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The days are getting shorter, there is a chill in the air and 80s horror movies are trending on Netflix. This can only mean one thing: Halloween is on the way!
This celebration of all that is shadowy and the spooky has inspired countless legends, books movies, and—most importantly, for this article—songs.
Here’s a rundown (in no particular order) of thirteen of the best tracks to get you in the mood for all things ghostly and ghoulish.
Sit at your drums, crank up the volume and party like it’s 10/31, baby!
1) “Dead in Hollywood” – The Murder Dolls
Opening the proceedings is The Murder Dolls, who burst onto the scene in 2002; right at the height of the Kerrang! era. The brainchild of singer Wednesday 13 and Slipknot’s masked sticks-man Joey Jordinson, their debut single ‘Dead in Hollywood’ was pure punk-metal and featured lyrics such as:
‘Hey Frankenstein, what’s on your mind?
Hey Dracula, I heard you…suck.’
Okay, so it is not exactly poetry, but an aggressively catchy chorus and slamming drum grooves more than make up for that. This is a perfect tune to rock out with over Halloween.
2) “Thriller” – Michael Jackson
Another Halloween classic: who could forget that dark, brooding opening followed by the huge keyboard stabs as the song kicks into life?
Ndugu Chancler played drums on the Thriller album sessions, but it is the Linn M-1 drum machine which you can hear throughout the track. Add that catchy Moog bassline into the
fray and you end up with something iconic. This makes a great track to practice your hits, and it’s great for practicing some of your more subtle linear fills too.
3) “Dimmu Borgir” – Puritania
Okay, so this is one for people who enjoy something a little more intense. There is some fiendishly clicky, machine-gun double kick patterns in this track so hook up your double pedal and get to work!
In the verses, match the kick pattern with the grinding guitar riff for added effect. If you are so inclined, you can even try growling and snarling along with the vocals (pro tip: don’t let your elderly neighbours hear)!
The lyrics themselves evoke something extremely vivid – they drip with Stephen King-esque imagery. I can’t vouch for the rest of their back catalogue (I’m not well-versed on it), but Dimmu Borgir smashed it out the park with this one!
4) “B*Witched” – C’est La Vie
Equally terrifying – but in a quite different way – C’est La Vie was the song on everyone’s lips in the late 90s. It is straight from the Emerald Isle, and to be honest: It’s not remotely dark.
It just skips along: all light, fluffy and cheerful.
But it’s by a band called B*Witched, so it just sneaks into the (un)lucky thirteen!
It is a cool track to dust off the poppy side to your playing though, and it has a light swing
which requires a little bit of nous to get it feeling exactly right. Maybe save it for the local
Halloween kids party and leave the heavier stuff for later!
5) “Space Man” – Babylon Zoo
Another 90s track to make the list! This was huge in Europe, but it apparently swerved America, so if you’re reading this Stateside, pull it up on YouTube – you’ll be glad you did.
Spooky, atmospheric and a little bit weird; Space Man is a super fun track with an anthemic chorus, and great potential for kick and snare independence grooves as the song develops. It drips with an other-worldly ambience which you just don’t hear in the charts very often. Dim the lights, pick up your sticks and enjoy!
6) “Monster Mash” – Bobby Pickett
A classic from straight out of The Sixties. You can probably have a Halloween party without Monster Mash, but I would not want to go near it! Jesse Sailes drummed on the original recording and to be fair, it is really hard to get this to feel right. We are so used to searching for quantized, click-tight perfection in our playing but this track calls for
something a little more organic. Just lay back, keep the groove loose and bask in the retro vibes!
7) “Freak on a Leash” – Korn
David Silveria shines on this nu-metal classic, where a tight, funky groove underpins a creepy guitar and vocal line. It would fit seamlessly into most scary movies.
Pay careful attention to the drags and ghost strokes in this song, and make sure the groove ‘snaps’ with firm precision. There’s a great tom groove to listen out for later in the chorus too – be sure to play it loud and hard.
8) “Rob Zombie” – Dragula
Any man called ‘Rob Zombie’ is obviously going to hold down some appeal at this time of year. Check out the Industrial, groove laden ‘Dragula’ as a great introduction to his music.
I’m not exactly sure what the song is about, but the lyrics are deliciously dark, and that’s enough for to qualify it for the list! Give your sixteenths a work out in the verses, and lay down some heavy-hitting snare independence in the choruses to complete the horror.
9) “Don’t Fear the Reaper” – Blue Oyster Cult
I cannot lie, this is my favorite song on the list. A unique mixture of the macabre, the mournful and the strangely optimistic, Don’t Fear The Reaper is the perfect tune to break out over the Halloween season.
It is also used to great effect in the TV adaption of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. You can pretty much stick to a solid groove throughout this track, but watch out for that sudden break-down and make sure that half-time section is extra big.
And whatever you do – please… please…
10) “The Phantom of the Opera” – Andrew Lloyd Webber
Here’s one for the musical lovers. Starting with those huge, famous organ chords and moving swiftly into a rock opera, The Phantom of the Opera calls for a strong backbeat and a sense of the dramatic. You can even try singing along, but it’s probably best to wait until everyone’s out the house before you do!
11) “Disturbia” – Rhianna
‘It can creep up and consume you…’ sings Rhianna in Disturbia. By ‘it’, I think she means the aforementioned Disturbia, rather than the scary clown. Then again, maybe she’s speaking metaphorically – or maybe she’s singing about an escaped zoo animal.
We can just pretend that she’s talking about Halloween fever, and as well we might because this track is laden with it.
This is a great song to groove to. Lay down a backbeat, sit in the pocket with the bass and maybe try a few big linear fills out for good measure.
12) “Ghost Riders in the Sky” – Johnny Cash
What could be more ‘Halloween’ than ghostly horseriders galloping through the sky? This song calls for something a bit different to a lot of the other tracks on the list. It needs something a little more percussive, and a little less ‘direct’.
Listen close, because the drums are quiet in the mix, but there’s a freedom in W.S. Holland’s playing which feels effortlessly slick. It’s probably best to dust of the brushes, or just play very lightly so you don’t break the atmosphere. A little bit ghostly, a little bit gunslinger; Ghost Riders in the Sky is a nice track to play when you’re in the mood for something that’s just a bit different.
13a) “Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr
Yeah, this one felt inevitable! Someone tell The Ghostbusters to leave the Spooks alone for a little while – it’s their time of year, after all! Another iconic track on the list, and one which everyone loves. Turn it up, sit at the kit and go crazy!
13b) “Runnin’ With the Devil” – Van Halen
Despite undermining the ‘Thirteen Tracks…’ premise just a little bit, this one has to be included as an honorable mention to the late, great Eddie Van Halen. Throw down a solid groove and enjoy this classic from an absolute rock legend.
So there we have it!
Here we’ve sounded out thirteen tracks to jam with over Halloween. I could’ve mentioned Tenacious D’s Tribute, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and probably around a few hundred more, but these sorts of articles call for some ruthless decision making, and I had to wield the axe at some point!
Obviously this is all just a bit of fun, but joking aside; this is one of the best times of year to practice. The nights are drawing in, it’s getting colder and it’s so much easier to stay at home for longer. Why not make the most of the opportunity to get through a whole load of practice?
Have fun, keep drumming and whatever you’re up to over the coming weeks, enjoy the season!
About the Author
Chris Witherall is a pro drummer, producer and songwriter from London, England. He loves talking about music, and helping people to reach their music goals.