- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Tales of Horror
- 2.1 Memento Mori – The Passage… and A Passenger On A Psycho’s Path
- 2.2 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
- 2.3 Velle Witch – 血・貴婦人 – Blood Noblewoman Cassette
- 2.4 Attic – Sanctimonious
- 2.5 Metallica – The Thing That Should Not Be
- 2.6 Stormwitch – Rats in the Attic
- 2.7 Exorcist – Black Mass
- 2.8 Death SS – Terror
- 2.9 Black Hole- Demoniac City
- 2.10 Hallows Eve – The Mansion
- 2.11 Mercyful Fate – Legend of the Headless Rider
- 2.12 Ripper – Sinister Minister
- 2.13 King Diamond – Abigail
Hallows Eve is upon us, when people gather around and fable about scary stories of witches, undead monsters and The Headless Horseman, set loose on the streets instilling horror and fear to the hearts of their audience. Taking its origins from the Gaelic festival of Samhein, which signified the end of the harvest period and the start of the long, cold winter, Halloween is the time of the year that mankind explores its “strongest emotion – fear” as HP Lovecraft famously said.
Be it the theatrical aesthetics of bands like Mercyful Fate, or the evocative lyrical concepts of Death SS or perhaps the shock value of some of the more extreme metal acts, metal had a very strong connection with horror themes since its very beginning. Metal was always drawn to the dark, occult themes and the fact that it’s quite often for a band trying to tell a story through the lyrics of a song makes our music a perfect soundtrack for Halloween. We gathered some of the best horror stories ever told in the context of traditional heavy metal for you to spend your time during Halloween. The list is far from being complete of course, but future volumes will follow in the years to come.
Without further ado, here are Ride into Glory’s Metal Tales of Horror for 2019!
The Tales of Horror
Memento Mori – The Passage… and A Passenger On A Psycho’s Path
A man on the verge of madness becomes the host of “A Dark Passenger” drowning in the well of his own insanity. Unable to control his psychotic urges and guided by the voice in his head, he emerges on a path of lunacy with the voices in his head as his only companion. Messiah Marcolin perfectly narrates an ominous and dark tale of insanity, creating a feeling of claustrophobia of being confined in a madman’s brain. Composed by drummer Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Dream Evil) who masterfully orchestrates the tones of the song’s creepy atmospheres.
Life, Death And Other Morbid Tales is one of the best albums of the doom metal band Memento Mori which definitely deserves your full attention, along with the band’s debut Rhymes of Lunacy.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
A figure in black with eyes of fire points at a man, bestowing upon him a grim sentence. The man starts to run while Satan smiles seeing the inevitability of his actions, as the flames of Hell rise higher and higher, engulfing the world.
Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler wrote the lyrics of Black Sabbath about an experience that Geezer had. It was a period that the legendary bassist was dabbling into the occult and Ozzy has given him a black book that Butler read and placed it on a shelf beside his bed before going to sleep. When he woke up in the middle of the night he felt a dark presence in his room the book was missing.
The iconic riffs of Iommi that changed the world forever – the tritone with the diminished fifth, was considered “evil” back in the medieval period and was even called then ”The Devil’s Interval”. The Rifflord said in the documentary “Metal: A headbanger’s Journey”:
“The sound, demonic, it just appealed to us, we liked the idea of those evily sounding riffs”
Velle Witch – 血・貴婦人 – Blood Noblewoman Cassette
Filled with deranged tales of witchcraft, the Blood Noblewoman by the Japanese all-woman band Velle Witch is one of the creepiest releases I’ve ever encountered. Starting with “S’esebettre”, the instrumental part is interrupted by the singer Furuya Yukie’s screams – an invocation with a very disturbingly good vibrato which gives the feeling of an unholy mantra.
“You’re possessed by Witch” is a story about a young girl who gives her soul to the dark forces in exchange for power and beauty. Controlled by her dark desires she defiles bibles and graveyards and challenges Jesus and “taints him with blood and hangs him up upside-down”. The lyrics are embroidered with the black threads of Yukie’s voice who once again delivers a hair-raising performance.
“Oh, Satan. Please write my name in
your black book, the book of death.
Every month, I shall slay one infant,
and sip its blood.
And, today is that day.”
A witch fulfills her dark oath to Satan which involves ritualistic infanticide, while the child screams to God for help in the forest. The witch paints a cross with the blood of the innocent and mocks Jesus Christ, while she goes into a murderous delirium. Somehow the child manages to escape and runs through the forest in the night.
Taking its title from the novel by Mervyn Peake with the same name, the story of the song has little to do with the book itself. The haunting atmosphere created by Yukie’s eerie vibrato, adds a whole other layer of creepiness to the song. Doom metal with a barren and empty feeling, with each note signifying the absence of melody which paints a haunting feeling of despair.
Attic – Sanctimonious
The year is 1687. In the small convent, the nuns live their lives peacefully bereft of the troubles of the secular world. Or so it would seem… Nefarious secrets, gruesome murders, demonic summonings are only some of the things that we encounter in Attic’s imposing concept album. The truth however is that, at the end, the most horrifying acts are those committed by humans.
Sanctimonious is one of the best albums that were released in the past decade. Α flurry of heavy/ speed metal riffs, torrential solos all over the album, King Diamond-esque vocals in a wonderful nunsploitation setting, what more could one ask for? The next time you will listen to the album, make sure you pay attention to the lyrics, as this album could easily be a Hollywood movie.
Metallica – The Thing That Should Not Be
Robert Olmstead ventures into New England to trace his family’s history, when the path leads him to the small fishing town of Innsmouth. Quickly he discovers that the townsfolk are hiding a terrible and ancient secret. Secret cults, primordial evils, and cosmic horror are found in abundance in HP Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth, one of the writer’s most famous stories.
Metallica used the Cthulhu Mythos as a reference in many of their songs. In Ride the Lightning’s closing track we find the instrumental ”Call of Ktulu”, Death Magnetic features “all Nightmare Long” which is about the “Hounds of Tindalos” a story by August Derleth, and “Dream No More” of 2017’s Hardwired…To Self-destruct is about the impending apocalypse which follows the rise of Cthulhu.
Stormwitch – Rats in the Attic
The witches chant as you hear the knocks of the cloven hoof and blood freezes. Rats and bats, the wicked messengers of eternal fear encircle you with claws like knives, bound to take your life. As you feel their razor-like teen sinking into you, you realize your guardian angel is on the run and the Devil smiles to you through the window…
“Rats in the Attic” is one of Stormwitch’s most iconic songs from the album Stronger Than Heaven of 1986. The intro of the song sets the mood for what follows with Shakesphere’s witches chanting “Double, double toil and trouble”, which is taken from Macbeth. The whole album is a must and a staple in the German’s discography, along of course with their first two releases, Walpurgis Night and Tales of Terror.
Exorcist – Black Mass
A Black Mass, a mockery of the Christian tradition, is used to summon demonic spirits. While performing a ritual in the name of Satan, flame appears above the altar, where a hooded figure proclaims his love for Satan’s Daughter. A virgin is forced on an inverted cross while the high priest will perform sexual unholy acts with her to please his master.
Exorcist is a project by Virgin Steele’s vocalist David DeFeis, guitarist Edward Pursino and bass player Joe O’Reilly, who wrote this dark speed metal album called Nightmare Theatre. It was released by Cobra Records in 1986,and much like VS’s other project Original Sin (by the way “Conjuration of the Watcher” almost made it to the list), was one under aliases. The album could be described like a more melodic version of Venom, and it features many songs that are great this time of year.
Death SS – Terror
A man loses his train in the night amidst a thunderstorm. Looking around, he cant find find shelter anywhere except an old abandoned cemetery. He feels as if the night is getting darker and darker as he enters the graveyard and suddenly a flash of lightning makes him think that he saw something at the tombs. “My mind plays tricks on me,” said the man. Suddenly, he starts to hear choked noises and gets the feeling of a dark presence in the cemetery. The coffins are breaking open, the dead rise from their graves, slowly walking towards him before he comes to the realization that he was trapped there at midnight, the hour of terror.
Death SS and the word “horror” are never apart more than a couple of phrases. The band’s mastermind vocalist Steve Sylvester along with the talented guitarist Paul Chain, pioneered the horror metal micro-genre based on Sabbathic Doom and Giallo aesthetics. Although initially written in 1977, one of Death SS’s first ever songs, “Terror” found its way first in the 1981 demo The Horned God of the Witches and in the excellent compilation The Story of Death SS, before presented in the band’s first album, and magnum opus …in Death of Steve Sylvester in 1988.
Black Hole- Demoniac City
There is a dark place under the castle, hidden from the eyes of mortals filled with cadaverous creatures. At night they would scream and seek destruction and revenge, until one person decides to stand in their way for the sake of mankind . He ventures into the Demoniac City where the creatures dwell, only to find himself trapped in an endless fight against them.
There is something really special about Black Hole’s Land of Mystery album, a constant feeling that the music comes through an abandoned catacomb or a dungeon. It’s the epitome of the Italian doom metal with its progressive elements, that along with creepy synths compose a horror pulp atmosphere. Their first full length album Land of Mystery, along with the 1984 demo Beyond the Gravestone are definite picks for the fans of the genre.
Hallows Eve – The Mansion
Once there was a man who entered a house that he shouldn’t. The loud voice that he heard commanded him to leave the house, but the voices in his head said otherwise. It’s not the first time he had dealt with the dead – that’s how he earned his new life more than 1000 years ago after all. He must return to that house, there is nothing left for him outside. He climbs the staircase, and there she is waiting for him, lying dead on her bed. A black magic ritual is in play as he holds her close, asking himself, “Could this be the devil in disguise?”
The all time classic album Tales of Terror was released by Metal Blade in 1985. Playing Razor-cutting speed metal / borderline thrash, Hallows Eve are not hesitant to mix some punk or even blues elements to their music, which makes the album a very unique listen, as well as the one that follows Death & Insanity.
Mercyful Fate – Legend of the Headless Rider
The small town of Sleepy Hollow has always been a scary place for visitors and natives alike. Tales of ghosts and other foul beings were always spoken amongst the townsfolk, but no other story matches the popularity of the Headless Horseman. The story goes that a Hessian trooper lost his head by a stray cannonball during the American revolution. His body was carried out of the battlefield by his fellow soldiers to be buried in the old town of Sleepy Hollow, but his head could not be recovered. Every year, on October 28th, the anniversary of his last battle, he rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head. The original story was written by the american author Washington Irving, for his compilation of short essays The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.
Basically every Mercyful Fate song could be featured in this article. Not only is their lyrical and theatrical approach a perfect match, but their musical career has been full of flawless releases. The legend of the Headless Horseman is taken from the album In the Shadows, the first release after the band broke up in 1985. Every record in their arsenal is considered an all time classic, so if you are one of the few lucky people who will be seeing them next year in one of the festivals that will be attending after their reunion, be sure to check every bit of their music.
Ripper – Sinister Minister
The old wooden door opens with a creaking sound, and the Sinister Minister walks through the old graveyard. Before the sun sets, he is helping the people of his flock, providing spiritual guidance. But now the night has come and he is on a different path. He picks his shovel and wanders the cemetery for old graves to dig, for half rotten corpses to disturb from their eternal sleep. You see, the minister hides a lustful and sinister secret, an urge he can’t control. He eagerly waits for someone new to die, to fondle with the corpse..
Shock heavy metal aesthetics with dark themes are dominant in Ripper’s 1986 album …And the Dead Shall Rise. A bit of Alice Cooper’s older “fun-creepy” approach mixed with Lizzy Borden and just a bit of Mercyful fate, the whole album fits perfectly the Halloween theme.
King Diamond – Abigail
Closing our list out is perhaps one of metal’s most iconic albums and songs of all time – King Diamond’s Abigail.
“We are gathered here tonight
To lay to rest Abigail Le’Fey
Whom we now know was first born dead
On the seventh day of July, 1777
Abigail must be nailed to her coffin with seven silver spikes
One through each arm, hand, and knee
And let the last of the seven be drawn through her mouth
So that she may never arise and cause evil again
Who will be the first?”
“I, O’Brian of the Black Horsemen….”
On a rainy night in 1845, the middle aged nobleman Jonathan La’Fey and his 18 year old wife Miriam are aboard their coach, thrusting through the valley and the summer breeze, to claim the inheritance of the abandoned family mansion. Upon their arrival, they receive an unwelcome greeting by seven horsemen, who gives the couple a forewarning to turn back and leave the place for it holds a curse and if they don’t “18 will become 9″ . Jonathan laughs and demands the horsemen to leave. As the mysterious band departs, Jonathan heard them say “Someday you’ll need our help my friend”.
(A Mansion in Darkness)
The house is very old, but everything inside was left untouched. Jonathan and Miriam start to realize that there is an eerie aura in the house as they explore their new home, as if the shadows were alive. Not long after and as the candlelight began to fade, the couple decides to go to sleep after their long journey.
(The Family Ghost)
The first night that the couple spends in the house, Jonathan feels a sudden drop of temperature despite the fact that the fire was still burning. Searching the room, his face turned white amidst a blinding light, radiating from a spectral presence in the room. “Don’t be afraid” said the ghost to Jonathan, who introduced himself as Count De La’Fey. The apparition invites Jonathan to the family crypt, warning him about the slippery staircase, as they both descent to the sealed place where the mansion’s darkest secret is buried- Abigail. As they entered the crypt, Jonathan sees a small sarcophagus, small enough to fit an infant, and learns that inside is the body of the Count’s stillborn child. “The spirit of Abigail is inside your wife” the ghost said to Jonathan, “and there’s only one way you can stop the rebirth of evil itself. You must take her life now”.
(The 7th Day of July 1777)
The story of the Count goes back to 1777, when he finds out that the child he was waiting to be birthed is not his own, for his wife has been unfaithful once again. Filled with rage and despair about his lost succession, the count pushes his wife down the stairs. The Countess didn’t survive the fall and she gave birth to a stillborn child. Blinded by madness, the count names the child Abigail and mummifies the remains to rest in shame.
This feeling of eeriness becomes more and more evident around the Lafay family mansion, like a deadly omen. Bells are heard from an empty church. The flowers in the garden are dying. An empty cradle swings on its own. Jonathan notices something rotten in the air, as he sits on the dining table set for three people, that Miriam swears she didn’t bring the extra silverware.
Miriam has been acting very strange lately, singing lullabies to the empty cradle and speaking in tongues, as if she was driven mad. Her physiology appears different as well, as her belly becomes increasingly bigger each hour that passes by. Then one misty morning, she looks at Jonathan and says: “I’m having your baby my love”. Suddenly everything made sense: the riddles, the ghost’s warnings, the omens. His wife was possessed, eaten alive from the inside by the spirit of Abigail!
Shocked by this unforeseen turn of events, Jonathan confronts Abigail trying to reach his wife without any luck. Abigail is alive and in full control of Miriam and the only thing that’s left for Jonathan is to ask for a priest’s help. With a glimmer of hope, Miriam talks to her husband, telling him that everything is lost and reminds him of the murderous staircase from the story of count Lefay. Jonathan tries to lure Abigail to the crypt telling her that she aughts to be reborn where she died. The plan seems to work, and Abigail follows Jonathan to the crypt.
As they start to descent through the staircase, Abigail suddenly pushes Jonathan down the stairs leaving him unconscious. As Miriam enters the crypt, the moon ceases to shine and the night darkens. She goes into a painful and unnatural labor which causes the loss of her life, and they final thing that Miriam will ever see, is the sinister yellowy eyes of Abigail…
Riding through the night, the Seven Horsemen arrive just before dawn at the mansion and they set immediately for the Lafey Crypts. They see Abigail devouring the mummified corpse of her previous self. Horrified, the Black Horsemen take Abigail to the forest to meet her final fate.
What happened beyond that, is a story for another time. King Diamond released Abigail in 1987, having with him Timi Hansen and Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate, along with rising star guitarist Andy La Roque and the drummer that the King himself will later state that is the best drummer in the world, Mikkey Dee. A timeless diamond of an album, Abigail is always mentioned in discussions about the greatest metal concept albums, due to the sublime musicianship and hair-raising story.