bedford (“The Orchestral Tubular Bells”), it was the third bestselling album in the 70s in the UK and it was the first record published by the legendary prog label Virgin Records. Every time I listen to it, I am shivering.
11. “I Love the Dead” – Alice Cooper (1973)
Macabre and disturbing … it’s Alice Cooper, the shock-rock master! This song, off the “Billion Dollar Babies”, is about necrophilia, as Alice Cooper sings “I love the dead before they're cold, Their bluing flesh for me to hold, Cadaver eyes upon me see nothing, I love the dead before they rise”. Although Alice Cooper has an ironic approach, it’s a rather sick song, and risky too, since necrophilia is a taboo subject, even in our days. Apart from the notable lyrics, the song has a great orchestration, a very interesting progression and a passionate, unique performance from all the band members. During the “Billion Dollar Babies” tour, Cooper would simulate sex with a mannequin while performing this song. He would also stage a mock beheading of himself during the song.
12. “Fire On High” – Electric Light Orchestra (1975)
That’s an evil song, for sure! “Fire On High” sounds so different from the other works of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and their progressive, Beatles – influenced musical character – Jeff Lynne, mastermind of the band, has evil intentions here and decided to offer us an astonishing, strange and beautiful instrumental song, with which the “Face the Music” album begins. The beginning of “Fire On High” is truly satanic, with the weird, spooky sounds of the violins, the cellos and the piano. The use of the choir is brilliant and so gloomy, when the “Halleluiah” is sung. And of course, the song contains the best known backward message – a scary, male voice is heard (it’s the drummer, Bev Bevan!), saying something incomprehensible; if you play it backwards, you get “The music is reversible but time … is not. Turn back, turn back, turn back!”. As Lynne commented, they did it purposely, as a response to the accusations that they had backward messages in previous songs!
13. “Suspiria” – Goblin (1977)
Progressive rock music fans know very well how big was the 70s Italian scene of the genre. And Goblin was one of the most charismatic Italian prog rock acts, distinguished mostly for composing soundtracks for horror films. Their most known works were their collaborations with Italian horror master, director Dario Argento, in the films “Profondo Rosso” and “Suspiria”. If you have listened to Goblin’s “Suspiria” theme, you will understand why this track is on this list. Horrid, hellish, chaotic, “Suspiria” is a dark and desolate tune, which incorporates prog, jazz and hard rock elements, a tune that should be listened to, when the night comes down and the rain is falling. It was released as a single, with B-side the song “Blind Concert”. The last collaboration between Goblin and Argento was for the film “Sleepless” (2000).
14. “Hells Bells” – AC/DC (1980)
The Brian Johnson – era of AC/DC starts with this classic song, which comes from the extremely successful “Back in Black” album (1980). The sudden loss of Bon Scott didn’t stop AC/DC, who came back even stronger with songs that have been written in the book of heavy metal history. At the beginning of the song you can hear the tolling of the bell, then Angus Young plays the huge riff and Malcolm Young/Rudd/Williams come slowly in. The song is included in this list because of its threatening mid-tempo rhythm and its evil lyrics (“If you're into evil, you're a friend of mine” etc.). As far as the bell we hear in the song, they didn’t use a bell from a sound effects reel, but a real, big bell. The first attempt to record the bell took place in Leicestershire, England at the Carillon and War Memorial Museum. This proved insufficient, so the band commissioned a one-ton bronze bell from a local foundry.
15. “Give Em Hell” – Witchfynde (1980)
An anthemic track of New Wave of British Heavy Metal by a much-underrated band. Witchfynde, together with Angel Witch, were the top occult metal British bands at the beginning of the 80s, they released three great albums, but didn’t manage to make the desired breakthrough. “Give em Hell”, featured in their same titled debut album, is a furious traditional heavy metal song, with its hard-hitting guitar riffs, its heavy rhythm section and the imposing vocals of Steve Bridges, who screams like a lunatic on the refrain. The doomy sound of the guitars, accompanied by the lyrics and the overall meaning, give the song an evil character and a gloomy atmosphere. The album was released in 1980, although the band was formed in the mid-70s, by Rondolet Records.
16. “The Number of the Beast” – Iron Maiden
Classic Maiden! “The Number of the Beast” is among the greatest songs of the British legends, very popular and characteristic of the traditional heavy metal sound. It was their seventh single and the second single from the album with the same name (the first one was “Run to the Hills”). Steve Harris’ incredible craft as a songwriter and Iron Maiden’s musicianship shine brightly in this heavy metal epic, which will always offer pleasure to heavy metal maniacs! Pure inspiration and passionate performance are Maiden’s ingredients for this successful work of metal art. Due to the song’s lyrics, Iron Maiden became a prominent target of religious groups in the United States who accused Iron Maiden of being Satanists. The controversy led to organized burnings of the group's albums as well as several protests during their 1982 tour. It is one of the best songs written about the Beast of the Apocalypse!
17. “Come to the Sabbath” – Mercyful Fate (1984)
Mercyful Fate’s “Don’t Break the Oath” has been hailed as one of the best extreme metal albums of all time and it closes with the song “Come to the Sabbath”. This song is a masterpiece and its main ingredients are King Diamond’s falsetto vocals, the guitar riff and solos of the Denner/Shermann duet and the amazing sound of the harpsichord. Occult lyrics and an epic tone make a superb combination, which travels you to the medieval times. The Gates of Hell are open and you are left alone – now the demons prevail. “Come to the Sabbath” is a true epic tune, with various different song parts and a feeling of evil gloriousness. If you want more to be sure, ask … Metallica!
18. “Bridge of Death” – Manowar (1984)
Well, when someone asks me if I like Manowar, I remember songs like “Bridge of Death” and I say, “hell yeah!”. “Bridge of Death” is one of the classic songs that Manowar have released, a truly epic metal anthem, without a doubt, coming from the fantastic “Hail to England” album. It starts with the distinctive bass guitar of Joey DeMaio, the composer of the song, and has a really clever development, ending with the unbelievable, dramatic vocals of Eric Adams and his satanic laughter. It includes a prayer to Satan, which fits the song making it even darker and more epic! Its almost 9 minutes of length will take you on a journey to another time, when warriors, dragons and demons ruled the world.
19. “South of Heaven” - Slayer (1988)
“Reign of Blood” was a great success, but when Slayer settled down to compose their new album, they decided to slow their tempo. That resulted to the darker, atmospheric and menacing sound of “South of Heaven”. And the title track totally reflected this change of the band’s direction - that’s the soundtrack of the apocalypse! Jeff Hanneman composed the music, Tom Araya wrote down the lyrics and the rest is pure thrash metal history. The main riff crawls like a monster, the vocal melodies destroy your soul and the whole performance of the band takes your life. If hell’s demons had to choose a favorite track, they would surely choose “South of Heaven”.
20. “Apoteosi Del Mistero” – Morte Macabre (1998)
This is an amazing cover version of Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack of the “City of the Living Dead” movie (directed by Italian horror master Lucio Fulci, 1980). It is performed by Morte Macabre, a progressive rock project of Anekdoten and Landberk members. Every time I listen to it, it scares the shit out of me. Either you have seen the movie or not, “Apoteosi Del Mistero” has a singular, haunting atmosphere that the listener can’t ever forget. A dreadful theme, with an amazing song structure and loads of keyboards – every Morte Macabre member plays the mellotron! The cover version has also many electric guitar phrases and solos, making the song more doomy and heavy. I would like to thank the band for selecting this thrilling song and for ingenious interpretation! And go see the movie!
21. “Cirice” – Ghost (2015)
You probably may think that this song shouldn’t be placed on this list. When I listen to this song, I immediately think of the Italian horror movies and their soundtracks, I get the impression that if Fabio Frizzi (famous Italian composer of horror soundtracks) played metal, he would sound like this! Furthermore, “Cirice” has some alarming, terrific melodies, the keyboards seem like they were played with a devil church organ and the song becomes a doom metal anthem as it progresses. “Cirice” won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2016. It was originally conceived together with "Devil Church", which was its opening, as a very dark and doomy nine-minute instrumental without a chorus. With the assistance of producer Klas Åhlund, a chorus materialized and the two parts were split.