There’s no time for metal quite like Halloween. The funeral of the year allows those of us who dress like post-apocalyptic barbarians to look normal and openly revel in our love of death, monsters, and witchcraft. Not only that, but it’s also a time of the year when metal feels not only appropriate, but relevant, with some of our favorite music making its way onto even mainstream listeners’ Halloween playlists. This is a moment when we can relive our favorite classics, a Christmas of the damned in which the spooky, gothy songs we’ve come to associate with the season ring loud and true.
That said, there are only so many times one can blast the same Misfits and Type O Negative songs in October before they crave something new. Thankfully, 2021 hasn’t been without its spooky gems to add to your sonic catacombs. So to liven up your playlists and drip some fresh blood to your chalice, we decided to list 18 releases from this year that’ll enshroud your lives in death and darkness.
Here are 18 records from 2021 that’ll help your ring in the most metal of holidays…
Cradle of Filth, Existence Is Futile (Nuclear Blast)
You never know what Cradle of Filth you might get from album to album — sometimes, the band go so hard on their flowery gothicisms; other times, they really amp up their demonic black metal vibes that they aren’t quite right for Halloween. But Existence Is Futile is Samhain-ready and Great Pumpkin-approved, full of all the hungry ghosts and sneering devils that one wants knocking on their door come October 31st. That the band are going this spooky this many albums deep speaks to their dedication to that which goes bump in the night. Always bet on Lucky #13.
Fulci, Exhumed Information (Time to Kill Records)
When it comes to gore metal, always trust a band who named themselves after one of horror’s most famous directors. Italian three-piece Fulci definitely cranked up their cinematic ghoulishness with Exhumed Information, adding more synthy soundtrack elements between their oozing zombie death metal tracks this time around. The record is still a harrowing slog through a corpse-strewn swamp, it just has a better idea on how that scene is shot and sound edited than its predecessor, 2019’s Tropical Sun. Definitely better suited to the after-party than while the kids are still up.
Ice Nine Kill, Welcome to Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2 (Fearless Records)
If a slasher movie marathon is more your speed than trick-or-treating, Ice Nine Kills are here for you. Welcome to Horrorwood is a spirited sequel to 2018’s The Silver Scream, with the band offering their diehard legions soaring metalcore takes on a whole new stack of blood-soaked classics. From Cabin Fever to Psycho to Evil Dead, this record takes listeners on a detailed tour of every flick on the late-late-late-nite horror marathon. Drink every time Spencer Charnas recreates a famous movie quote.
Acid Witch and Vaultwraith, Spooky II (Hells Headbangers)
If the genre of Heavy Metal threw an official Halloween party, Acid Witch would play at midnight. This All Hallows, the Detroit pumpkin-huffers are enlisting horror-sleaze merchant Vaultwraith for an oozing treat bag of old-school metal. Where the Witch’s two tracks are pure stoner-doom madness (including one based on Bernie Wrightson’s unholy short comic “Jenifer), the Wraith come with all the nasty, leather-clad guillotine licks one could ask for. Be careful — if you find yourself listening to this split, you might be a victim-to-be in a bad ’70s movie.
Cannibal Corpse, Violence Unimagined (Metal Blade)
Not all Halloweens are crumbling and gothic — some are just drenched in gore. No one does pure carnage like Cannibal Corpse, and Violence Unimagined certainly maintains the band’s fearsome pedigree. One minute, the Floridian skull-splitters are scooping out guts to the frantic insanity of “Inhumane Harvest;” the next, they’re watching your arm slowly descend into a horde of zombies with “Surround, Kill, Devour.” If you like your front lawn with fewer gravestones and more body parts on meathooks, this is the record for your October 31st.
If I Were The Devil, If I Were The Devil (Independent)
On the surface, If I Were The Devil sound a little terrifying and destructive to be perfect Halloween music. The band’s self-titled album is a ripping blast of punky blackened thrash entirely dedicated the blasphemy. But therein lies the beauty: these guys are here for the Devil. This isn’t music about spooky seances or hockey-masked killers, it’s the sound of people paying homage to Satan and all he stands for. In that respect, it’s an important soundtrack to a night when it’s sometimes vital to remember Lucifer and all he gives us. Ask the kids who’s handing out candy with scripture taped to it, and then point your speakers at that dickhead’s house.
Rob Zombie, The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)
What’s Halloween without a little Rob Zombie? For this year’s release, Rob goes hard on the two poles of his sound. One half of Lunar Injection is ultra-crushing monster metal that’ll delight fans of the more evil tracks on his early records, while the other is a crusty smear of highway rock and spookshow carnival music. Both only further cement Zombie as the unquestioned master of his craft, turning every stereo into a Frankenstein speaker. It’s not really a Danse Macabre if you’re not dansing.
Lord Vampyr, The Vampire’s Legacy (Sleazy Rider)
If Cradle of Filth aren’t bringing enough Transylvanian hunger for you, Italy’s Lord Vampyr will certainly sate your bloodthirst. There’s no clever wordplay or metaphors on The Vampire’s Legacy, just straight-up gothic black metal about vampires, vampirism, animated corpses drinking blood, and Count fucking Dracula. That dedication to all things undead makes this album a cool and appropriate addition to any 2021 Halloween playlist. It’s good to hear no-frills vampire metal — though c’mon, it’s vampire metal, so there’s bound to be a frill or two. Probably on someone’s sleeve.
Hooded Menace, The Tritonus Bell (Season of Mist)
Are you a leather-and-spike-clad extreme metalhead, but still like to celebrate Halloween with all the oozing spook of a crumbling corpse ringing a church bell? Let Finland’s Hooded Menace take your October to mold-infested new lows with The Tritonus Bell. While the band’s past releases sometimes molder to a cadaver’s heartbeat, this record shows off a newfound sense of momentum, with lumbering riffs carrying the listener along on a horrific journey into the crypts. Killer death metal and eerie Halloween metal, together at last — if anyone could pull it off, it’s these Blind Dead worshippers.
Slasher Dave, The Jack-O-Lantern Murders (Bellyache Records)
Acid Witch mastermind Slasher Dave has long been the king of spookshow soundtrack synths, and this Halloween sees him returning to form. The Jack-O-Lantern Murders does away with some of the harder, dancier elements of previous albums, instead celebrating the spine-tingling synthwave of classic ‘80s horror films. Any song on this record will make for a perfect if unsettling addition to your Halloween, whether you’re heading to a costume party or being stalked by a maggot-faced zombie through an abandoned house. What matters is, you’ll die to this music.
Powerwolf, Call of the Wild (Napalm Records)
Epic werewolf vs. vampire warfare has always been Powerwolf’s MO, and this time around the German power metallers up the ‘epic.’ While a little more Wacken-oriented that most horror fans go, Call of the Wild definitely takes its sets pieces to new heights in a way that’s fun at this time of year. Every song here is about monsters being powerful, running through the night, or slaughtering their foes on the battlefield — and who doesn’t love that? Lean in and regret nothing — there’s no better night to do it.
Unto Others, Strength (Roadrunner)
It’s good to hear a band going full goth rock in 2021, and make no mistake, Unto Others are doing just that. The recent Roadrunner acquisition definitely have an icy metallic edge, but the band’s MO is primarily shadowy, spiritual rock and roll with a moaned vocal that’ll have you swaying with your hands over your head in no time. As such, they’re an excellent accompaniment to All Hallows Eve, when everyone is down to throw on some black lipstick and join night’s armies. These dudes also just dropped a two-song Halloween EP on their Bandcamp, so make sure to check that out too.
Wampyric Rites, The Eternal Melancholy of the Wampyr (Inferna Profundis Productions)
Sometimes, you don’t want your vampire horror with capes and chandeliers — you want those full-on scuttling bat-faced cadavers gargling blood in a mold-infested crypt. Thankfully, Wampyric Rites have just the thing for your clammy, undead soul. The Ecuadorian act’s 2021 album is as gothic and evocative as the other two vampire metal records on this list, but goes stark and harsh with its embracing of all things deadly and nocturnal. Sometimes, Dracula just isn’t cutting it — only Nosferatu will do.
Bloody Hammers, Songs of Unspeakable Terror (Napalm Records)
Though normally masters of all things creepy and glowing, North Carolina’s Bloody Hammers swerved towards the East Coast for their 2021 release. Songs of Unspeakable Terror definitely smacks of punkish acts like The Misfits and The Damned, going fast, chuggy, and street-level compared to the band’s 2019 record The Summoning. That also makes it a classic October 31st album, celebrating spookiness while not reveling in full-on witchcraft worship. Solid cruising music, if you drive a hearse.
Aborted, Maniacult (Century Media)
Few if any band does frenzied murder music like Belgium’s Aborted. But on 2021’s Maniacult, these guys not only up their sheer sonic brutality, they also take moments throughout to really play with atmosphere and darkness. The record will certainly please energized gorehounds, but it will equally excite death metal fans who truly love horror in all its creeping, looming forms. The perfect soundtrack to realizing that the killer has been in the house the whole time.
Black Knife, Murder Season (Independent)
It can’t all be spooky ghosts howls and stalking vampires — sometimes, you gotta just kill for Satan. Murder Season sees Kentucky’s Black Knife going hard, fast, and nasty on their blackened thrash’n’roll, resulting in an album that’s as disgusting as it is invigorating. Though definitely cribbing from acts like Bathory and Impaled Nazarene, the band bring a distinctly American vibe to their sound, keeping things lush rather than chilly. Definitely the kind of record you blast to let these little kids dressed as Vivo know you mean business.
Tribulation, Where Gloom Becomes Sound (Metal Blade)
In 2021, Tribulation are definitely one of contemporary metal’s most beloved horror hounds, and this year’s Where Gloom Becomes Sound continues that tradition. If anything, it kind of ups the ante, going extra-gothic and especially sunless throughout; every song tells a story of haunting, either by actual phantoms or by one’s own memories and experiences. As such, it’s a record that sounds like it was written with autumn in mind even if it was released mid-spring. Behold darkness triumphant!
John Carpenter, Halloween Kills OST
It’s Halloween — why settle for anything less than the OG? Even if you thought this year’s Halloween Kills was confusing and overwrought — so, hold on, is Michael Myers literally the Boogeyman? — you gotta love John Carpenter’s soundtrack for the film. Working with his son, the master of horror synths went all out on the atmosphere here, reconfiguring his classic Michael Myers themes to embrace the killer’s legacy and modern darkness. Guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.
Words by Chris Krovatin