Riffs, Rants & Rumors: 10 Creepy 2012 Cuts for Halloween

Horror movie marathons and macabre costumes may seem like the most ubiquitous of perennial Halloween phenomena, but if you come in for a closer look, you’ll realize that spooky songs rank right up there as well. Every year, when the end of October draws near, we’re subjected to the same sad stream of terrifying tunes all over again. The line has to be drawn somewhere, so why not start now? If you’ve had enough of hearing Monster Mash, Thriller, and the Ghostbusters theme for the umpteenth time, try a fresher crop of creepy cuts this Halloween, all taken from 2012 releases and unconditionally guaranteed to put some eerie in your ears.

Mark Lanegan – Gravedigger’s Song (Blues Funeral)

When you’ve got a From Beyond The Grave voice like Lanegan, all you’ve got to do to scare people is open up your mouth. But when he starts off growling, With piranha teeth I’ve been dreaming of you, and winds up singing about shoveling six feet deep, he sounds like the Halloween dream date some lonely goth girl’s been pining for.

Neil Young Gallows Pole (Americana)

This is an old folk/blues tune that goes back at least as far as Leadbelly, and was latterly popularized by Led Zeppelin, but when a half-crazed-sounding Neil and his grungy, garage-rock henchmen Crazy Horse get their hands on it, this tale of an evil hangman’s nefarious machinations sounds like it ought to inspire some sort of noose-happy exploitation flick.


Richard Hawley “ The Wood Collier’s Grave (Standing At The Sky’s Edge)

British songsmith Hawley’s deep, lonesome tones are often employed in the service of bittersweet, romantic balladry, but this song was inspired by a centuries-old headstone in Hawley’s hometown of Sheffield. Did the tune’s axe-wielding woodman cut down the grass or a human being? Does Hawley end up describing the collier’s grave or his own? Who knows? In any case it’s plenty creepy.

Peter Hammill “ Scissors (Consequences)

As the frontman for famed ˜70s art rockers Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill made his name scaring the beejeezus out of people, and even in his more mature phase, he remains an unnerving presence. Scissors comes off like Psycho in song form, and when Hammill reaches the final verse, singing She’ll explode with all that pent-up stuff inside her and attack with her scissors, just try erasing the image of a death-dealing Tony Perkins from your mind, even if Hammill’s speaking metaphorically”especially since the music takes such a terrifying turn at that very point.

Murder By Death “ The Curse of Elkhart (Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon)

Pretty much any track on this entire album by Bloomington, Indiana’s answer to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds could qualify as Halloween fodder. But The Curse of Elkhart, about an enraged oddball calling down damnation upon an entire town, stands out even in Bitter Drink‘s already macabre crowd of cuts.

Diana Darby “ Snow Cover Me (I V [Intravenous])

As any horror movie buff knows, sometimes the scariest things aren’t the ones that come bursting to the forefront breathing hellfire in your face, they’re the understated instances of hushed haunting. In the midnight movie in our mind, this song soundtracks the worrisome wintertime scene where the put-upon protagonist is both literally and metaphorically buried beneath an avalanche of snow.

John Fullbright “ Satan & Saint Paul (From The Ground Up)

On this hellbound track from up-and-coming songsmith Fullbright’s debut, the sky’s raining fire and our hero’s walking on rusted nails in this hell that you created on the corner of Satan and St. Paul. He might be talking to himself, an erstwhile lover, or some more supernatural figure, but whichever one you choose, it’s a devilish deal.

Dots Will Echo “ Shitstorm (Drunk Is The New Sober/Stupid Is The new Dumb)

On one of the year’s best albums, this New Jersey duo alternates between the idyllic and the apocalyptic, but this track is undoubtedly in the latter camp. Amid gloriously greasy guitar riffs, singer Nick Berry details the approaching Armageddon with such giddiness you’d think he’d taken out short-term life insurance policies on the entire planet’s population.

Corb Lund “ Dig Gravedigger Dig (Cabin Fever)

Alt-country provocateur Corb Lund takes the rootsy preoccupation with working-class anthems to marvelously morbid extremes in this salute to a cemetery shovel jockey. Lund lets us know that the man making human-sized holes in the graveyard isn’t scared of stiffs or spirits, but the songs still seems unlikely to entice anyone into the occupation.

Ray Wylie Hubbard “ New Year’s Eve At The Gates Of Hell (The Grifter’s Hymnal)

Veteran roots-rocker Hubbard’s hellacious tune is a modernization of Dante’s Inferno, but in addition to the usual suspects, Hubbard’s vision of Hades is populated by Fox News reporters and the head of Hubbard’s former label, among other unholy souls.