When we’re fast asleep, our brain activity conjures up dreams in various forms. Some of these dreams can manifest as nightmares and can be quite terrifying.
The most common nightmares include being chased or attacked, falling, or feeling lost or trapped. These leave us scared and afraid to go back to sleep.
As it turns out, nightmares can also inspire pretty menacing lyrics to some of our favorite songs. We have searched far and wide to compile 13 of the best songs about nightmares. Here they are.
1. “Welcome To My Nightmare” By Alice Cooper
This song seems to be a fitting start to this list. “The Godfather of Shock Rock,” Alice Cooper was a trailblazer when it came to blending horror imagery and rock music. The title track from his 1975 debut solo album, “Welcome to My Nightmare,” became a Halloween anthem.
This song is the opening track of the concept album. The lyrics welcome you into the sick and twisted mind of Alice Cooper. He wants to take you within his breakdown and wishes that you like it.
Alice Cooper considers the nightmare as “a nocturnal vacation” and “a necessary sedation.” He wants you to feel that you belong when you have one of those nightmares.
2. “Enter Sandman” By Metallica
Nightmares are most terrifying when we’re children. Metallica captures the fears of a child sleeping with one eye open in the track “Enter Sandman.”
The loud riffs of heavy metal work perfectly to build suspense and deliver scary sounds. The child grips his pillow tight as he wonders if the sound he hears is coming from under his bed.
“Enter Sandman” was a huge commercial success for the band. It reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelled Metallica to international stardom. The track helped the self-titled album sell over 30 million copies.
3. “3 A.M.” By Eminem
A shift from the heavy metal songs that fit so well with the nightmare theme is a genre dubbed horrorcore, horror hip hop, or death rap. Eminem’s “3 A.M.” is an example of a rap song taking you through a frightening nightmare.
The song was produced by Dr. Dre and released to the iTunes store in 2009. The nightmarish video was released a few days later.
In the video, Eminem is a deranged killer. He murders people along a ‘horror corridor’ in a psychiatric hospital. The scene perfectly fits a very common nightmare: being stalked by a murderer with no place to run and no place to hide.
4. “Nightmare” By Avenged Sevenfold
If there’s one thing this song achieved, it’s to paint terrifying imagery of being trapped in a nightmare that has come to life. What’s worse is you are trapped in your madness until the end of time.
Avenged Sevenfold drags you to the depths of hell in their song “Nightmare.” The lyrics describes horrifying things done in a nightmare, such as being a slave. The song indicates that the subject of the nightmare has an easy soul to steal. This could mean he has done bad things in life.
The music video for the song shows the lead singer M. Shadows. He is wheeled through the corridors of a hospital tormented by insane patients. The driving heavy metal is like the pounding of your heart in your chest.
5. “Dream Evil” By Dio
This 1987 track from Dio‘s fourth studio album of the same name is not for the faint of heart. It takes you into the darkness that lurks in your mind. That is where the nightmares are born.
“Dream Evil” describes what happens at midnight hour. It warns you about scary things that only your mind can create. Some lines in the lyrics chant the song title over and over.
So, as the song says, “Don’t close your eyes.” Nightmares can always come up from the back of your mind and become real.
6. “All Nightmare Long” By Metallica
The band Metallica makes its second appearance on our list. No wonder. The darkness within nightmares is a common theme throughout the band’s discography.
“All Nightmare Long” was nominated for the Kerrang! Award for Best Single. This track from the 2008 album Death Magnetic is another descent into darkness.
As you read the lyrics, you’ll be taken on a trip through a twisted mind susceptible to hallucinations. With the frenetic pace of thrash metal as a backdrop, you feel the fear creeping into your system. The fear of being chased, and hiding but getting found is so real that you doubt if you’re having a nightmare.
7. “American Bad Dream” By Kane Brown
The first country song on our list of nightmares comes from Kane Brown with a different perspective. He writes about a real-world situation that is a living nightmare.
Brown was inspired to write the song following the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017. The track is a statement on gun violence in America, where children must go to school in bulletproof vests. It truly is like being awake in a real-life nightmare.
The album Experiment where the song appeared was well-received, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200. It was certified gold and the third country album to hit the top spot in 2018.
8. “Like A Nightmare” By Motörhead
The English rock band Motörhead delivers music that recreates the heart-pounding terror of a nightmare. Listen to their 1979 single “Like a Nightmare” and you’ll know.
When lead singer Lemmy delivers the chorus ‘like a nightmare,’ the distortion of his voice sends us into a dream-like state. The song’s lyrics depicts the singer as a nightmare personified, set free by the dreamer’s mind.
And so he haunts her, making her blood freeze like a nightmare. The song also likens a nightmare to a disease or an infection. It rots and gets worse.
9. “The Great American Nightmare” By Rob Zombie
Here’s a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of what a nightmare is. Rob Zombie recorded “The Great American Nightmare” for radio shock jock Howard Stern’s 1997 Private Parts: The Album.
In this case, the reference is that Stern is the American nightmare. He is loved and hated simultaneously, a source of corruption yet desired by so many.
The beginning of the song is classic death metal. It sounds like we are having a nightmare. Harsh, loud, and raw, are traits that Stern embodies in his broadcasts. Stern himself lends to the song by delivering several lines, including “call me your soul corrupted.”
10. “Nightmare” By Hollywood Undead
Another song simply titled “Nightmare” comes from the rap-metal group Hollywood Undead. The track is included in their 2020 album New Empire, Vol. 1.
The lyrics tell the story of chasing one’s dreams. But once achieved, they can become part of your nightmare. As you listen to the song, you might feel a little sadness and even sympathy. That’s because the words are someone’s cry for help.
He admits he is helpless and lost. At the end of the day, when he should be resting, he is faced with nightmares that come crashing down. You can almost feel the singer’s desperation.
11. “Last Night I Had A Dream” By Randy Newman
Some dreams are scary because they do not make any sense, putting you in a state of confusion and despair. Randy Newman’s “Last Night I Had a Dream” conveys that kind of nightmare.
Newman recalls a dream where he is in a barnyard at sundown with his lover. Everyone he knows appears in this dream, including a ghost and a vampire. His woman keeps asking him what his name is.
If you listen to the song, it might not make sense at first. Or at all. But that’s the thing about some dreams. They are weird or bizarre but turn into nightmares.
12. “Bad Dreams (Stripped)” By Faouzia
Sometimes, we take small things for granted. Such as not having any nightmares at night. Some people don’t want to sleep for fear of having recurrent nightmares.
That’s the message you’ll gather from Faouzia’s “Bad Dreams.” The song says that she has had scary dreams lately. She always runs away but can never escape. No matter what she does, these bad dreams always haunt her. It’s like they’re waiting for her to fall asleep so they can come alive.
These bad dreams represent inner demons. They can haunt you, but only if you let them. It’s always the best course of action to not let anything get the best of you.
13. “Monsters Under the Bed” By Eugene McGuinness
Maybe the most fun track on our list comes from alternative/indie artist Eugene McGuinness with “Monsters Under the Bed.” The song is from his 2007 debut album, The Early Learnings of Eugene McGuinness.
The song is catchy and upbeat. The cartoon enhances the lyrics by taking us into the boy’s nightmare. Various monsters chase him and his teddy bear until, eventually, he is separated from his best friend.
Like many of our nightmares, they sometimes scare us to wakefulness. Luckily for the boy, his teddy bear is right there beside him.
Summing Up Our List Of Songs About Nightmares
What comes to your mind when you think about nightmares and music? You probably think of the loud, heavy thrash metal that screams threatening lyrics into your subconscious.
But as you’ve seen from our list above, nightmares can influence hip-hop, country, punk, pop-rock, and other genres. Don’t let these songs get to you, though. Everyone gets a bad dream now and then.
Always hold on to the thought that mornings always come. They bring the light that chases the nightmares away.