Monster Mashup / by Karl Dixon

"Don't need reasonDon't need rhyme
Ain't nothin' that I'd rather do
Goin' downParty time
My friends are gonna be there too

- AC/DC

Once again that most evil of seasons is upon us, when supermarkets overflow with orange and black plastic tat, cinemas start screening found-footage fluff and annoying little children knock our doors begging for sweets. The X-Factor will churn out another Halloween special, radio DJs will pat themselves of the back for their clever track selection of Michael Jackson's Thriller and much of the mainstream Western world will indulge in a sneaky dance with the devil for one night of the year.

Meanwhile the rock and metal fans of the world will all enjoy a brief amused smile, even a chortle or two, as they remind themselves of the fact that this is where rock and metal shines the brightest and the boldest. If the rest of the world dances with the devil for one night of the year, rock and metal music boogies with the beast, moshes with the monster and discos with the demon every minute of every day. These genres thrive on the macabre, the occult, the tantalisingly evil and produce sheer brilliance along the way.

This weekend I spent some time indulging in many of my favourite Halloween-related rock and metal tracks. From an initial long-list of 100 songs I managed to carefully carve a 10-track playlist. The grounds of selection was simple, I was looking for the schlockiest rock, hard-rock and metal songs that indulge in the occult while still retaining a sense of fun. This is my Monster Mashup for 2015...

 

1. AC/DC - Highway to Hell

Australia's finest contributed 5 songs to my longlist, but the title track from their 1979 release has to be the pick of the bunch. Sexy, groovy and gloriously irreverant it was my favourite track when I saw them on the Black Ice tour in 2009 and 2010 and it's the song I want to be buried to. A perfect song to open this playlist then.

2. Alice Cooper - Poison

The man who invented theatrical shock-rock has a back catalogue of songs that could grace this list. As it is I've  just chosen the most catchy; it's so good, even the Groove Coverage dance cover version couldn't spoil it.

3. Avenged Sevenfold - A Little Piece of Heaven

Another band with ample schlocky hits, I've chosen this macabre and theatrical opus from their self-titled 2007 album. Their former drummer The Rev has sole writing credit for this song and it's a perfect demonstration of why his untimely death in 2009 was such a loss; musically it sounds like something from a Tim Burton movie while lyrically it's more suited to David Cronenberg (it's about a man murdering his partner but keeping her body warm so he can still have sex with it...).

4. Black Spiders - St. Peter

Killing time at Download Festival in 2009, I was wandering from stage to stage hoping to find a new band to fix my interest on. Following my ear to a sound wafting over from the Red Bull stage, I managed to catch the tail end of the Black Spiders set. Hearing the chorus to What Good's a Rock Without a Roll ("Eat Thunder! Shit Lighting!") was enough to convince me that this was a band deserving of my time and I quickly bought all their demos and EPs (they still hadn't released debut album Sons of the North at this point). This song was instantly a standout favourite, and the story of a deadman trying to weasel his way into heaven seems a pretty neat fit for halloween.

5. The Darkness - Black Shuck

Fantasy horror is one rock n roll staple The Darkness tend not to indulge in, at least not as frequently as they indulge in daft innuendo, English idiosyncrasy and soppy ballads. The opening track to their 2003 release Permission to Land is a happy exception and a belter of a rock n roll number to boot. 

6. Iron Maiden - Phantom of the Opera

Well this one was hard. Damn hard. Iron Maiden could have a Halloween playlist all of their own. They are the absolute, stone-cold, no-questions-asked masters of mythical heavy metal storytelling. They boast punchy radio-friendly examples like Prowler, Wrathchild, The Number of the Beast and The Wicker Man and grandiose absorbing fables such as Ghost of the NavigatorDance of Death and The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg. However, forcing myself to pick only one I have gone with the song that set the standard for their longer sprawling epics when it appeared on their self-titled debut album in 1980.

7. Killswitch Engage - Holy Diver

As good as the Dio original version of this song is (and it is very good) I have a special place in my heart for this Killswitch Engage cover. They picked up the fantastical story of a deep-sea diver and added an exciting extra punch (and a daft music video!) that has made it a rock-club classic for most of the past decade.

8. Metallica - All Nightmare Long

Like Iron Maiden, Metallica have a long list of songs deserving of a place in any Halloween playlist.  While earlier favourites like Creeping DeathEnter Sandman and Master of Puppets are the ones that still receive the plaudits (and constant live performances), this song was the standout track from 2008's Death Magnetic and is their best song since the late-1990s.

9. Rob Zombie - Dragula

Another rock-club classic, this beat competition from Zombie's other schlock hits Living Dead Girl and Jesus Frankenstein thanks to its infectious groove.

10. Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators - Bad Rain

Slash's 2012 album Apocalyptic Love was based around the loose but brilliantly succinct theme of trying to score while the world is ending and featured some terrific tracks that showed an ever-improving musical understanding between the guitarist and Alter Bridge singer. This particular highlight tells the somewhat sleazy story of a woman who devours her lovers and boasts a great animated music video.

MONSTER MASHUP SHORTLIST (10 tracks)

MONSTER MASHUP LONGLIST (100 tracks)