Let’s Get into Horror Punk.

(TheBRHM.com) Horror punk is a genre I wanted to get into for some time. With our recent rockabilly dives, I definitely wanted to explore psychobilly but you kind of need to get into horror punk as well. As far as lyrical content goes, they’re extremely similar with horror and all things morbid being the core of the music and aesthetics but horror punk and rockabilly really contributed heavily to psychobilly’s formation and development.

Let’s Get into Horror Punk.

I always found that interesting as both genres were formed around the same time—later 1970s—in different regions. You had The Cramps in New York forging what would be psychobilly and Misfits in New Jersey doing their thing with horror punk. You’ll notice a lot of that in rock music with subgenres being influenced or coming out of a genre that formed less than a decade prior and sometimes in the same decade.

My favorite example of this has always been thrash and power metal coming along in the early 1980s out of speed metal which came about later in the 1970s. However, we’re getting into what is horror punk.

What is Horror Punk?

The short, layperson’s definition is “horror-themed punk rock.” That’s incredibly simple but that’s what it is. The genre came formed right alongside hardcore punk at the tail end of the 1970s with both genres having roots in punk. It’s the lyrical content other formative genres that separate them. In addition to punk rock, and horror punk has roots in 50s doo-wop and rockabilly.

A way to look at it is similar to the metalcore debates of the 2000s where the question was if the band’s sound was more hardcore punk or metal in nature. Psychobilly is definitely has more of the rockabilly sound in it than horror punk which has more of a hardcore punk sound.

Remember, it formed at the same as hardcore and the pioneering band—Misfits—often player on shows with hardcore punk acts early on. At that time, the make distinguishing feature of the music was the horror lyrics. Of course, in later releases, the doo-wop sound would be mixed in and even be the main genre of their 1999 release Project 1950, a cover album of 1950s hits.

Acts to Check Out

As always, we’ll definitely get into individual albums but first, a few bands to get the ball rolling and tune your ears if this isn’t a genre you’re familiar with. At the top is Misfits, not checking them out while diving into this genre is similar to not checking out Judas Priest or Black Sabbath if you’re getting into heavy metal from the beginning.

Some listeners might recommend Samhain and I was hesitant because I didn’t want to mention two Glenn Danzig acts but this band has significance to one of the genre’s pioneers. Samhain was formed after Danzig—vocalist of Danzig—left Misfits in 1983 after the band broke up the first time.

The significance comes from being the not-so-missing link between the punk stylings of Misfits and the heavy metal/doom metal approach of early Danzig as it featured both a horror punk and a metal sound. It’s an approach that Misifts would take in their non-cover projects once the band reformed in 1995.

Another to check out is California’s 45 Grave, formed just as the 1970s came to a close. Like Misfits and the offshoot Samhain—as well as Doyle—you’ll get some extra sounds because they perform a strain of horror punk called death rock in addition to goth rock. It’s not a jarring change in genres either. If you’ve checked out our pieces on Blind Guardian and Running Wild, those are bands that started as speed metal and within the same decade began forging power metal.

There’s little difference from the speed metal that brought those bands to the dance and the very early power metal outside of a change in lyrical content for Running Wild. In the case of 45 Grave, goth rock mixes in well with its punk offerings as the content is within the same bag.

For a somewhat more recent sound, 1999’s Black Sails in the Sunset by California act AFI features the band moving from a purely hardcore punk sound to a horror punk/death rock sound.

To those who enjoy horror punk and death rock or play in such bands, give us and other readers some recommendations and let us know some of your favorite albums and bands.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.