In many Eastern monastic communities, it is tradition for one monk to be tasked with going round to each of his fellow monks in their daily duties, stop them, look them in the eye, and say “Brother, we are going to die.” Far from being as morbid as it seems, this strange practice constantly refocuses the monks on the fact that ultimately, humankind is immortal and meant for something more than this life.
This is a truth the Church celebrates every autumn with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls November first through the second. It can be unnerving and even frightening to focus one’s attention on death and the world to come, but for thousands of years, Christians in both East and West have found that the practice brings them great peace, and is good for the health of their souls.
Recently, Sister Theresa Noble at Aleteia posted a blog about her unique method for meditating on the inevitable: a crowd-sourced Spotify playlist full of songs that dwell upon mortality and life after death. In the same spirit, here is a playlist geared specially toward the Feast of All Saints and the memory of the departed. So in between rocking out to some good old-fashioned early 2000s emo and busting out your best Thriller moves this Halloween, give these songs a listen to remember the reason for the season!
Get the full playlist at the bottom. In the meantime, enjoy these highlights:
1. “Hometown” by Twenty One Pilots
“Hometown”‘s atmospheric sound is perfect for Halloween, and its imagery of shadows and spirits in the dark evoke the souls in Purgatory who have yet to be freed and anxiously await our intercessions.
Inspiring lyrics: “A shadow tilts its head at me, spirits in the dark are waiting.”
2. “What’s Left of the Flag” by Flogging Molly
Written in memory of lead singer Dave King’s father, “What’s Left of the Flag” combines funereal lyrics with a hopeful Irish beat perfect for raising a mug of beer in honor of the saints and departed loved ones.
Inspiring lyrics: “Walk away me boy, walk away me boy, and by morning we’ll be free.”
3. “Dark Carnival of the Immaculate by” I Am Ghost
Creepy carnival imagery? Check. Vampires? Check. Warring angels and demons? Check. Affirmation of life after death? Check. The perfect Halloween/All Saints song.
Inspiring lyrics: “Dead man walking free, we won’t turn to dust.”
4. “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound “by The Mars Volta
No one does melancholy quite like The Mars Volta. The song’s very title speaks to the spiritual poverty of mortality, and its chorus is the perfect analog to the Catholic idea of this world as a “valley of tears.”
Inspiring lyrics: “Must be on my way, I’ve got to get home, won’t be back someday, so let it unfold.”
5. “Afterworld” by Tiger Army
Probably one of the most Halloween-appropriate bands to ever exist, Tiger Army kills it with this sweet, psychobilly tribute to a loved one who has departed this life.
Inspiring lyrics: “Beyond our bodies in this life, beyond the end, is the place where our love will never die.”
6. “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance
If you were a teenager in the early 2000s, this song is forever imprinted on your heart and mind, and your adrenaline starts kicking from the very first piano note. Turn it up and yell-sing your angsty little heart out all the way to All-Souls Mass.
Inspiring lyrics: “Though you’re dead and gone believe me, your memory will carry on.”
7. “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash
Admit it, when this song started playing during the credits of Logan, you got punched in the chest with feels. With spoken-word verses inspired by the literal book of Revelation, it’s a poignant, fitting anthem for a liturgical season celebrating the closeness of the Age To Come.
Inspiring lyrics: “Will you partake of that last offered cup or disappear into the potter’s ground when the man comes around?