Here in the season of the dead, sanity hangs by a thread
We’re descendants of the dark — give us back our one true love
Manifest All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain grim, our one true love
No, you shan’t kill Halloween, for we’ve bore it in our blood
–The Black Dahlia Murder, “A Shrine to Madness”
When the summer dies, I finally feel like I’m home. The cold creeps in, making every tree explode in a death rattle of color before their leaves spin off into the wind like drunken bats. Leather jackets and overcoats emerge from their closet-coffins, while our bodies beg us to stoke our internal fires with apple cider donuts and good whiskey. Most of all, the world around me becomes a midnight movie marathon, as zombies climb out of suburban yards, lost souls and satanic hags perch on neighborhood rooftops, and the Reaper Himself grins out at the world through pumpkins carved by hands sticky with chocolate. It’s finally here — Halloween, the one time of year where everyone shows up to the party I’ve been throwing my entire life, and an affirmation of all things metal.
It’s easy to see how the loves of both heavy metal and Halloween easily intertwine. As with many metal fans, horror movies were where my journey started, the stylized gloom of the Universal Monsters pantheon and the latex-soaked insanity of bargain-bin gems like Fright Night and Dead Alive making me the weirdest little kid on my block. Back then, Halloween was a chance to get sick on sweets, dress up as a supervillain or skeleton, and maybe watch Michael Myers ice a shrieking co-ed on TV while my parents were in the next room. Discovering heavy metal was more about finding a soundtrack to my morbid, gore-obsessed mind than anything else, which I certainly did in the form of Rob Zombie, Cannibal Corpse, and Cradle Of Filth.
While my fascination with musical demons soon eclipsed my love of foam-rubber ones, that connection between the two remains ever-present for me. The problem I often find, however, is that most of the year, both metal and horror take themselves too seriously, concerned with their cultural impacts rather than the good times they can foster. But Halloween has always been the night when those two realms joyously crash together, where metal bares its fangs and horror gets loud as fuck. In that way it’s a reminder that this has always been about the passions of my youth, the comfort I felt at discovering a revolting parade of nonstop art where I belonged at last.
Today, it’s obvious I’m not alone. Bands who have always celebrated Halloween’s mixture of theater and honest excitement are finally being recognized for their talents; acts like King Diamond and GWAR are more renowned in 2020 than they were even during metal’s heyday in the 1980s. Meanwhile, new bands like Ghost, Acid Witch, Bloody Hammers, VHS, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Vanik, and Blood Ceremony have dedicated themselves to haunted-house spookiness while keeping their music couched in black magic and sleaze. Meanwhile, the rock and roll miscreants of ‘80s horror movies — Return of the Living Dead’s Trash, Trick or Treat’s Sammi Curr, The Craft‘s Nancy Downs, and even The Lost Boys‘s sexy sax man — have become cultural icons worshipped the world over. People get it, even if it’s all a lot of costumes and pumpkin beer.
Others don’t, though, specifically for those reasons. These folks are angry that every October their lifestyle is suddenly accessed by normal people after the difficulty they had to experience in finding it. More so, they’re not living in some fantasy world — metal is serious business, and covering it in scarecrows and Frankensteins demeans true satanic philosophy and technical musicianship. But in my mind, this concept of the gritty real world is a more elaborate fantasy than any zombie movie or ghost story. Of course we all realize that things like vampires and slashers are just metaphors, and that dressing up as a Power Ranger or hot dog is silly as hell. That’s why it’s fun — because it involves using our imaginations and better understanding the bummer of real life by momentarily escaping it.
Besides, let’s be honest, if you summoned up Lucifer and he was a cloud of glyphs or whatever, you’d be pretty fucking disappointed. Even if you only consider metal’s fantastic side nothing but a bunch of symbolism, those symbols still matter. If you wanted everything to be subdued or understated, you could’ve gone anywhere else. The truth is, Halloween is a human holiday, not just about death and fear but also celebrating the people who live for those things. We want the horns, the wings, the blood, the screams. That’s likely why we were drawn to heavy metal in the first place — for the Halloween of it all.
Whether we like it or not, we live in everyone else’s world for eleven months out of the year, working our asses off to find the art that completes us. But in October, we get a 31-day orgy of all things bizarre, unholy, and black-clad, proof that as the year dies screaming, even the World At Large must acknowledge that we’ve had it right all along. That’s a beautiful thing — a much-needed reminder to celebrate what makes us different, to not take the status quo’s criticisms too seriously, and to be a kid when we can. For the rest of the year, we can kick and scream at the boundaries imposed on us by society, but on this day, our metal hearts are bonfires around which to dance, drink, and revel. On this day, anything goes.
Words by Chris Krovatin