The Secret to Metal Is Horror
Heavy metal and horror have been strange bedfellows for half a century. In this 50 Years of Heavy Metal video, we look into the history of horror in metal and how both art forms thrive under the same dynamics.
Black Sabbath, the very first metal band, were named after the classic 1963 Boris Karloff film. Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi's shared love of horror propelled Black Sabbath forward into the sonic equivalent of a Hammer film. "We wanted to create a vibe like you get off horror films - try and create a tension within the music," Iommi once said. "We thought it would be really good to get this sort of vibe, this fear and excitement." And look no further than the song “Black Sabbath,” which was written using the Devil's interval, Diabolus in Musica.
Arguably, the first death metal record is Death’s Scream Bloody Gore, which features buckets of horror influence from “Zombie Ritual” to “Evil Dead.” As for slashers, bands like Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation embodied the genre, taking the brutality of the silver screen and transporting it into the theater of the mind. If Alice Cooper is the Vincent Price of metal, then Chris Barnes is Jason.
We can’t talk about horror and metal without carving out a big chunk of time for Rob Zombie. A scholar of horror history, he named White Zombie after the pivotal Bela Lugosi film, which in 1932 was the first feature-length zombie film. White Zombie formed at a height for zombie fever, but strangely enough, it was when zombies became unfashionable in the ‘90s, when White Zombie really broke out, helping define an era when every great music video was creepy.
These days, bands like Cattle Decapitation, Infant Annihilator and Behemoth have continued to terrify a new generation of metalheads and Ghost have kept the classic stuff well within the zeitgeist, paying tribute to Salem's Lot, Nosferatu, King Kong and Silence of the Lambs through their artwork. Master of horror Tom Savini even helped design Corey Taylor’s new Slipknot mask… to mixed reviews.
Check out our full video on the history of horror in metal at the top of the page.