From the early days, when Black Sabbath pioneered the genre, to the emergence of extreme subgenres like death metal and black metal, there has always been an association of fear and horror with heavy metal. And thus, there’s an abundance of tracks to choose from when compiling a list of the scariest metal songs.
With lyrics that focus anywhere from the occult to death and destruction, some songs stand out among others as the most frightful. And for certain bands, freaking people out is their modus operandi. Hell, we could have easily comprised this entire list out of Cannibal Corpse songs.
Whether it’s the creepy music or the bloodcurdling lyrics, the baker’s dozen tracks below truly tingle our spines. Without further ado, here’s Heavy Consequence‘s list of The 13 Scariest Metal Songs.
Editor’s Note: This list was originally published in 2018.
13. Dimmu Borgir – “The Serpentine Offering”
The lead single from Dimmu Borgir’s concept album about a priest’s assistant turning to the devil, “The Serpentine Offering” is scariest because its brand of Satanism isn’t tongue-in-cheek. Instead, it’s relatable for those who have evil in their hearts: “My descent is the story of everyman/ I am hatred, darkness, and despair.” Of course, it’s musically eerie, as well. These experts of symphonic black metal have spent 25 years perfecting an occultist blend of dark metal and classical instrumentation.
Moment the Spine Tingles: When the choir comes in at 0:37.
12. Cradle of Filth – “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow”
From the opening keyboard choir melody, this Cradle of Filth track is equal parts epic and frightful. But when singer Dani Filth enters with a shriek over a death growl, “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow” announces itself as a Halloween classic. Sarah Jezebel Deva’s soaring soprano and haunting spoken-word accompaniment keep the shivers coming over seven minutes of goth-metal goodness.
Moment the Spine Tingles: At the 0:22 mark, when the vocal harmonies ascend behind that wicked shriek-growl combo.
11. Iron Maiden – “Fear of the Dark”
It’s not so much that you can expect this song to send shivers down your spine — the trademark Iron Maiden gallop will probably pump you up more than scare you. But “Fear of the Dark” makes this list because it presents an ideal opportunity to observe that universal feeling of being on-edge for reasons you can’t put our finger on. Spooky, indeed.
Moment the Spine Tingles: Bruce Dickinson sets the stage perfectly right off the bat when he sings about walking on a dark road alone at night — a direct but rich image that the vocalist elaborates on throughout over the verses that follow.
10. Septicflesh – “The Vampire from Nazareth”
Greek symphonic death metalists Septicflesh are masters of orchestral evil, but “The Vampire from Nazareth” is the epitome. Operatic vocals, swirling strings, crushing riffs, sinister melodies, and brilliant dynamics make this a monument of bloodcurdling metal.
Moment the Spine Tingles: At 1:07, when everything stops except a horn and bassist Spiros Antoniou growls, “THE NECTAR OF THE GODS!!!” (aka blood that’s baptizing a cross) right before a double-bass breakdown.
09. Slipknot – “Skin Ticket”
A Slipknot live performance is terrifying enough, faced as you are with a stage full of nightmare visions looking poised to disembowel anyone in the near vicinity as they rip out a particularly gristly industrial metal assault. Then they have to go and play songs like this one that sound like the last gasps of someone as their limbs are being torn asunder. The message that vocalist Corey Taylor sings may be one of internal distress, but everything about this song screams full on bloodletting.
Moment the Spine Tingles: The first hushed vocals from Taylor as he squeezes the mass of percussion and squeaking guitar noises like hot breath on the back of a victim’s neck.
— Robert Ham
08. Celtic Frost – “Danse Macabre”
Some things seem laughable in the daytime but then take on a completely different hue after the sun goes down. Basically a series of moans, groans and heavy breathing accompanied by tinkling ceremonial bells, ominous guitar wails, and dissonant sound effects, “Danse Macabre” nevertheless showcases how Celtic Frost were on their own creative trip even from this early stage. The sense you get from the music is of a demonic/Satanic ritual being performed by a person who grows progressively unhinged as the track advances (presumably, as evil spirits take possession). It sounds hilarious on paper and probably even more so in a party setting, but listen alone at night and you get a completely different result.
Moment the Spine Tingles: Towards the end of the track, as warped sound effects take over and frontman Tom Warrior’s vocalizations seem more and more tortured, the music recreates a near-psychedelic sensation of one’s mind melting away into an altered state of consciousness.
07. Testament – “Demonic Refusal”
Following a faint augmented synth chord, the countdown begins: “10…9…8…7…6…6…6…” Dive-bombing guitars and a pulverizing Gene Hoglan beat set the sonics for one of the deepest growls of Chuck Billy’s career, which intones, “You take my hand and sympathize/ You felt the flesh, you realized/ You took my will, now I’m deprived/ Save myself, just save myself.” Testament’s late-’90s foray into death metal featured plenty of sick riffs and sicker breakdowns, and this album’s exorcism theme perfectly fits its creepy sound.
Moment the Spine Tingles: Right after that last 6.
06. Rotting Christ (feat. Diamanda Galás) – “Orders From the Dead”
Written by and featuring Greek-American soprano singer and performance artist Diamanda Galás, “Orders from the Dead” is an absolutely chilling narrative of the Turkish genocide of Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, and Helenic peoples. Over a hypnotic rhythm and Rotting Christ’s harmonized guitars, Galás alternates between English and Greek, speaking, chanting, and howling something between an incantation and a cursing of the heavens, recounting horrors of the past: “Our dead watched their daughters butchered, raped, and beaten/ In the still burning of those flames/ Our dead watched an ax remove their mother’s skull and crown a wooden spit.”
Moment the Spine Tingles: For all nine horrific minutes.
— Scott Morrow