Heavy metal fans will always love vampires. No matter how many Mormons turn them into sparkly cradle-robbers who can’t close their mouths while staring into the distance, the undead speak to metalheads in a way that other monsters just don’t. Rockabillies can have their clunky-ass Frankenstein and punks can revel in the gooey schlock of zombies, but those of us who like it deafening and dramatic will always dream of being a bat-winged immortal who rules the night with a taloned fist. If we could, we’d all buy castles and sleep in the basement.
Over the centuries, vampires have appeared in every culture around the world. And while most of them are simply bizarre scrabblers in the darkness (you ever hear of the Malaysian Penanggalan? No capes on that thing), a handful of them have the command, seductive allure, and sheer nocturnal might to earn their place in the halls of metal. Here are our lucky 13…
Count Dracula (Dracula)
Well, obviously. Most people think of Count Dracula as a lot of dinner clothes and goth poetry, but the truth is that the world’s most famous vampire is the blood-drinking specter of real-life Romanian monster Vlad the Impaler. He’s a wall-climbing, neck-biting badass who comes to Victorian England in order to seduce every red-blooded female who’s sick of their brandy-sipping fuddy-duddy husband. Not only that, but he’s also got several different forms to choose from, whether it’s the commanding cinematic version of Christopher Lee or the demon shape-shifter of the Castlevania games. Children of the night, meet your daddy.
Evil Ed (Fright Night)
“Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster!” The cackling punk-turned-vampire from 1985 cult classic Fright Night, Evil Ed is an example of why every street kid wishes they were a vampire. Before, he’s an outcast tormented for being different; after, he’s a snaggle-toothed death-bringer with a penchant for bad wigs and the ability to transform into a wolf. Though actor Stephen Geoffreys career took many unexpected turns after Fright Night came out (specifically a swerve into hardcore gay porn), his performance as Evil Ed is one that has stayed, appropriately enough, immortal.
Akasha (Queen of the Damned)
Unlike many of the other night creatures in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Akasha, the first vampire in existence, ain’t here for the flowery romance. Unmatched in both her beauty and her cruelty, Akasha is the embodiment of the vampire overlord, a powerful queen who stops at nothing to get what she wants. The character was most famously portrayed by Aaliyah in the 2002 film adaptation of Rice’s book, who did a solid job of getting across both her sensuality and her undying lust for power. Hell hath no fury like a 6000-year-old woman scorned.
One thing Garth Ennis’ incredible comic series Preacher did well was include a vampire who was brilliantly — and sometimes tragically — human. Cassidy doesn’t swan around in a cape or turn into bats; you’ll most likely find him in a denim vest pounding cheap whiskey. The one time he meets another vampire, he kicks the dude’s ass for being a floofy sexual predator. That said, vampirism has always been a metaphor for addiction, and Ennis does a solid job of portraying Cassidy as a slave to his hungers, both for blood and hard drugs. Living forever’s only a curse if you don’t like yourself very much.
Satánico Pandemonium (From Dusk ‘Till Dawn)
You know you’re doing the whole vampire thing right if you can walk into a room and shove your foot in a dude’s mouth — and he just sits there (though it helps if that guy is Quentin Taratino). Salma Hayek’s Satánico Pandemonium is arguably the scariest vampire in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Til Dawn, if only because of how seductive she is. Without so much as a word, this monster has everyone around in her thrall — and then transforms into a scaly night creature with only blood and human slavery on her mind. Impossible to look away from, clad in little more than a giant snake — metal, thy name is woman.
Graf Orlock (Nosferatu)
There’s a reason that Florence Stoker fought like hell to stop German director F. W. Murnau’s vision of her husband’s novel from seeing the light of day: just look at this thing! While Dracula was meant to be a classy story of enchantment via dinner theater, Nosferatu was a terrifying occult fairy tale, complete with a vampire who looks like a giant rat and spreads the plague wherever he goes. While Orlock may not have the charisma and sexuality we’ve come to associate with vampires, he is the inspiration for all depictions of vampirism as infection, his hideous appearance and disease-bearing swarm of rats reminding us that there’s something inherently wrong with this beast.
Marceline the Vampire Queen (Adventure Time)
Look, we hear you — Marceline’s a character from a children’s cartoon with a low body count, making her seemingly less badass than many of the other night-walkers gathered here. But she also plays a bass guitar shaped like a giant battle-axe and has occasionally been queen of the underworld at the bidding of her demonic father. At the same time, she leaves her band shirt at her crush’s place on purpose, and has issues with standing up to her problematic ex. So yeah, she’s a noseless sweetheart from a hipster cartoon, but she also might be the only vampire on this list who your average metalhead can truly relate to.
Severen (Near Dark)
One only has to view the bar scene in 1987’s Near Dark to know why Severen is on this list. Handsome, terrifying, and mercilessly ultraviolent, Bill Paxton’s snickering undead brawler evokes a special kind of terror, making viewers wonder how they’d fare if a vampire walked into the room, tore their throat out, and then laughed at them while they died. On the one hand, this is very in touch with the type of haughty, superior vampires we know from Dracula; on the other, Severen has since come to represent a more modern archetype: the punk-rock vampire, Charles Manson-esque in his bloodlust. Say it with us, now: it’s finger-lickin’ good!
Vampirella (Dynamite Comics)
Created by horror legend Forest J. Ackerman, comics artist Trina Robbins, and heavy metal fantasy art god Frank Frazetta, Vampirella started as a horror pin-up before slowly evolving into a comics mainstay. Her origin story — an alien hailing from a vampire planet, sworn to protect mankind — has slowly gone from backseat to driver. These days, in comics like Gail Simone’s Swords of Sorrow and Christopher Priest’s Sacred Six, she’s become a legendary crossover character who’s nearly impossible to defeat. It’s good that Vampirella’s legacy finally being given its due, and fans are seeing her do more than pose nude covered in blood — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Sometimes, the scariest vampires are just humans. According to legend, Elizabeth Bathory was a Romanian countess who sexually tortured young village girls to death and then bathed in their blood, which she believed would keep her young forever. While the truth might be simpler and sadder — many posit that Bathory was just a promiscuous lesbian whose sexuality was used by religious figures to vilify her — this historical persona has had a massive influence of death and black metal (Venom wrote a song about her, Cradle of Filth wrote an album about her, and Bathory are literally named Bathory). Horror fans will also know her as one of the central inspirations behind Europe’s epidemic of lesbian vampire movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s, for which many a young, pubescent metalhead owes her ample thanks.
Requiem (Requiem: Chevalier Vampire)
From the pages of Heavy Metal Magazine comes the kind of story every metal fan has probably dreamed of at some point: Requiem, Vampire Knight. Set in Hell, Requiem tells the story of a repentant Nazi soldier who’s been made a vampiric policeman of sorts, mostly meaning that he jumps around in jet-black armor while slicing mutants to pieces. As any Heavy Metal reader has probably already guessed, the comic is usually a vehicle for bared undead breasts, but the massive scope and sprawling, horrific designs by artist Olivier Ledroit make it feel like an extreme metal album cover come to life. A comic you’ll spend hours poring over.
Kurt Barlow (Salem’s Lot)
Face the master! Combine Dracula’s will with Nosferatu’s looks and you get Kurt Barlow, the unspeakable villain of Salem’s Lot. Though originally a debonair nobleman in Stephen King’s novel, Barlow got a terrifying makeover in Tobe Hooper’s film adaptation, becoming the blue-skinned night-wraith that so many fans have learned to know and love. The speech given by his familiar Straker is the stuff of cinematic legend — “Throw away your cross…Your faith against his faith. Could you do that? Is your faith enough?” One of the scarier vampires to ever stalk the screen.
The manga comic Bastard!!! turned the whole metal world into an epic fantasy, complete with a devious vampire overlord — played by King Diamond? Di-Amon may appear a little more brolic than the Danish falsetto ever looked, but his sense of command and satanic might are still very present. Not only that, but the King’s inverted cross-covered face paint design appears in any incarnation of the character. King Diamond as a jacked vampire — nothing more metal than that.
Words by Chris Krovatin