Album and Book Pairings for a Doomy Gloomy Autumn
I am one of those annoying people who absolutely loves autumn. Tragically, I am currently living in the southern hemisphere, so while all of my friends up north are busy picking pumpkins and drinking apple cider, I am watching flowers bloom and breathing in excessive amounts of pollen. Which is great and all, but not the ideal climate for listening to Blackwater Park on repeat while wandering in the woods for hours (which is my ideal state of being.)
In an attempt to still capture an autumn mood, I’ve been reading lots of horror novels. And I’ve noticed that my taste in books has a lot in common with my taste in metal. I love a dark, spooky, atmospheric slow burn that gradually builds tension until you are checking your locks and jumping at every little sound. So to get you in an October mood, I’ve paired 5 of my favorite horror novels that I’ve read this year with metal albums that capture the same energy. Don’t blame me if you are never able to sleep again.
Victor LaValle‘s Lone Women & American Scrap‘s Huntsmen
The first time I listened to American Scrap, I was immediately struck by the unusual blend of genres found in Huntsmen’s doomy, americana-inspired metal. I had a similar experience with the novel Lone Women, which combines horror with historical fiction and westerns. Both the book and the album capture bleak, rural atmospheres and slice-of-life storytelling grounded in real life or could-be real life histories. In Lone Women, protagonist Adelaide is trying to survive in 1915 Montana while hiding supernatural secrets, living alone in the middle of nowhere, and navigating relationships with the nearby townsfolk who are all hiding things of their own. The first time I listened to American Scrap, the disturbing final track left me unsettled for days. The climax of Lone Women has a similarly shocking impact. If you want a spooky atmosphere that is a bit supernatural, but also very much grounded in real life historical horrors, this pairing is for you.
Lee Mandelo‘s Summer Sons & Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper
Both Summer Sons and Mirror Reaper explore the painful and messy process of grieving the death of a close friend. Summer Sons follows protagonist Andrew as he is metaphorically and literally haunted by the ghost of his recently deceased best friend. Mirror Reaper explores the grief resulting from the death of a former bandmate. The loss and pain weaving through both can be almost unbearable at times, but the writing is so beautifully done that you can’t help but be drawn into their unsettling worlds. Both pieces of media can also be connected through the legend of the bell witch. The band obviously takes their name from this legend, whereas the book draws heavily from southern US folklore. People who hated Mirror Reaper will likely hate Summer Sons for the same reason; both are the slowest of the slow burns. To me, the sometimes glacial pace fits with the themes of the album and book and the simmering tension present in both results in moments of epic revelation.
Mariana Enriquez‘s Our Share of Night & Darker Mysteria‘s Ceremonia de Brujería Ancestral
Our Share of the Night is a monster of a book that combines many horror elements with a scathing critique of Argentine politics, colonialism, and elitism. The book follows the Order, a terrifying occultist society in pursuit of immortality, and the people caught in their web of violence. Argentine black metal band Darker Mysteria writes music about the occult that is similarly dark and unsettling. Their third album, Ceremonia de Brujería Ancestral, features melodic black metal with all sorts of references to occultism and evil beings. Both the book and the album have an epic feel to them that is cloaked in darkness and mystery. If you want to conjure a feeling of oppressive horror from which there is no escape, look no further than this duo.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s Mexican Gothic & Oblivion Castles‘ Mircalla II
There is no setting more appropriate for October than that of a haunted manor. Mexican Gothic takes you inside a grand but crumbling mansion in Mexico owned by the elite Doyle family. Protagonist Noemí has been sent to the house to figure out what is wrong with her cousin, who recently married into this strange family and is now suffering from a mysterious illness. As Noemí spends more time in the house, things start to get weirder and weirder. Like Mexican Gothic, the Mexican metal project Oblivion Castle is led by a spunky and creative woman known as VHC. VHC has released a ton of music under many different names, but the album Mircalla II best captures the haunted house atmosphere. This album features lines from Emily Dickinson poems and blends atmospheric black metal and dungeon synth to create a truly unsettling soundscape. Mircalla II is the perfect soundtrack for Noemí’s journey as she uncovers the creepy legacy of the Doyles and their home.
Samantha Schweblin‘s Fever Dream & Ikarie‘s Cuerpos en Sombra
Fever Dream is a short, unsettling read that had me looking over my shoulder for days. The book is structured as a conversation between a woman suffering from a mysterious illness and a young boy, as they talk through events that led to this point. The constant state of unease in the book matches perfectly with the vibe on Ikarie’s debut album Cuerpos en Sombra. According to the band, Cuerpos en Sombra explores “the theme of the human being from its limits, where it almost ceases to be, in a world that perhaps it is not allowed to be.” This idea of a barely-there existence fits with the uncertainty of Fever Dream, where you are never quite sure what is happening and what’s real or not. Between the book and the album, you will be on absolute edge, waiting for the moment when the pin finally drops.