Break out your Halloween playlists! Spooky season is here, and we’ve got four bands led by frighteningly badass ladies that deserve to be heard.
Spooky season is in full swing, and that means it’s time to dust off your Halloween playlists. Whether you’re throwing a party or rocking out on your own, everyone needs the perfect tunes to get them in the holiday spirit.
There are, of course, some staples of the season that every playlist must have, like “Thriller” and “Monster Mash”. (Apparently, there has been some recent online discourse about whether “Monster Mash” is too outdated and hokey for today’s crowd, but I refuse to hear any slander against the greatest song of the 20th Century.) Mix in some Misfits, some Rob Zombie, some Alice Cooper, and you’ve got a recipe for classic Halloween jams.
But there’s one thing that that every playlist could use more of: women. There is a ton of scary good music out there by some monstrously rad ladies, from goth rock pioneers like Siouxsie & the Banshees and 45 Grave to psychobilly outfits like Horrorpops and The Creepshow.
There are even some seasonally appropriate jams by more popular artists, like “Monster” by Lady Gaga, Kesha’s “Cannibal,” or Rihanna’s “Disturbia.”
Here are four more female-fronted acts you should know, along with a selection of killer cuts from each that are perfect for any spooky-time playlist.
4. Schoolyard Heroes
The story goes that Seattle-based quartet Schoolyard Heroes got their start in 2000, when they joined a Christian church-sponsored Battle of the Bands competition and played a cover of The Misfits’ “Last Caress” (or at least part of it, until the highly offended promoters pulled the plug). Before disbanding in 2009, the band released three albums full of macabre and often violent imagery, inspired by horror films, science fiction, and b-movies. They developed a cult following thanks to their theatrical style, energetic live performances, and morbid lyrical content.
But their hallmark is frontwoman Ryann Donnelly’s incredible voice. Flowing seamlessly from haunting wails to high-pitched shrieks, her vocals can be compared to Jessicka Addams of Jack Off Jill or My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. Her sometime co-vocalist, bassist Jonah Bergman, offers a harsher contrast to Donnelly’s smoother style.
Whether you prefer the more direct camp of their first two albums (which feature gems with titles like “The Mechanical Man vs. The Robot from the Outer Limits”) or the more conceptual horror of their final and arguably strongest album, the apocalyptic-themed Abominations, Schoolyard Heroes’ discography has something for every playlist. There’s danceable tracks like “Dude, Where’s My Skin?” and straight forward horror punk like “Dawn of the Dead.” The battle cry chorus of “Cemetery Girls” is the perfect Halloween night singalong, while “Children of the Night” features a Danny Elfman-esque interlude.
Killer cuts: Cemetery Girls, Curse of the Werewolf, Dawn of the Dead, Children of the Night, Attack of the Puppet People
If your party playlist needs something more boundary-pushing and decidedly not kid friendly, the enigmatic electronic duo Skynd might be right up your alley. While the other artists on this list get their horror from fictional sources, the inspiration behind Skynd’s music is much closer to home — true crime, serial killers, and infamous murders. From “Gary Hiednik,” the inspiration behind Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill, to “Katherine Knight,” who murdered her boyfriend and cooked him in a stew for his children to eat, each song details one real-life atrocity after another.
Given their chosen subject matter, Skynd is bound to be controversial. There’s a fine line between having a morbid fascination with the darkest sides of humanity and glorifying people who murdered, raped, and tortured other human beings. When asked if she admires the people she writes about, Skynd’s mysterious frontwoman told Metal Hammer, “it disturbs me. Of course it does. I don’t admire it at all.”
Still, your mileage may vary. Skynd is not the kind of music I can keep on heavy rotation. After a couple of repeat listens I start to get the same feeling I got from binge-watching the entire first season of Hannibal in a single weekend. Too much exposure to that kind of darkness can really fuck with your psyche. I’m sure some of you have a higher tolerance for this sort of thing than I do, but regardless, Skynd is not for the faint of heart.
But with bangers like “Tyler Hadley,” about a Florida teen who bludgeoned his parents to death and threw a huge house party while their bodies rotted away in a locked bedroom, Skynd is still prime material for your Halloween playlist, even if they are a bit non-traditional. Their heavy industrial beats will rattle your bones and the distorted vocals will stick with you whether you like it or not.
Killer cuts: Tyler Hadley, Richard Ramirez, Gary Hiednik (feat. Jonathan Davis), Jim Jones, Katherine Knight
2. The Haxans
I’ve written about The Haxans recently, but with Halloween right around the corner, it’s a good time to remind everyone that they exist and they’re amazing.
Made up of New Years Day frontwoman Ash Costello and Rob Zombie bassist Matt Montgomery (aka Piggy D.), The Haxans are the ultimate Halloween party soundtrack. Their signature sound features infectious pop hooks, heavy rock guitars, and danceable beats. Each track is lead by Costello’s powerhouse vocals. The Haxans’ shared background in heavy rock is apparent throughout their music, but they also share a gift for crafting upbeat pop songs, all with a spooky aesthetic and badass attitude.
Their album Party Monsters is really the only album you need this October. It has everything from dance-worthy party anthems like “Lights Out,” “Party Time,” and ”Young Blood” to bluesy slow jams like their cover of The Misfits’ “Vampira.” There are sexy tracks like “Slick Black Coffin,” along with the Satanic synthpop of “I Think of Demons.”
While Party Monsters is currently The Haxans’ only full-length release, their first EP, Three Hits from Hell, is the perfectly poppy prelude to the LP that followed, and they have recently released a cover of The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary.” The duo also just announced that they will be performing live for the first time ever this December in West Hollywood.
Killer cuts: Party Time, Lights Out, Witch Wave, Young Blood, I Think of Demons
1. Zombina & the Skeletones
Zombina & the Skeletones is one of my all time favorite bands. Based out of Liverpool, they’ve been in the horror business since the late nineties, and, despite being pursued by major record labels for years, have stayed true to their indie roots. They amassed a cult following in the mid-2000s, when their song “Nobody Likes You (When You’re Dead)” became a hit thanks in part to MySpace but mostly thanks to the absolute genius of Zombina and her partner in crime, Doc Horror. When it comes to crafting campy, catchy horror rock, no one does it better than these two.
ZATS are perhaps more closely related to The Misfits than any other band that claims influence from the horror punk vets in that their appeal lies in their simplicity. Their songs are fast, short, and fun, with a delightful b-movie vibe and black sense of humor.
The band has experimented with different styles during their career. In their catalog you’ll find pop rock (“Staci Stasis,” “Braindead”), rockabilly (“Horror Highschool,” “Frankenlady”), dark cabaret (“Spring Heeled Jack,” “Vincent Price”), and good old fashioned horror punk (“Wolf Hands,” “Dracula Blood”).
But there is a distinct thread throughout each track regardless of style, a distinctive sound that is unique and instantly recognizable. There are plenty of horror rock bands out there, but none of them sound like Zombina & the Skeletones.
I became a fan of ZATS in the good old days of Limewire and Bearshare, back when potentially infecting the family PC with a fatal virus was a small price to pay to get your hands on b-sides and rarities by your favorite bands. Unfortunately this means some of my favorite songs by them — including their cover of Toto Coelo’s “Dracula’s Tango” — aren’t available today on proper streaming apps like Spotify, although most of them can be found on YouTube. Luckily, every ZATS track is an absolute blast, so there is no shortage of spooky songs to add you to your Halloween playlist no matter where you get your music.
Killer cuts: Dracula Blood, Evil Science, Horror Highschool, Zombie Hop, DeadAlive, Spring Heeled Jack, Haunted House of Love