When most people think of horror in music, people think of the darker end of heavy metal, where graphic imagery and gruesome lyrics assault the audience in a blood-soaked orgy of...something. Indeed, the metal scene and horror fandom seem to walk hand-in-hand, and I've never been to a horror convention that didn't look like the lobby of a Cannibal Corpse concert.
I'm not the world's biggest metal fan. Metalocalypse did a great job of alternately parodying and celebrating the black metal aesthetic, but it's never really been to my taste or sensibilities. Sure, some of the content disturbs me but it seldom scares me. I tend to get my scares from stranger places, and one of the most beautifully chilling songs I've ever heard is Song of Joy by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Released in 1996 on Nick Cave's Murder Ballads album, which was an amazing collection of traditional murder ballads, Song of Joy tells the tale of a drifter who asks a man for shelter from the elements. As the song unfolds, the drifter tells the sad story of his family's murder at the hands of a stranger. As the song goes on and the drifter sinks into madness, we begin to suspect that the singer butchered his family and likely plans to kill the man he seeks shelter from.
I wish I had a bunch of clever stuff to say about this song. It's one of my favorites. I remember first hearing this song as a teenager, when I bought the cassette from a Warehouse music store in Colma, California. This song creeped the hell out of me as I waited for the bus, surrounded by miles of Colma's famous cemeteries. There was something genuinely evil about the song, something that strayed deeper than the shock-lyrics of black metal. It's a great story, frighteningly told, and it touches the strange black part of my soul that loves this stuff. I tried to find a way to embed the song in this post, but the best I could do was provide a link here. Enjoy!