In my mind, heavy metal and horror have always gone hand in hand. You don’t have to like one to like the other, but the aesthetics, themes, ideas and content are so similar in both. So it’s not surprising that there are a good lot o’ metal tunes that are specific to Halloween. Really, just about any metal album fits the season well, but a few bands have crafted bona fide anthems for the season. Today, I’m gonna spin a few classic October-centric tunes, four to be exact, and determine which one comes out on top.
Up first, we’ve got the seminal “Halloween” by German power metal pioneers Helloween. Now, right off the bat, the band’s name is a play on the word Halloween, and they use pumpkins in their artwork—points for all that, for sure. “Halloween” is probably the most tried and true classic of this group, and for good reason. Clocking in at just over 13 minutes, it’s a masterpiece ode to the season. The tune is a perennial favorite and I crank it every year, a bunch of times. The problem was always the length. Now, I have no actual problem with the length in general—it’s a mini-epic blast of Halloween vibes. But for a playlist, it never felt right to me. Even as the last song, it disrupted the flow. Fortunately, there’s a single edit version of the song that clocks in at just around five minutes (with a kickass video to boot, wherein the boys are rocking out in a spooky forest surrounded by pumpkins). The single version is punchier, more urgent, and takes all of the best parts of the full version and condenses them into a blast of sonic Halloween.
The next band is a strooooooong contender. The band is named Halloween! It would have been criminal for them not to have been included here to begin with, but considering how much Halloween is in their songs, they are a no brainer. Detroit’s Halloween are a bit more of an obscure band, comparatively, and put out the cult metal LP Don’t Metal With Evil in 1985. The song I’m specifically throwing in the ring is “Trick or Treat”, for obvious reasons. The song alone is great, but man, check out the video below! If someone were to ask you what 80’s Halloween metal looked like, there would be nothing else to point to. That’s it. And aside from “Trick or Treat”, there are Halloween references and appropriate lyrics throughout the album. The holiday is mentioned specifically in “Scared to Death”, but then you have songs like “Haunted” and “Tales from the Crypt”. While their 1985 record is the standout in their catalog, they did release some other albums and EPs over the years, with songs like “Halloween” and “Halloween Night”…so, yeah. They dig this time of year.
The third entry is the only one actually tied to a horror movie: Fastway’s Sammi Curr’s “Trick or Treat”, of course from the 1986 classic Trick or Treat. This is the song that plays when Sammi Curr returns on Halloween night, when he’s birthed out of an amplifier at the high school dance. The ties to the movie certainly give this tune a slight edge, but it stands up as an essential Halloween anthem on its own merits. Fastway were, of course, Fast Eddie Clarke’s post-Motorhead band with Pete Way of UFO. Fast. Way. Get it?
The final band in this brawl are current Halloween heads Acid Witch, with yet another song called “Trick or Treat”. Whereas the bands mentioned above are all firmly 80s metal, both in style and era, Acid Witch is more of the doomy sludgy stonery sort, and their albums are full of spooky imagery and lyrics, and lots of references to Halloween. “Trick or Treat” is off of their second full length, which features songs with titles like “Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown”, so you can see where their heads are at. And things come around full circle, because this band once covered Fastway’s “After Midnight”, also featured in Trick or Treat (the movie) on one of their EPs. If crushing Halloween doom is more your bag than searing guitar solos, the Witch is for you.
There’s no real reason to pick one, but since this is the battle for Heavy Metal Halloween dominance, someone’s gotta win. These tunes are all mandatory listens for me every year during Halloween season, but at the end of the day, Helloween has gotta come out on top. Their 13-minute opus is the song I crank every year on Halloween afternoon as I’m driving home from work (when it falls on a weekday of course), and their lyric “In the streets on Halloween, there’s something going on…” always gets me stoked and ignites every Halloween nostalgia, memory, costume, trick and treat I’ve ever had. Whether in its full version or the single edit, there really is no better heavy metal song for this time of year.
(And don’t worry, even though I didn’t included them, I also listen to all the appropriate songs, Halloween specific or not, from King Diamond, Merciful Fate, Hallow’s Eve, Witchfinder General, Venom, and on and on…)