Seven Brutal Songs Spawned by Dark Literature

This originally appeared in Dirge Magazine.

Dark art leads to more dark art, and some of your favorite creepy literature served as fodder for the eclectic music below. Tenebrous Kate shared some of her favorite lit-based songs in an earlier Dirge post. Here are some more:

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Metallica – “One”

Dalton Trumbo’s anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun inspired this headbanging classic. In triumphant 1980s hair-swinging glory, Metallica retells Trumbo’s story of a World War I soldier who loses his limbs and face. Seeing no reason to continue living, the soldier bangs his head against his bed to communicate “kill me” in morse code. If you ever enter from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning, you should do it to the guitar solo beginning at 4:35 in this song.

Deadmau5 – “The Veldt”

This Deadmau5 song’s smooth, upbeat tempo will lure you in just like the way George and Lydia Hadley were lured into their children’s murderous virtual reality playroom in Ray Bradbury’s story The Veldt. Shortly after Bradbury’s death in 2012, Deadmau5 took to his studio and live-streamed his creation of this song. A fan of both Deadmau5 and Bradbury was watching the event online and contributed the vocals. The animated video pulls the narrative together and culminates with cartoon children standing over a river of blood.

Rob Zombie – “Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy)”

Rob Zombie amplifies the intensity of Anthony Burgess’s violent novel A Clockwork Orange by adding in Stanley Kubrick-inspired visuals and his own brand of hard-hitting rock. The lyrics borrow from the futuristic slang used by Burgess’s protagonist Alex and his gang of savage thrill seekers who are always looking to “do the ultra-violence.” “Red Kroovy” is Alex’s term for blood.

MC Lars – “Mr. Raven”

The unapologetically nerdy Stanford-educated rapper MC Lars has opened for rap legends Nas and Snoop Dogg. He also delivered a TEDx talk about the intersection of literature and hip hop, and can dissect Shakespeare for you. “Mr. Raven” is one of two Poe-centric songs off of MC Lars The Edgar Allan Poe EPbecause sometimes having one Poe song in your repertoire just isn’t enough to get the crowd hyped.

Blue Oyster Cult – “Nosferatu”

While the cowbell is conspicuously absent, BOC makes use of dramatic piano riffs to capture foreboding terror of the lurking undead. This narrative song takes its name from the first film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Vampires appear often in the BOC catalog, most obliquely in “Tattoo Vampire” and “Wings Wetted Down.” Why fear the reaper when the alternative is eternal damnation and a never-ending thirst for human blood?

My Chemical Romance – “To The End”

According to Barnes and Noble, this punk/pop band’s name comes from the bookEcstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance, a book bassist Mikey Way noticed while working as a bookseller. Given the band’s literary genesis, it’s not surprising they found inspiration in William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Emily. This shining example of the second-person narrative tells the story of a genteel woman who, when slighted by a suitor (who may in fact be gay), poisons him with arsenic and sleeps next to his rotting corpse in the upstairs bedroom. A chemical romance, 1930s Southern Gothic style.

The Ramones – “Pet Semetary”

Stephen King is not only ubiquitous in your local bookshop, he’s also all over the airways. His books and stories have inspired a number of songs, most notably this one by the Ramones, written for the film adaptation of the novel of the same name. This radio-friendly song was one of the band’s most popular hits, but it also earned them a nomination for a Razzie Award for “Worst Original Song” in 1990. Like it or hate it, you doubtless know it, and may very possibly be singing it for the rest of the day.


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