Ville Valo to bring Neon Noir cycle to an end with massive world tour
HIM’s legendary Ville Valo is saying goodbye to VV with a huge 2024 tour, which finishes up at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall in May.
Addiction, desire, rebellion against the sacred, a life lived only at night – rock music understands the vampire. For ages, the idea of immortal, nocturnal blood junkies has fascinated fans of the dark, who see the world's more attractive perils reflected back at them in these undead monsters. And even as the pop-culture image of the vampire has changed over the years – from swishing nobility feeding on breathless virgins to sparkling teen idol in the throes of Mormon romance – the figure's core tenet of deathless hunger remains relevant and exciting to those who have a penchant for death, temptation, and the night.
For most people, the idea of "vampire music" usually conjures up the image a wan goth in too many fishnets and ruffles – and hey, there's plenty of that. But dozens of bands and musicians, from death metal acts to country stars, have written anthems to the Nosferatu over the course of rock's history. And since today is World Dracula Day – the anniversary of Bram Stoker's groundbreaking novel being published – we thought we'd count down the tracks that make us want to leave our humanity behind and get lost in the shadows.
Here are the 29 greatest songs about vampires. Invite them in.
An instrumental track from Godsmack’s 2000 album Awake, Vampires is a creepy groove metal number overlaid with a monologue about mankind’s fascination with the undead. The song stands as the ultimate soundtrack addition for any of the sexy teen vampire movies of the early 2000s. Definitely not the goth dance-along most vampire fans are looking for.
On the opener to their ‘02 rager Return Of The Loving Dead, psychobilly kings Nekromantix play a jangling little ditty about waking up with a bellyful of blood. The song later takes a romantic turn, describing how the forlorn protagonist tries to give his lady the ultimate STD. That said, it’s hard to hear this foot-tapper and think of anything other than popping necks left and right.
It’s pretty hardcore for a band in the 2010s to name themselves just ‘Vampire.’ Even creepier is the idea of a vampire buried in the basement of a cabin, waiting for unwitting victims to fall into its hands. Thankfully, this ripping black thrash tune by Sweden's Vampire does both the band's name and subject matter justice, and adds a dose of vicious metal to this shadowy list.
It’s rare one finds a grindcore song about vampires – usually the undead is a little floofy for the most abrasive, political music genre of all time – but Finnish grind act Cadaveric Incubator go for it. The band’s mixture of breakneck sonic grossness and samples from old Hammer Horror movies really get across the blasphemy and grotesqueness of everyone's favourite monster. Just goes to show that goth metal can only go so far in displaying Count Dracula as a creepy-crawly rather than a dashing noble.
The title track for the fifth album by Swedish black metallers Marduk is a cavernous, sprawling song about the unholy flight of the undead. Though most of the album centres around the very real horrors perpetuated by Vlad Tepes, here the band makes sure to invoke the vampire legends surrounding him. This one's a perfect example of how black metal can be incredibly gothic even without too many keyboards.
This rambling tune by Swedish horror-country act The Coffinshakers has both fun, spooky feel to it. But at the same time, it goes surprisingly old-school on its vampire lore – in ancient legends, a vampire’s presence was accompanied by storms, disease, vermin, and a general sense of dread and unease. Props to these guys for finding the sweet spot between European myth and Halloween decoration.
In an intense way, Tyler, The Creator’s depiction of Dracula is the most literarily accurate one on this list. The idea of Dracula as the misunderstood gothic hero was written into the legend later on; the villain of Bram Stoker’s novel is a sadist and misogynist, who revels in taking whatever he wants, especially women. Also, metal bands could learn a thing or two from a dude who does away with the ruffles and absinthe, and just chants, 'BITE HER IN HER FUCKING NECK.'
If there’s any song on this list that goes full Twilight, it’s the opening track from 2005’s Dark Light by Finnish love metal masters HIM. But the forlorn vampire wishing they could join their love in mortality is an important trope of horror’s most tormented monster, and Ville Vallo and Co. spare no expense at distilling that idea. Always a good mixtape addition for your square sweetheart.
'Warn your warmth to turn away…' In this poppy, synth-laden dance track, AFI touch on an aspect of the vampire that’s rarely examined: the cold. The Cali goth-punk pioneers paint a portrait of someone trapped in eternal winter, craving the warmth of another stolen through a dangerous kiss. A song that is bursting with vampiric vibes, even if it never directly references the monster itself.
'Gothic thrash' looks like a hard pass on paper, but Sweden’s Witchery did it perfectly in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. A Paler Shade Of Death is a kickass satanic vampire tune, galloping along with punkish excitement and a sense of old-school fun. Both a dark metal horror story and a call to arms for any young vamps looking for a night out on the town.
BÖC’s ‘77 album Spectres has a couple of creepy tracks on it (I Love The Night also has vampiric overtones to it, though it might just be about drugs), but this one takes the cake. A big, barroom ballad retelling the original German vampire film, Nosferatu is one of those classic rock songs whose piano and echoing vocal sound mask its inner darkness, but look deep enough, and you'll feel it. This one definitely has a cheese factor to it, but that’s offset by its fun ‘70s Halloween vibe.
How can you hear the central riff of this song and imagine anything other than a cloud of bats exploding out of a grave? With this grinding groove metal number, Devildriver paint a picture of the living dead as the ultimate rebellion – basically, if you’re no longer chained by life and death, why keep playing the game of those assholes who run the world? Instead, crank this tune and take down anyone who tries to stop you. Preferably via a cloud of fucking bats.
This lilting, trippy number by Chicano rock crew Tito & Tarantula is all about wondering why the girl of your dreams only comes out after dark. But most horror fans will know it as the soundtrack to one of the sexiest scenes in all of cinema: the dance of Salma Hayek’s Satanico Pandemonium in Robert Rodriguez’s insane From Dusk Till Dawn. Being massacred by vampires sucks, but hey, what a way to go...
One of the few modern bands making vampire metal that’s actually scary is Dublin’s Vircolac. On the title track of their 2017 EP, the Irish quartet use murky, cobweb-coated death metal to recount the last flight of the Demeter, the ship that brings Dracula from Transylvania to England in Bram Stoker’s novel. Not only does the band call back to the greatest work of vampire literature ever written, they also retell the coolest scene in the entire book, proof that these dudes know what the fuck they’re talking about when it comes to vampire horror.
Evils abound! Sure, Love Bites is one of the many songs on Judas Priest’s Defenders Of The Faith that masks sexuality with dark fantasy imagery – but nothing does that better than vampires! There’s also a cool, neon-lined vibe to the song that was a major aspect of the ‘80s vampire movie boom – The Hunger, The Lost Boys, Fright Night, they all channel the same atmosphere as this song. “Smile as I sip” is a little on the nose, but we’ll let it slide.
In their eternal quest to mix old monster movies and pothead culture, stoner doom crew Electric Wizard created the greatest villain of all time: Drugula, a hellish shadow who craves dope-laced bloody. The weed vampire’s anthem is a crushing, regal doom epic that will have listeners hitting the bong and putting on a Christopher Lee movie in no time. Kudos for the inclusion of the lyric, 'Bloodlust! Druglust!'
Never forget, Dracula’s also a famous video game character! On this track off of 2015’s From Beyond, Finnish trad-metal crew Enforcer remind us just that with this ridiculously epic song about the Prince Of Darkness. Gone are symbolic references to sexuality and eternal life – it’s all bats, fangs, castle ramparts and dripping blood on this one. And honestly, those things are why most of us got into vampires in the first place.
Horror pop-punkers Calabrese play it smart on this kickass track from their album The Traveling Vampire Show. The chorus of the catchy-as-the-plague tune gets across a message that more forward-thinking vampires have broadcast for ages: don’t believe in us. It’s all a myth. Go back to sleep. That manipulative mindset coupled with a muscular horror-billy song casts a devilish menace that lovers of the dark will find themselves grinning about.
And it isn't for pizza. On the title track of their 1994 album, Norwegian kvltists Darkthrone show just how much black metal owes to the Nosferatu. Singer Fenriz hails the “true, intense vampires,” differentiating the stark cold of the ravenous undead against the flowery trappings of Gothic lore. Even better, the song confronts the spectral, unholy aspects of vampirism, casting Darkthrone and their brethren as hungry shadows whose only heat comes from gushing blood.
Sometimes it feels like every My Chemical Romance song is about lovesick vampires, but the band’s song that directly confronts the subject is surprisingly hostile. The lyrics seem to be the lament of a turning vampire who wants nothing to do with the monsters he’s about to join. The protagonist asks his love if they can stake his heart, and rather than drench himself in blood he wants to 'shoot holy water like cheap whiskey.' An awesome anthem about how much the nighttime world sucks by a band who you’d think would be totally down.
Though most famous for their punchy radio his Freak Of The Week, Atlanta pop-rock crew Marvelous 3 also wrote perhaps the sweetest vampire ballad of all time. The track is a chunky love song with a hard late-‘90s polish about being an everyday schlub who suddenly finds himself missing his girlfriend for all eternity. This one's in no way spooky or scary, but makes for the perfect addition for a mixtape given to a spooky love interest.
Iced Earth’s Horror Show album doesn’t create the most nuanced portrayal of classic monsters, but what it lacks in poetry, it makes up for in pure epic metal power. Case in point, Dracula is heavily cribbed from Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation, but Matt Barlow’s shrieking vocals, Jon Schaffer’s galloping riffs, and the pure power-metal indulgence of the chorus paint Dracula with all the Todd Macfarlane grandiosity that modern fans think of when considering the character. A little cheeseball, but that doesn’t stop it from being totally rad.
For fans of Near Dark, the Misfits provide the ultimate punk take on vampirism. There’s no romance or formality here; instead, the leather-clad horror-punk pioneers are just thirsty, vicious throat-rippers looking to suck down a mouthful of hot gore. There are only so many swooping archdukes and candelabras you can take before you just want that grinning street kid wearing a bib of blood.
Straying from his usual grindhouse jock jam formula, Rob Zombie goes slow, hard, and dark with the final track off of 2016’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. Though the title is still a reference to the creature portrayed by Boris Karloff in Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath, the crushing industrial doom of this track is more harrowing than entertaining, showing off the unstoppable power that Zombie sees behind the most evil of monsters. Even those for whom Rob is normally not heavy enough can get behind this bludgeoning song.
What’s awesome about the depiction of vampires in Slayer’s At Dawn They Sleep is how fucking ‘80s it is. The undead here are those found in stories by authors like Stephen King and Clive Barker, taloned servants of hell who give you terrible nightmares and invade your home in the form of shadows. This presentation of vampires as a hive-mind of merciless hunger is indicative of the psychological approach to evil that gave Slayer the foundation for their brand of stark sonic darkness.
On the title track of their groundbreaking third album, macabre Michigan death metallers The Black Dahlia Murder write about a concept we all know deep in our hearts: that vampires have a society just beneath the surface of our own, and are perpetually working on a way to murder the sun. This concept is illustrated deftly in Trevor Strnad’s amazing lyrics on this track: 'Parchments scabbed over with plasmatic prose prophesise permanent night / The words of sheer blackness paint ebony my soul and bestow me with infernal might.' Damn, dude.
The first-ever single by Bauhaus is both the ultimate goth anthem and a tongue-in-cheek jab at darkness. On the one hand, this stark, creepy-crawling post-rock track with its lyrics tombs and translucent black capes is steeped in shadowy atmosphere... but on the other, it’s about how the all-too-human portrayer of Dracula died a poor drug addict. With this song, Peter Murphy’ introduced a defining trait to goth culture: the ability to look at over-the-top darkness with a critical eye and a sense of humour.
For metal fans, no band is more synonymous with vampires than Cradle Of Filth, and on this track from 1996’s Dusk & Her Embrace, the Suffolk sextet prove why. Listening to Funeral In Carpathia doesn’t make one think of any particular portrayal of Dracula so much as the Count’s final form, a fallen angel of darkness commanding all the forces of night’s army. With arch-evil riffs, bat-swarm drumming, looming synth atmosphere, and Dani Filth’s inimitable shriek, Cradle paint a sonic portrait that captures everything awesome about vampires at once. The lyrics say it all: 'Supreme vampiric evil.' Amen.
Sexy, massive, brimming with blasphemy – this track from Roky Erickson And The Aliens’s incredible 1981 album The Evil One (later covered by bands like Entombed and Integrity) is easily the greatest vampire song in history. The mixture of psychedelic guitar tone and growling bass on Night Of The Vampire make the track feel edgy and cool, but its sweeping minor chords and eerie synths still lend it an air of late-night monster movie spookiness. In that way, instead of focusing on the humuorless gore-gorging monsters of extreme metal, Roky paints on the vampire as he lives in the cultural subconscious, a being of film, literature, and ancient myth all at once. Goths, punks, metal fans, psychobillies – all can get down with this sonic baptism of blood.
HIM’s legendary Ville Valo is saying goodbye to VV with a huge 2024 tour, which finishes up at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall in May.
Whether it’s stealing “weird plastic ravens” with HIM or talking about his underwear onstage, touring with Ville Valo is never dull…
Ville Valo offered up an awesome 50/50 split between his VV solo stuff and HIM classics at Helsinki’s Tavastia club on Friday night…
Whether it’s playing to “20 people, plus a guy with a dog” in Nottingham or catching Tony Iommi side-stage while performing at Download Festival, Ville Valo has got a live story for pretty much every occasion…
Straight-to-the-heart solo return from Ville Valo, frontman of dearly departed Finnish stars HIM…
VV drops the next single from his upcoming debut solo album Neon Noir, which Ville Valo calls a “neat little Gordian knot of the gothic variety”.
Ville Valo has officially confirmed details of his debut album as VV, Neon Noir, which he describes as a “sonic step-by-step guide on how to survive”.
The Cover Story
Half a decade on from the end of gothic rock heroes HIM, frontman Ville Valo is gearing up to release his debut solo album. And in Neon Noir, not only did the Finnish icon find a reason to keep going during the pandemic, it also sees Ville still very much enjoying his dreamy journey into the dark side…