We’re a mere day from Halloween. It’s time to have your costume figured out, the Fun Size candies bought for the trick-or-treaters, all the proper movies picked out to finish out the month with, and most importantly you need to be spinning all the appropriate Gothic-related albums to keep the eerie vibes humming along.
In honor of my favorite time of the year I thought I’d make a list of some of my favorite Gothic and generally dark mood records. Really, these records are spun by me year-round, but October benefits greatly from their maleficent vibes. Turn down the lights, light up some candles, and drop the needle(or hit play on the iPhone) and get a little weird with me.
Pentagram Home Video : The Satanic Path & Who’s Out There
I think one of my favorite musical finds in the last year or so has been the UK’s Pentagram Home Video. The band consists of one guy that makes hypnotic, dark songs that lie heavily in lo-fi electronic vibes. Synths that wail eerily over top simple dance beats. Most of his records are put together as “soundtrack & cues sourced from a parallel reality“. He’s a master of the imagined soundtrack. I picked up Who’s Out There last year, and earlier this year The Satanic Path was released. Both are very low key listens, but after they play in the background a bit you sort of feel yourself falling into those parallel realities. Who’s Out There soundtracks the tale of “a soldier sent back from a future war to 1986 to prevent an alien bounty hunter from tracking and destroying his target. A relentless pursuer emanating a powerful telekinetic wave of hallucinogen that frighteningly alters reality for anyone within its range. The story unfolds over the course of one night, across the streets & through the underground bars & clubs of New York.” It’s a very hypnotic record, full of old school synth tones of subtle beats. It’s a perfect listen for those cold, fall nights when you want to chill out or summon a demon.
The Satanic Path is a much more extroverted listen. It’s more bombastic, as a soundtrack that deals with the occult and the Prince of Darkness himself should be. There’s still the subtle beats and classic synth sounds, but the songs are more in your face. The story, if your interested, was interpreted by yours truly. Check it out right here, if you dare.
Both albums are exquisite and ooze dark moods and vibes. They’re the perfect spin for a dark and stormy night.
The Cure : Seventeen Seconds
Sure, at a glance Pornography seems to be the ultimate Halloween spin. It’s dark, gloomy, the proto-Goth album, and even the opening line is “It doesn’t matter if we all die”. But for my money, Seventeen Seconds holds more darkness. It’s subtler, quieter, and it feels like more of an album that would be playing in your head as you walk a path lined with falling leaves and dark, overcast skies. Robert Smith hadn’t fully committed to all black attire and zombie makeup just yet. He was in manic-depressive ghoul transition, so Seventeen Seconds comes across more grounded in everyday horror. That existential dread was permeating songs like “A Forest”, “In Your House”, and “A Reflection”. “Play For Today” comes off like The B-52s going full Bauhaus. It also hints at what The Soft Moon would be up to in a couple decades.
Seventeen Seconds is really the ultimate doomed soul sadsack album.
The Night Terrors : Pavor Nocturnus
Miles Brown has taken the art of theremin playing to a new level. When he performs live or on records by his band The Night Terrors he truly emotes with the strange box with an antenna sticking out. He captures both the eerie vibes and melancholy sadness that comes from playing the instrument correctly. Three years ago he and The Night Terrors recorded a live album at the Melbourne Music Hall with one of the world’s largest pipe organs. That album is the Gothic and beautiful Pavor Nocturnus, an album that oozes with otherworldly vibes and doomed romanticism.
All you need to do is drop the needle or hit play on this record Halloween night to create the ultimate dark mood. It’s like Phantom of the Opera just ran headlong into Forbidden Planet. “Pavor Nocturnus” will make your blood go cold, while “Megafauna” sounds like Suspiria, had it taken place in a European discotheque. “Kuceli Woke Up In Graveyard” makes good use of that giant pipe organ, as this song permeates with the melancholy of the undead.
Seriously, if you’re a fan of the creepy and a lover of Halloween then this record is a must.
Slayer : Reign In Blood
So if you were an adolescent in the 80s then “Satanic Panic” should’ve made some kind of impression on you. Not just the kids that went to church 3 times a week and twice on Sunday, but the kids that weren’t raised ultra-religious eggheads. It was also kids raised in a household that taught them good from bad, that being polite and having manners were attributes, and that true crime was far scarier than anything you’d watch on Creature Feature late on Friday night. It wasn’t the ghouls that hid under the basement stairs you should truly be afraid of, but those gangly punks with the studded dog collars, stringy mullets, and t-shirts that donned pentagrams, Iron Maiden’s “Eddie”, and nearly every cassette they owned had an “Explicit Lyrics -Parental Advisory” sticker. Kids that decided killing a suburban family would be cool because Rob Halford, Dave Mustaine, or Tom Araya told them to in a hidden message on a song. Those were the true monsters.
As it turns out, no heavy metal song ever made a half wit teen murder anyone. It was usually because said teen was already seriously damaged(usually by seriously damaged parents), but lousy adults needed a scapegoat for their lack of parental skills or empathy in general so Slayer seemed like as good as one as any. And let’s be honest, as far as bands go that really tried to walk the walk in the early days of thrash and speed metal, Slayer wore those shoes well. It took me many years to get into Slayer because of their reputation as Satan-worshipping psychopaths. Turns out they were just California punks that liked to incite people and drink themselvies into oblivion. They were happy to keep the whole Satan ruse going. Though, I do think there was a general interest in the dark side, at least as far as Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were concerned, and Reign In Blood was their first true masterpiece.
It doesn’t matter where you hit play on this album, each song will take you on a journey into darkness and bloodshed. This is the ultimate boogeyman album. “Angel of Death”, “Necrophobic”, “Jesus Saves”, “Aggressive Perfector”, and “Raining Blood” all work their dark magic on you. This is the ultimate “Satanic Panic” album. Just don’t play it backwards, or Tom Araya will beckon you to watch The Golden Girls and double check your algebra homework.
Fabio Frizzi : City Of The Living Dead S/T
I think this is one of the great Italian horror film scores. Frizzi’s City Of The Living Dead S/T has all the eerie vibes, slow-churning dread, and melancholy feel you need to get in the mood for the witching hour. He’s done amazing work for decades(and continues to perform), but for me this album is a shining example of just how much was put into these old horror film scores. I think in many ways, these scores far outlive the films they were created for. This record is proof of that.
Turn the lights down low, have the candy at the door, and crank this on the home stereo. Those trick-or-treaters won’t know what hit ’em.
Walter Rizzati : House By The Cemetery S/T
Of all the great Italian horror film scores, Walter Rizzati’s House By The Cemetery is probably my favorite. It was the one that stuck in my head for over 20 years before I revisited it. It’s creepy, haunting, melancholy, and for me stands as an example of just how great the scores were and the passion put into these pieces of music. I think it also reminded me of the NES game Castlevania, with its baroque organ work. I think that helped to solidify it’s longevity in my sponge-y subconscious for so many years. Listening to it I could just as easily be fighting ghouls and vampire bats in a castle as I could be running from the undead in a Fulci film.
Rizzati went above and beyond with this score. It’s perfect and perfectly eerie.
Wojciech Golczewski : End of Transmission
Golczewski has been doing amazing film work in the last few years, but his own personal albums are where it’s at for me. Lots of intergalactic doom going on with albums like Reality Check and The Signal, but if you want true, old school space doom you can’t get any better than End of Transmission.
End of Transmission is an all analog affair that feels like Blade Runner on a budget. It’s like this little 30 minute album that takes you on a dark and mysterious journey into the graveyard of the milky way. Each “Transmission” is a heady exploration of analog synth and existential space doom. You can’t go wrong with this one blasting through your headphones on a cold, Halloween night.
The Soft Moon : Zeros
Luis Vasquez knows how to build Gothic doom. His work as the Soft Moon has always tip toed around both the dance floor and the dark corners we attempt to avoid. Imagine a cross between Bauhaus, NIN, and Depeche Mode, then mix in tribal elements and you’ve got a good idea of what’s happening. All of his records are great, but Zeros feels like the most October of them all.
From opening track “It Ends” on there’s a propulsive doom. Industrial at heart, but more singer/songwriter than anything Skinny Puppy or Ministry ever did, Zeros feels like a walk thru some dark and dilapidated house long since abandoned by the previous owners. “Machines” visits some old school Cure territory, while “Die Life” feels like Def Con 4 on the panic level.
You’d be remiss if you didn’t play this at least once on Halloween. Then hit up all of the Soft Moon’s discography and get lost in it the rest of the year.
John Carpenter : Halloween S/T
Of course this is on the list. Why wouldn’t it be?
So there’s a few to get your Spotify Halloween playlists started. There’s plenty of other great Halloween-appropriate albums out there for you, so if you don’t like my suggestions go find some for your own damn self.
6 thoughts on “Dark Tones : A Soundtrack For Halloween”
Some lovely and sinister Halloween sounds right there, JH. Even a wee sprinkling of downright malevolent. Me, I’ll likely be catching up with The Walking Dead and listening to the heavy eerie monster jams of Earth and Headless Kross.
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What you’ve got lined up sounds pretty great. Not sure I’ve heard Headless Kross. I’ll have to investigate further.
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Headless Kross are heavy… like, dinosaur heavy.
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I like that kind of heavy.
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I’ve got ALL my Kylie Minogue records lined up to play tomorrow night.
Great list – I particularly like the sound of the Wojciech Golczewski one – that’s really intriguing stuff.
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Kylie Minogue?? That’s just plain horrifying. I pray for your soul.
End of Transmission is a great one.
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