The 10 Scariest Metal Bands

Linda Akerberg

When you are deep inside the heavy metal bubble, you can sometimes forget how some of the more extreme imagery, lyrical content and even band names sound to those on the outside. Casually dropping in conversation that you are going to the Eyehategod show or that you just picked up the newest album by Prostitute Disfigurement is bound to get a few shocked looks from folks that don't normally roam within the fiery circles of metal fandom.

It is in that spirit — and the spirit of the Halloween season — that we selected our picks for the 10 scariest bands in heavy metal. Some use costumes or Satanic stagecraft to up the terror factor — but all are capable of scaring the crap out of you with their sound and lyrics, too. We highly recommend turning these bands up to eleven if you want to freak out your non-metal friends.

10. Dimmu Borgir
This Norwegian black metal act has spent their 20-year career gradually upping the majesty of their symphonic metal attack. Their mix of brutality and grandiosity evokes a Dario Argento classic like Suspiria or Deep Red run through a filter of Scandinavian darkness. Never has this mix been more evident than on their 2003 single “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse.” Vocalist Shagrath grunts his way through an apocalyptic lyrical tale while the music is swarmed by classical elements, suggesting that an epic end awaits mankind.

9. Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s brand of grindcore mayhem is the aural equivalent of taking a bunch of meth and going on a face-eating killing spree. Albums such as 2009’s Agorapocalypse are highlighted by Scott Hull’s programmed drums, which shatter all human limitations, while vocalists Jay Randall, Richard Johnson and Katherine Katz trade off frenetic screams and terrifying lyrical screeds about chaos, violence, drug use and societal decay. If Agoraphobic Nosebleed were zombies in a horror movie, they would be the zombies that run, and run really fucking fast.

8. Church of Misery
This stoner rock outfit originated in Japan, but the inspiration for their lyrics comes from the most notorious serial killers and mass murderers in Western culture. From their 1997 debut Vol. 1 up through this year’s And Then There Were None, this group has cranked out riff-laden tributes to humanity’s worst. The sordid source material would be enough to inspire icky feelings no matter the subgenre, but the sludge-fueled Sabbath-y riffs that drive their musical sound add a ‘70s grindhouse aura to the proceedings.

7. Ghost
When you first hear it, the pop-rock catchiness of this Swedish act’s melodic compositions doesn’t seem intimidating at all. Yes, they have a scary look, but when you press play on records such as their newest EP Popestar, you find yourself lured into Ghost’s cult by the clean vocal choruses of frontman Papa Emeritus. You don’t realize how truly insidious their spell is until you find yourself receiving looks of concern from metal outsiders overhearing you absent-mindedly singing the chorus of “Ritual,” from their 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous: “This chapel of ritual/Smells of dead human sacrifices.” 

6. The Body
Chip King, vocalist/guitarist for Rhode Island industrial doom-metal act The Body, may have the most blood-curdling scream in all of heavy music. The haunting and densely layered music he puts together with drummer Lee Buford would be frightening enough as instrumental compositions, but King’s mostly unintelligible screams seem to be coming from someone who has been held captive in an underground pit. King sounds like a man who is willing to shred his vocal chords, doing permanent damage in the quest to escape whatever emotional traumas he is purging on albums such as this year’s No One Deserves Happiness.

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