Rock’s Scariest Songs
There are plenty of classic rock songs out there about all kinds of scary things: ghosts, monsters, crazy exes. But very few of them are soil-your-pants scary. Whether it’s their music, lyrics or an overriding sense of dread, the tracks on our list of Rock’s Scariest Songs will have you looking over your shoulder in fear.
Everyone knows that behind the ghoulish makeup and morbid subjects, Alice Cooper is really a sweet guy putting on a show. But this truly disturbing song from 1971’s Killer album may make you think twice, especially after you hear the baby’s spine-chilling wail.
“Fear of the Dark”
On the surface, “Ghost Song” probably doesn’t come off as all that frightening. But when you consider its release came seven years after Jim Morrison’s death, that crooning from the grave can be pretty unnerving to say the least.
Judas Priest weren’t messing around when they penned this dread-inducing ditty about Jack the Ripper, which cleverly utilizes Rob Halford’s piercing screech and violent staccato guitar strums that replicate a stabbing knife. Mercifully, it’s all over in less than three minutes, and the victim can, hopefully, rest in peace (or is that pieces?).
As with Alice Cooper, mainstream notoriety has largely softened Ozzy Osbourne’s one-time boogeyman reputation, but his songs are still kinda spooky — particularly this ode to English occultist Aleister Crowley, thanks in large part to Don Airey’s evocative, and classically inspired, organ introduction.
With its sparkling acoustic melody, gentle swing and welcoming title, “Hotel California” inevitably lulls listeners into a false sense of security. Eventually you’re drawn to the song’s lyrics — specifically some troubling rituals that take place at the hotel that’s located in the far corners of the Twilight Zone. Enter at your own risk.
If the Texan proto-metal sextet Bloodrock are remembered for anything, it’s this astonishingly vivid first-person narrative (based on true events!) about a pilot involved in an airplane crash, and his imagined final observations on the way to a hospital … where he’s pronounced “dead on arrival.” So scary, “D.O.A.” was widely banned by radio stations but still managed to climb to No. 36.
“Careful With That Axe, Eugene’”
Pink Floyd deserve some kind of award for their career-spanning dedication to freaking people out, but of all their scary songs, ‘Ummagumma’’s positively petrifying “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” tops them all. Think a song needs frightening lyrics to terrify? Just turn off the lights and listen to this atmospheric masterpiece until it climaxes with Roger Waters’ blood-curdling screams.
Leave it to Metallica to camouflage the most infectious ballad in thrash-metal history in a mortifying song about a war casualty who can no longer see, hear, move or speak. “One” is a soul-crushing, claustrophobic trip to the abyss … and it gives us the jitters just thinking about it.
No band has done more than Black Sabbath to make rock ‘n’ roll a scary proposition for fans, their parents and self-proclaimed moral-authority figures. And it all begins with their eponymous debut’s terrifying title track. “Black Sabbath” plays like a haunted-house thrill ride, and you just know you’ll go back … again and again and again.