REWIND: “Dance Macabre” and 4 more songs for your advanced-level Halloween playlist

Danse Macabre, Dance Macabre

“Danse Macabre” (1493) by Michael Wolgemut. Not pictured: Ghost’s “Dance Macabre.”

OK, enough dancing around it. I’ve done three editions of my Halloween Month and basically none of them has been a legit Halloween list.

I’m writing this in advance so there’s no telling what unspeakable horrors have befallen you between now and publication. For all I know, society has fallen and I’m cruising the wasteland in my muscle car with spikes welded all over it. But I’m 100-percent sure this will still be online, because it will take more than a mere apocalypse for our esteemed editor Roman Gokhman to not keep putting stories out. Even if the only people left to read those stories are radioactive mutants.

In fact, I can practically see him demanding to know what sort of stories radioactive mutants want to click on in whatever will pass for Slack in the wasteland. Semaphore maybe?

But I digress.

I’ve pulled together the 15 songs from my three Halloween columns last year into a Spotify playlist and now I’m going to spend the next couple columns bringing that total to 25. There’s no particular theme this week, except: they’re scary, violent, or otherwise Halloween-appropriate songs that I listen to year-round but you probably save for October (you lightweights).

Ghost — “Dance Macabre”

Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to find a Ghost song I haven’t used in a column at this point? I’ve already used “Cirice,” “Pro Memoria,” “Year Zero” and “Square Hammer.” Just last month there was “Missionary Man,” and two weeks ago “I’m a Marionette.” I really, really like the band.

My first instinct was to pick “Rats” for this one, because despite rats being remarkably clean, very nice pets, they have negative connotations after that whole Black Death ordeal, which really just seems unfair. But instead I picked “Dance Macabre” because there’s a chance someone out there will see this in the post-COVID era, assuming there’s a post-COVID era that still has electricity, and add it to a Halloween party playlist. And “Rats” might kill the vibe. So this is probably more party-oriented.

Additionally, I can then use “Rats” for the next time I inevitably need to find another Ghost song.

[Gokhman note: pffft. I prefer Danse Macabre.]

Dethklok — “Awaken”

My second-favorite cartoon band, and certainly the best cartoon band I’ve seen live, Dethklok’s existence was cut tragically short by the stuffed suits at Cartoon Network. Though going out with a feature-length melodic death metal rock opera is pretty awesome.

Anyway, in the context of the show, as an apology for destroying most of a country, they write it a new national anthem based on one of its legends, which inadvertently raises an unspeakable horror from a lake. Many die. It’s pretty much par for the course for the show, but it’s also hilarious.

Without the context of the show, it’s just an extremely angry man summoning an unspeakable horror set to death metal that is just about as Halloween as it gets. It’s a great song, it’s a great show and you’re welcome for bringing it to your attention.

Marilyn Manson — “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)”

This is the second Manson song of the playlist and also the second Manson song of the month but Halloween is this dude’s whole schtick. Of course he’s gonna come up a lot.

That said, I really wasn’t sure which song to pick. Do I bring it down a bit with one of my underrated favorites like “Coma White” or “Coma Black” for example? Maybe, but I already set a precedent for taking a party setting into account, and not a lot of those have a slow dance component. The one in the “Dance Macabre” video at the top of this list notwithstanding.

I also didn’t want to do a copout with one of the famous ones like “The Dope Show” or “The Beautiful People,” as good as they are. Zig when everyone else zags, you know? I’m trying to keep people on their toes. And I’m not a big fan of anything after about 2000, so that narrows it down to the first four or five albums.

That means I settled on a song without any actual sort of horror theme, if only because addiction is a bit too real to be fun and Halloween is supposed to be fun. But it’s weirdly funky and danceable for a Manson song, and like his entire body of work, the feel of the song fits a Halloween party fantastically. It makes the cut. I fully expect to doubt myself by the time this runs but I’m gonna let it ride.

Misfits — “Helena”

Another band I can’t leave to only one song is the Misfits, the original horror punk band and one of my favorites.

Weirdly enough, the era that feels most like Halloween to me isn’t Glenn Danzig or Jerry Only, but the oft-forgotten two-album Michale Graves era in the late ’90s. It had a more heavy metal vibe, and the second of the two albums is Famous Monsters, in which every song is based on an old drive-in caliber low-budget horror movie. Diehard fans of the band generally discount them because they’re a bit more lighthearted and fun, and I totally get that. But that’s the entire point of the holiday, so this is Graves’ time to shine.

I was torn between “Descending Angel,” which I consider the best song of the era from a purely musical perspective, and “Helena,” which begins with the lines, “If I cut off your arms and I cut off your legs/ Would you still love me anyway?” which just feels right. I went with the latter but you can choose whichever you want if you have a preference. Or if you hate them both because you’re a Danzig stan, well, get your own column.

AC/DC — “Highway to Hell”

Yeah, this is kinda a copout. It’s not actually about hell, while I’m pretty sure the rest of these are just earnestly about evil. But it’s AC/DC. Every playlist needs some AC/DC. If I ever trick a woman into marrying me, there will be an AC/DC song at the reception. [Gokhman note: They’ll walk down the aisle to “Highway to Hell.”] I fully expect—nay, demand—an AC/DC song be played at my funeral. It should be either this one or “Big Balls,” depending on which type of inappropriate will be funniest when taking the circumstances of my demise into account.

No, I’m not kidding. Throw “Another One Bites the Dust” in there too. And “I Will Survive.” And “Careless Whisper”—not because it has an inappropriate theme but because I love the song and I want to make everyone listen to it one last time.

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