No better way to celebrate Halloween and the season of Fall, than by blasting horror punk. Ah yes, the classic sounds of hardcore punk rock, with hints of goth, death rock, rockabilly, shock rock, psychobilly, metal and even sometimes industrial and pop music.
This musical subset of punk, is a sure way to go if you like songs about zombies, sci-fi, old horror films, monsters and other tales of gloom, mystery,morbidity, in many instances taken from comics, cult films and pop culture's obsession with violence, and the macabre.
We now present ten horror punk bands you need to know this creepy season:
Read more: 8 Scariest Musical Halloween Costumes
10. Haunted Garage
Based out of LA this band and formed in the mid '80s. Today, founding member Dukey Flyswatter — a low budget actor from such cult films as Surf Nazis Must Die and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers — leads Haunted Garage. Haunted Garage broke up and was on a hiatus from 1993 until to 2013, when the Flyswatter resurrected the band, and self labeled the music as “splatter punk.” Inspired by horror-movie culture, the band's music a wacked-out freak show hybrid of doom metal, shock rock and punk Halloween-friendly type of music that is confrontational, at times repulsive to watch, and eerie to listen to. If you like chainsaws, freaks in make up, transvestites, slime wrestling, and bands such as Rosemary's Billygoat, Green Jelly or The Dwarves, you will probably enjoy Haunted Garage. The band plays regularly around Southern California and most recently performed at the Long Beach Zombie Walk.
9. Radioactive Chicken Heads
Perhaps more of a comedy-punk band than a horror-punk act, this cult poultry-punk band is also very influenced by the likes of GWAR and Green Jelly, but take a lighter approach to creating a mix of punk, metal and rock set to a cast of cartoon-like characters, bizarre story lines and outrageous costumes, antics and props. The band revolves around a group of mutated chickens and vegetables, made by a mad scientist in a lab. Since 1994, these musical mutants have appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, toured the country with Green Jelly and tons of other bands, recorded three full albums, and have even had a video game created after the concept of the band.
8. Plan 9
Plan 9 first started out in Oakland as a one-time Misfits tribute band. But after they began playing shows, word of mouth hit the streets and people started flocking to the band's performances. Many swore the band recreated the raw energy or the original version of the Misfits, and buzz around the band soared. The band's album contains original material as well as covers of the Misfits; Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig (both of whom have worked with the band). Plan 9's debut album, 2004's 8 Hits From Hell, gained them a following of rabid fans that loved the Misfits worship. Be sure to check out the 2008 album, Manmade Monster, for 13 original tracks. Tragedy struck however in late 2008 when singer Aaron Fuller was killed in a motorcycle accident near Oakland.
Hirosuke Nishiyama formed this band in 1992, in Osaka, Japan. The band is admittedly (at least in its early days) heavily influenced by the Misfits and Samhain, and have crafted a sound today that blends elements of horror punk, hardcore, heavy metal and even industrial, and electronic music. With many line up changes over the years, 14 studio albums, numerous tours, the band is a success in much of Asia and Europe but still remains a cult band in North America. Balzac is known for more than music as well, and owns several clothing lines in Japan, as well as a line of figures and custom made toys.
6. Gorgeous Frankenstein
Gorgeous Frankenstein is the band that guitarist Doyle created after he left the second incarnation of the Misfits in 2005. Gorgeous Frankenstein picks up Doyle's guitar playing where he left of, a very thunderous, crunchy, signature sound that practically invented horror punk, and masterfully meshes metallic aggression with punk rock fury. Gorgeous Frankenstein has toured with the likes of Danzig, and has released one self-titled album. Doyle's most recent album, Abomination, is his solo band's eponymous debut record released last year.
5. 45 Grave
This band has been in existence for over three decades and has consistently been fronted by the beautiful seductress, Dinah Cancer. Some call them punk, some call them death rock, and others call them the originators of goth music. Quite possibly all of these are true; as 45 Grave offered fans a mix of dark, gloomy, yet amped up music, that was equal parts heavy metal, surf rock, Goth and hardcore punk. Alongside bands such as Christian Death, 45 Grave was in face at the forefront of L.A.'s death rock scene in the early 1980s. The band even appeared on the 1985 soundtrack to the film Night of the Living Dead, alongside TSOL and The Cramps. After tons of in band drama and tragedies, the band was on hiatus off and on again until 1990, when they broke up for good, while Dinah raised a family and pursued other musical projects, such as Penis Flytrap. 45 Grave was reformed in 2004 with Frank Agnew (TSOL, Social Distortion, The Adolescents) joined Cancer to play guitar along with additional guitarist Mark Bolton, drummer Brandden Blackwell, and bassist Tom Coyne. The band frequently plays shows throughout Southern California.
Hometown punk-rock veterans TSOL (True Sounds of Liberty) have had a career spanning three decades, and have gone line up changes, break ups, reunions, lawsuits, genre changes, and more. But from the origins of violent, angst-ridden and political punk rock, the band also carved out several albums that laid down the blueprints for horror-punk sound. The band's first two records, 1981's Dance With Me, and 1982's Beneath the Shadows, along with later albums like Disappear (2001), bring home that quintessential horror-punk sound that reminds us of the OC hardcore punk scene from the 1980s.
3. The Cramps
Easily one of the sleaziest, greasiest, yet most influential punk bands from the past three decades, The Cramps' music is full of lust, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll combining musical styles from punk, heavy metal, garage rock and rockabilly — coining the term “psychobilly.” The Cramps were formed in the late 1970s by guitarist Poison Ivy and her eventual husband, vocalist Lux Interior, who were part of the CBGB New York punk scene alongside bands like the Dead Boys and Ramones. The Cramps' music has influenced everyone from White Zombie to Nashville Pussy, with a sound drenched in debauchery and the spirit of punk rock with a heavy rockabilly-style sound. The band's performances were notorious for being over the top and the Cramps had an international fan base of millions. In 2006, tragically, Lux Interior passed away in California, at age 62.
After the Misfits, but before Danzig's eponymous musical group, there was Samhain, one of the original death-rock bands. This band was much darker more intense yet slower than the fast-paced Misfits punk rock sound; the energy was there but instead of effort being put into speed, the band spent time making music that was based on darker topics such as mythology, demonology and the occult. The lineup consisted of various members but at times included London May, Steve Zing and John Christ. The remnants of Samhain would eventually end up morphing into the band that backed Danzig for his solo career, which itself has also undergone many line up changes. Samhain had an initial reunion in 1999, and Danzig included Samhain songs in a special set at his Danzig Legacy concerts in 2011. Finally, the band performed several concerts months ago, to celebrate the 30th anniversary, and bring the band to an end for good, with a final tour.
1. The Misfits
Originally from New Jersey, The Misfits was formed by Jerry Only and Glen Danzig in the late 1970s, during a time when punk rock was almost non-existent. In the band's early years, their sound was scary and fast, thunderously loud, and shows got violent. But the image of the band also struck a chord with people: they looked like buff, pale, zombies wearing corpse paint and a lock of long hair hanging down in the front — a style that would be coined “the devil lock”.
The first two albums are seminal and a must-have for any fan of punk: short powerful songs about space aliens, zombies, werewolves, vampires and other monsters. The music was amped-up hardcore punk mixed with '50s pop music and the majestic Elvis-like vocal range of Danzig. Unfortunately, this line up never remained and the band eventually dissolved with Danzig and Doyle going their separate ways. Danzig and Doyle over the years have battled out in court over legal rights to the use of the band's Iconic skull logo, namesake and merchandise. Despite that, bassist Jerry Only keeps his version of the Misfits going strong, with fans that love it and fans that hate it. In all, the Misfits remain the undisputed kings of horror punk, and the band has influenced generations of heavy metal and punk bands, everyone from AFI to Metallica. Check out the band in OC on November 14 at the House of Blues Anaheim on their current US tour.
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Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.