5 Essential Bands to Listen to for Halloween
With Halloween right around the corner, it’s time for everyone to start breaking out the proper music to get the in the mood. Of course, horror score maestros like John Carpenter, Harry Manfredini and Fabio Frizzi are obvious choices for some great mood-setting but that’s not quite where I’m going here. While I could also tell you that you should go download my full Werewolves in Siberia discography over at werewolvesinsiberia.bandcamp.com to help get you all Halloweenie (yeah, a shameless plug because I can… so far, I still have your attention), I’m going to name off some essential BANDS (with full-time, real life drummers) to get you rocking while you get yourself ready for the big day.
The Ghastly Ones
I really don’t know anything about this band other than the fact that they’re a perfect Halloween fit for any surf rock fan. I came across their album “A Haunting We Will Go” a few years back and thought it was great. I honestly don’t even know if they’ve got another album out. Looking around, it looks like they had a couple songs on Halloween comps and the Spongebob Scaredypants soundtrack but don’t see anything else. That’s alright, though. This album is more than enough fun.
Where a lot of horror-themed surf bands stick to horror titles and just sound like surf rock, The Ghastly Ones have plenty of horror intros. A lot of the songs actually have a bit of a horror-sounding vibe to them, too. Pretty sure that’s why I like them so much. I like horror, I like surf rock. Throw them together and you get The Ghastly Ones.
I’ll admit right up front that I’m not a fan of most rockabilly (or psychobilly) stuff. I don’t care how much horror they throw in it, I usually just can’t get into it. There are a few exceptions. Demoni is the biggest of those exceptions.
I’ve know the singer/guitar player, Andy Agenbroad, for a long time. We’ve never been best buddies or anything, we’ve just known each other through playing in bands and seeing each other at parties and such. So, I’m not just putting over Demoni because I want to put over my friend’s band. It’s strictly because they’re a great band.
Demoni gets better with every release and, early on, they set a standard to incorporate horror surf into their live sets and albums. They’ve even gone so far as to do a couple full releases of just horror surf, “Surfin’ with Demoni” and “Surf City of the Dead”. Their crowning jewel, though, is about to see the light of day.
A couple years back, Demoni recorded their best album to date, then called “Night of Demoni”. However, the band quietly slipped out of sight. It looked as if they were done and the album wouldn’t be released. However, they’re back and with the new title, “Still Alive! (And Breathing?)”, the album will be available soon through P.I.G. Records at http://www.pig-records.rocks/.
If you name a horror movie, there’s a good chance they’ve written a song about it. With songs about Halloween, They Live, Night of the Creeps, The Shining, a surf song about Creature from the Black Lagoon (seriously! How cool is that?!) and so many more, you’ve got to check these guys out heading into Halloween. By now, it should be a no-brainer.
I came across Calabrese just after they released their first full length album, “13 Halloweens”, in 2005. At the time, I had a record label and was booking a weekly punk night at a local club. I was constantly on the lookout for punk bands and, to a greater extent, horror punk bands I could book, distribute through my label, or both.
What I came across on a regular basis were a lot of mediocre Misfits-ripoff bands. Then came Calabrese. They were obviously influenced by The Misfits, but they had their own sound. They were slightly less punk rock and more rock and roll. Little did I know at the time, they were young. REALLY YOUNG. I think drummer, Davey Calabrese, told me he was about 13 or 14 years old when they recorded that stuff. You’d never know it hearing this album.
They followed up with The Traveling Vampire Show, They Call Us Death and Dayglo Necros. There was a little more metal influence here and there but they always sounded like Calabrese. They always kept it creepy, kooky and altogether spooky (sorry, I had to somewhere in here).
Then, in 2013, they released Born with a Scorpion’s Touch. From here on, Calabrese have grown up a lot. The music has hit a more death rock groove and definitely seems more serious but it’s still great. Whether you want fun horror punk or dark, sinister rock and roll, Calabrese is perfect for Halloween.
Zombi is a synth rock duo I came across on a Relapse Records comp sometime around ’04 or ’05. They immediately stood out amongst the metal bands. They weren’t just synth rock, though. They were reminiscent of Goblin (known for doing countless horror films’ soundtracks, including Dawn of the Dead).
I listened to the song “Orion” on repeat for months. I had to get “Cosmos” so I could hear more. I was not let down. Up through their latest (and possibly best), “Shape Shift”, they’ve tried a few new things but tend to keep that old school horror soundtrack vibe.
Some might say including Zombi and not Goblin in this list is a bit blasphemous. Zombi, themselves, might say that. There’s just something that much more special about Zombi to me and I think everyone should give them a listen. If you’re reading this because you dig Werewolves in Siberia, this band was the biggest influence, overall, in my starting the whole project. If you’re just reading this just because it’s here, you should still give them a listen.
Zombi paints a picture with every song. Without lyrics there, you can imagine a scene from a movie taking place with each one. Sometimes it’s a zombie invasion, sometimes it’s driving through a post apocalyptic wasteland and out running a mutant clan, sometimes it’s Dracula in outer space…
Bottom line, they’re great any time of the year but definitely a Halloween must.
The be-all, end-all of all horror bands is The Misfits. The original Misfits. The last few years I’ve noticed that a lot of people found out about The Misfits during the Michale Graves-era. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a matter of how old (or young) someone might be. The fact of the matter is, though, that it was NEVER really The Misfits without Glenn Danzig on vocals.
Like many my age, I found out about The Misfits from Metallica’s love for them and their covering Last Caress/Green Hell. Danzig’s live version of “Mother” had me and my friends diving into that band’s catalog at the time. As soon as I read that Glenn Danzig was in The Misfits, that was it. I needed to find music.
I saw Legacy of Brutality and Walk Among Us at the record store, but Collection I had 20 songs on it. I loved the horror imagery of all the art, from the Crimson Ghost t-shirt to the b-movie Walk Among Us cover art and that simple-yet-so-killer skeleton art from Sean Wyett on Legacy of Brutality. Everything told me I’d love this band.
When “She” hit, I was more than a little confused. I was used to polished recordings. This sounded like they had shit gear and were recording with shit microphones in a garage with shitty acoustics… but it was catchy. By the second chorus of “Hollywood Babylon” (the second track on this album), my friend and I were singing along.
This is when I realized that clean recordings weren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. It felt low budget, like so many of the horror movies that I loved. It felt right that way.
Over the years after their breakup, they started to reach that cult status. So much popularity came AFTER they quit making music. Fast forward to 1996…
When I found out The Misfits were getting back together without Glenn Danzig, I knew it wouldn’t be remotely the same. Not only was there a new singer who sounded nothing like Danzig (which is probably better than having some dude that sounds like a cheap imitation), but the recording was so over-produced and the guitar tones were just way too metal. This era of the band grew on me and is far superior to the Jerry Only-vocal era but it’s not really The Misfits.
I do have to mention that, though my expectations were that it couldn’t truly be The Misfits, I was irritated that I didn’t know about the band’s reboot until after they’d enlisted Graves. I was pretty positive I’d have gotten to Jersey and wormed my way into that vocal spot. After reading various things throughout the years of band problems and legal issues with members, it’s pretty safe to say that would’ve killed my love for the band, had that almost impossible scenario happened.
I’ll settle for covering their songs with just about every band I’ve been in or will be in. Hey, speaking of my Misfits covers, you can check out my Werewolves in Siberia synth-style covers. They’re up for free download every October at werewolvesinsiberia.bandcamp.com. Shameless plug number two completed!
Okay. Anyway, not only are The Misfits my favorite band for Halloween, they’re just my all-time favorite band, period. The Misfits will always have that certain something that I can listen to anytime, anywhere. With the two recent original Misfits shows at RiotFest this year, I’m hoping Danzig and Only keep their differences set aside for a few tours every once in awhile. I don’t want new music. That would end up being a letdown. I just want the opportunity to see these guys onstage together doing the songs I love every once in awhile. Doyle has hinted at it. Hopefully, we get to see it.
For now, put on a record from one of the above mentioned bands and start carving those pumpkins. Deck the halls with your ghoulish decorations. Make the outside of your house look like a crime scene. Above all else, have fun.
If you’re looking for honorable mentions, I’ll give you The Independents, The Undead and Samhain as more horror punk type stuff you could be listening to. Gov Grimm and the Ghastly Ghouls are another great horror rockabilly band and Wolfmen of Mars never disappoint with their weird, way-out horror synth tunes. You can’t have too much horror, can you?
Werewolves in Siberia