Horror icons have come and gone over the ages, but few if any have remained as immortally loved and feared as Count Dracula. Bram Stoker’s vampire supervillain has been so thoroughly used and adapted over the ages, from cinematic depictions to cereal mascots, that he has become the second-most referenced character in pop culture history (before you ask: Sherlock Holmes). Now, 124 years after his arrival into the minds of the masses, Dracula remains more relevant than ever, a walking metaphor for ever-present infection and cruel dictatorship who is being reimagined for film, TV, and graphic novel adaptations even as we speak.
It’s undeniable that Dracula has had an influence over heavy metal, both directly and stylistically. The Count’s mixture of creepy-crawl shadow and domineering satanic might are the stuff that many metal bands have spent their whole careers trying to capture in song. So in honor of World Dracula Day — May 26th being the publication date of Stoker’s original novel — we decided to look at those bands whose very lifeblood stems from the tainted veins of the legendary vampire.
Here are ten bands who owe Dracula every last drop…
Cradle of Filth
No band’s inclusion on this list is more obvious than British symphonic black metallers Cradle of Filth. Everything this band does is pure Dracula, from their sonic depictions of crumbling gothic castles to frontman Dani Filth’s flapping cloak onstage. More so, their ultra-goth approach to vampires and horror was coined by Bram Stoker’s classic novel and its many film adaptions, and simply wouldn’t exist without it. Supreme vampyrhic evil, indeed.
Most of Ghost’s look takes its cues from an organization more terrifying than any cabal of vampires: the Catholic Church. But frontman Tobias Forge’s many cape-sweeping identities and his libertine attitude definitely crib heavily from the Count’s own razor-toothed glamour. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to watch the “Square Hammer” video and not see the influences of F.W. Murnau and Tod Browning’s depictions of the vampire overlord. This is his body, this is his blood.
From very early on, Swedish black metallers Marduk have paid homage to Vlad Tepes, the real-life Romanian ruler on whom the vampire king is based. 1996’s Heaven Shall Burn…When We Are Gathered includes an homage to the Transylvanian voivode, while 1997’s Nightwing is entirely dedicated to the bloodthirsty historical figure. And while none of these songs delve too explicitly into Stoker’s mythical depiction of the Impaler, the imagery used around the latter album definitely pulls from that portion of the legend. Sometimes, servants of God end up in league with Satan.
Type O Negative
Perhaps it’s unfair to say that Type O Negative owe Dracula a nod — maybe it’s Pete Steele himself who should be sending the Count a Halloween card. Pete’s look, voice, and general appeal are hugely inspired by Dracula, to the point where Pete was dressing like a Victorian vampire onstage by the end of the band’s career. Some might argue that Type O’s music is super-cereal and not some vampire metal bullshit, but let’s be honest, Pete was dying for the bite. The whole nosferatu shtick will never hide that the dude was a Renfield at heart.
There’s really no surprise at Tribulation being included on this list. One only has to look at their outfits and merch, or listen to their music, to understand the influence Dracula has had on them. But we might as well drive the stake in deep by mentioning that the title of the band’s 2015 breakthrough album Children of the Night is literally a line from Bram Stoker’s novel. These guys slay no matter who inspired them, but it’s worth noting that they owe so much to the ultimate man in black.
For horror punk’s most cult band, no other horror icon will do. Sure, fraternal three-piece Calabrese play with imagery and influences from plenty of different old-school cinematic monsters, but it’s the black-clad predatory darkness of Dracula that most colors this band’s look and vibe. Given how often the dudes are featured wearing fangs and popping their collars, it’s kind of hard not to see it. A catchy punk band with more vampiric command than a dozen black metallers.
While Alice Cooper’s earlier look was all torn fishnets and flop sweat, his later persona had a whole lot of Dracula in it. Besides the top hat, tails, and cane, there’s the full-on Bela Lugosi outfit that he wore during his performance of “Welcome to my Nightmare” on The Muppet Show in 1978. For dudes like Anders Manga of goth metallers Bloody Hammers, that footage made him a diehard Coop fanatic. Good to know the Count is still infecting new souls through victims of his own.
It’s real simple: the Carpathians are an impressive mountain range running through Romania. They feature prominently in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, filled as they are with dense forests that are home to wolves, fountains of blue flame, and of course, undead noblemen. All of which is to say that were Dracula not the massive cultural institution that he became, one doubts these vicious Norwegian black metallers would’ve gone with such a name. Their looming creepiness only helps solidify their devotion.
Pennsylvania — land of dark forests, dread mountains, and black, unfathomed lakes. One only has to watch Philadelphia’s Devil Master at one of their becaped, cobweb-hung live shows to understand how the lord of all vampires has influenced their look. But the real proof is in the music, as Devil Master’s snotty black-and-roll has that stygian, far-reaching quality one associates with the Count. Put on “Desperate Shadow” and one can immediately hear how it would be fine accompaniment to swooping down on some hapless villager.
The Black Dahlia Murder
For all their pothead death metal antics, Michigan’s The Black Dahlia Murder have a distinct macabre streak. Not only does 2007’s breakthrough album Nocturnal feature an ultra-Draculean title track, but the band’s 2015 album Abysmal also includes a song specifically dedicated to Vlad the Impaler himself. And this doesn’t even take into account songs about vampires on 2013’s Everblack (“Blood Mine), 2017’s Nightbringers (“Kings of the Nightworld”), and 2020’s Verminous (“Removal of the Oaken Stake”). It’s undeniable that the shadow of the Count stretches over these ragers’ entire career.
Do we even need to elaborate on this? Everything Mercyful Fate did back in the day, their costumes and stage show, it all looks like it was borrowed from the set of 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Between their vocals and guitars respectively, King Diamond and Hank Sherman both sound like they’ve had a dream where they canoodle with Christopher Lee. That King sounds like a vampire wailing as he walks eternally through his shattered castle just puts a crimson lining on the whole thing. Crush the cross!
Words by Chris Krovatin