Tag Diving: Horror (part 1)
Tag diving is like dumpster diving. But instead of digging through garbage and finding a perfectly good hat that just needs a replacement part-that-covers-your-head, I browse a tag on Bandcamp and share neat music with you. Today’s tag: horror.
Several of us have talked before about phases in our listening habits. Despite being slaves to the heavy, it seems most of us have periods where we don’t listen to metal at all. We always come back though, usually in the middle of the night, sobbing and covered in snot, blubbering about how we were wrong, so wrong, to leave in the first place. I’ll find myself doing that soon enough, but I’m currently riding this horror tag kick that has yielded some excellent results (some of which even include metal!). This one is going to be split into multiple parts because I found too much cool stuff to cram into one post.
We’re kicking this off with one of my favorites of the bunch. It was interesting to see the sheer breadth of styles that included the “horror” tag, and a few acts took a pseudo-soundtrack angle to the category. The Parlour Trick did this to excellent effect with A Blessed Unrest. The album weaves a creepy tale of a haunted house, or “the inescapable trope of the ‘Madwoman in the Attic.’” The description on the website lays out the dozen plus instruments (including theremin!) used to create the haunting tunes, creaking atmosphere, and surreal soundscapes, and let me confirm for you right now that this album is expertly crafted for a truly ghostly experience. From the lilting 7/8 groove of “The Lady of the House of Love” to the brooding creepiness of “Leafy Sea Dragon Nursery,” this album delivers.
Taking a lo-fi/old school approach to the horror feel, Death By Raygun provides a fuzzy B-movie-esque romp through listenable rock tunes and endlessly catchy vocals. I can clearly see a bunch of sloppy, black-and-white cuts of an old school Swamp Thing (which is obviously a dude in a crappy costume) lurching toward a clean-cut college kid from the 1950s (who pathetically makes no attempt to escape) while I listen to “Sheila Comes Back.” I love it. It even reminded me of a track off of the excellent self-titled album by Dead Man’s Bones, a duo consisting of Ryan Gosling (yes, that Ryan Gosling) and Zach Shields.
Alright, let’s have some metal. I’ll be honest, this band was an outlier for me. Combining dark electronica with an accessible form of black metal, Sarcophagic provide a catchy, yet slightly jarring approach to heavy music. This could be the tougher, grizzled older brother of Prodigy or the way cooler, mysterious cousin of Marilyn Manson that didn’t suck. I kept expecting myself to say that it was too cheesy and switch to something else, but something about those mechanically driven vocals and steady industrial groove hooked me. It’s not something I would regularly jam, but I trust some of you will dig it.
Revisiting the soundtrack conception of horror, feast your ears upon 2009’s Black Goat Of The Woods by Black Mountain Transmitter. The work of James R. Moore of Northern Ireland, Black Mountain Transmitter presents the album as “the soundtrack from some lost low-budget horror movie, rediscovered on an old and faded VHS cassette.” Fans of spooky soundtracks, Lovecraft enthusiasts, and lovers of dark ambient will all enjoy this, along with Moore’s description of a childhood brush with the unknown here. That link also contains a Soundcloud stream of his follow up album from 2012, Playing With Dead Things.
As an old school companion to Death By Raygun, Chad Fifer brings us the brilliantly fun Monster Party. Perfectly suited to the werewolves, vampires, and ghost stories of yore, this album lives up to its name in style. It’s also highly worth noting that Chad Fifer is a writer and co-host of the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast. That title alone should have quite a few of you scrambling to check it out if you haven’t already, but allow me to say that, in addition to the regular reading of Lovecraft-inspired tales, the podcast features several full readings of Lovecraft’s most popular works. Check it.
If you’ve made it this far and listened to everything, you deserve a serious reward. Let’s cash out with some ugly, occult driven black metal. Abhor is the soundtrack to dusty dungeons and winding catacombs, recalling the black metal masters of old without feeling like a pure throwback act. Synthesizer isn’t a common feature in black metal bands that favor rawness, but the organ sound works well for their ritualistic, horror-fueled vibe. Those ugly vocals are the trve icing on the cake for me, growling and hissing bitter incantations over the darkly mid-paced instrumental work. Fans of Mortuary Drape and very old Crimson Moonlight will love it.