Of the countless contributions heavy-metal music has made to modern society -- leather pants and corpse paint not least among them -- perhaps the finest addition to this often crunchy, driving genre of music has been the focus it's put on Satan. Yes, he's known by many names, but without heavy-metal bands as cheerleaders, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Old Nick, Christine O'Donnell or whatever you'd like to call him just wouldn't carry the same weight in our detached, technological age. In honor of bands that invoke Mephistopheles, we'd like to present to you the ten best (and gloriously cheesy) songs about Hell. Happy Halloween.
10. Pest - "Blasphemy Is My Throne" (2001)
The big gripe about black metal from Varg Vikernes of Burzum is that the genre was never intentionally Satanic -- rather, new jacks in the scene, probably influenced by mass media, turned it into a Satanic style of music. The church burnings were more about destroying Christian culture, which first destroyed Nordic culture, Vikernes claimed in last year's black-metal documentary Until the Light Takes Us. Whatever your opinion, the title track off this 2001 EP by Swedish black-metal band Pest is a scorcher, and very much rooted in hailing Satan.
9. Misfits - "Green Hell" (1983)
The last song on the A-side of Earth A.D., this song is just about perfect for its time. The Misfits had moved away from the early-'50s ghoul rock and straight into hardcore punk at the prodding of its polarizing lead singer Glenn Danzig. "Here in this place lies the genie of death/Touch it, see it/Whoa/Here in this place is a means to your end/Touch it, feel it/Green hell"
] 8. Judas Priest - "Sinner" (1977)
War is hell. And the first song off Priest's Sin After Sin album is about just that. This was slightly before Halford and company moved into an overall sound that was perhaps more radio-friendly, but this song is still a catchy cut, especially the psychedelic, meandering guitar solo. Many a joint was blazed during that twisted solo, we presume. "Searching for the carcasses of war/But if it's hungry then its very presence/Disrupts the calm into the storm"
7. Gorgoroth - Incipit Satan (2000)
Do we know the lyrics to this song more than the hypnotic chorus of "Incipit Satan"? No. Because Norwegian black-metal band Gorgoroth doesn't print its lyrics and stops sites that do. It's kind of evil; it's also kind of pompous. But this song is pretty great, and capable of turning the most pious into sinners.
6. Danzig - "Long Way Back From Hell" (1990)
Okay, we know Danzig is on this list twice, but pound for pound, he's got to be one of the nerdiest, most evil singers in the history of punk and metal bands invoking the devil and Hell. Have you seen pictures of his house? People actually get their pictures taken in front of it because it looks so creepy. Danzig's lyrics and music surprised us by getting even darker after he parted ways with the Misfits. There's no question, his post-'fits material paints a more vivid, ruddy scene. This track has a New Orleans voodoo bent as well, creating some stirring visuals. "Do you want to take your life/Do you want to cross that line/Cause it's a long way back from Hell/And you don't want to go with me...."
5. Midnight - "All Hail Hell" (2003)
This Cleveland metal band is hailed for its proudly scummy attitude and homage to the best era of metal: the early 1980s. The contribution this band makes to hailing Satan? It's almost guaranteed you'll be singing the chorus of "All Hail Hell" by the end.
4. Venom - "Welcome to Hell" (1981)
Press "play" on the above video, then count the seconds it takes before you're kind of headbanging at your desk. This classic song is the title track off the Welcome to Hell LP by Venom, which is still going strong and whose 2008 album was named, appropriately enough, Hell. A fun side note: This record was also the namesake of the greatest skateboarding video of all time, Toy Machine's Welcome to Hell.
3. Mercyful Fate - "Welcome Princes of Hell" (1984)
King Diamon's falsetto voice soars above this melodic metal gem. From Don't Break the Oath, Mercyful Fate's second album, this is the seventh of a nine-song record that revolved around the occult. When coming up with this list, someone actually said, "Just play the first two Mercyful Fate albums." "Now I see you clear, we raise our glasses/Welcome to my house, princess of Hell."
2. Slayer - "Hell Awaits" (1985)
Slayer bassist/lead singer Tom Araya has said in interviews that if you play this song -- the first off the album Hell Awaits -- backward on your turntable, you can hear the words "Join us" several times. Spooky. Although the band moved lyrically from actual devils to the devilish side of humanity as they progressed, it still focused on the darker side of life. Here's a choice verse from this thrash-metal classic: "The gates of Hell lie waiting as you see/There's no price to pay, just follow me/I can take your lost soul from the grave/Jesus knows your soul cannot be saved."
1. Inquisition - "Solitary Death in the Nocturnal Woods" (1998)
Number one had to be Inquisition. The Seattle-via-Colombia black-metal band is perhaps best known for singer Dagon's robotic, monotone vocals -- a far cry from the howls and growls of other black-metal bands -- and its hypnotic live show, full of smoke and corpse paint and a sound that seems to put audience members into a trance. This track is off 1998's Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.