April 24, 2007

Project Scary Music

For the past several months I've been attempting to compile some kind of list of scary music, mostly because there aren't that many out there, but also because it's something I'm a big fan of in general.

Now "scary" can have a broad meaning for most of us, but what I hoped to include in my list were bands, artists, albums and songs that have a general creepiness to them.

While I've tried to be as thorough as possible, I've most likely let a few albums and artists slip through unnoticed. So if there's anything I may have missed, just add your suggestion in the comments.

Thanks to the kids at Stille Post, CMHWAK, the SHZine board and all my friends who helped.

Death in June - Take Care & Control
1998 - Apocalyptic Folk

The work of Death In June is known for the curious infusion of folk and industrial styles which would later influence the European neofolk style.

After collaborating with Current 93's David Tibet, the group's focus changed from their political punk roots towards more occult themes and began to incorporate extensive symbolizing into their work.

See also: Crisis, Current 93,Nurse With Wound

Nurse With Wound - A Sucked Orange
1990 - Experimental

Nurse With Wound's front man Steven Stapleton has a vast area of musical influence that is borderline ludicrous, however you might not pick up on it by listening to his music since he has kept to a distinctly genuine sound.

With over 30 full length albums released, this one was merely handpicked as a showcase of Nurse With Wound's typically freaked out experimentation.

I'm not sure which album the song from the following video is on, but it's a good example of Stapleton's sound.

Swans - Soundtracks for the Blind
1996 - Gothic/Industrial

MP3 Preview: Swans - I Was a Prisoner In Your Skull

There are undoubtedly many Swans records that should be on this list, but Soundtrack for the Blind (particularly the silver disc) is a particular favourite of mine.

The preview track included has been compared to the epic post-rock that Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been come to be known for, that is up until the ultra demented spoken part that follows the instrumental intro.

The video is of some of their older stuff:

See also: Jorboe,The Angels of Light

Coil - Unnatural History
1990 - Experimental

Taking their own influences from Burroughs and Crowley, Coil is credited to be one of the most influential groups in industrial music.

This album is a compilation of their early work which varies from minimalistic to dark experimentation.

See also: Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV

Diamanda Galás - The Singer
1992 - Avant-garde

Diamanda Galás is, shall we say, the queen of musical dimentia. One of her most notable roles was her contribution to Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula soundtrack.

To describe her style would be blasphemous, so I will leave it up to you, the reader, to venture that way yourself.

The Moon lay hidden beneath a Cloud - The Smell of Blood But Victory
1997 - Apocalyptic/Martial Folk

MP3 Preview: The Moon Lay Hidded Beneath a Cloud - III

Full of atmosphere and droning chants, this album utilizes sampling loops and actual medieval instruments.

I have found most of their releases to be of similar caliber, but this album come to be my favourite. Member Albin Julius has also contributed to Death in June albums, including the aforementioned Take Care & Control

The video is a tribute made by a fan:

See also: Der Blutharsch, Death in June

Raz Mesinai - The Unspeakable
2000 - Ambient/Experimental

MP3 Preview: Raz Mesinai - Possesses

While originally intended to be soundtrack to the sixth Hellraiser, this albums was rejected on the grounds that it was too scary, and a quick listen to some of the tracks and it's very easy to see how this conclusion was reached.

There are plenty of moments of uncomfortable irritation that may put you on the brink of insanity or somehow cause you to become possessed by some evil force. I haven't seen Hellraiser VI, but listening to this record will probably give you more of a fright that actually watching the movie.

Botch - We Are the Romans
1999 - Metalcore/Mathcore

Besides being one of the best bands in existence, Botch were the definitive masters of metal-core and would freak the pants off any kid who thought Slipknot played hard music.

See also: These Arms Are Snakes

Apocalyptica - Inquisition Symphony
1998 - Cello-core

Apocalyptica are know for covering Metallica and Sepultura songs with their four members playing cellos and constantly head banging on stage.

It may sound cheesy, but their work is quite brilliant, and the hair tornadoes during their live performance are mesmerizing.

Sunn 0))) - Black One
2005 - Drone Metal

Widely popularized as one of the leaders of drone doom, Sunn 0)))'s stage presence alone is enough to give most people the creeps; long, dark robes accentuate their long, dark and extremely loud songs.

A popular song of theirs, not featured on this album but recommended for listening, is "My Wall" which features Julian Cope reciting poetry that is extraordinarily chilling.

See also: Burning Witch, Khanate, Goatsnake, Earth

Neurosis - A Sun That Never Sets
2001 - Sludge Metal

This album is another example of a group encorporating apocalyptic folk elements into their sound, but in this case its mix with sludge metal conjures something unique altogether.

The vocals stay true to metal influence, as does most of the music, but the songs are experimented upon somewhat and are seen to progressively develop into numbers of epic proportion.

See also: Swans

Blood Axis & Les Joyaux De La Princesse - Absinthe: La Folie Verte
2001 - Ambient/Experimental

Created as a tribute to absinthe, this album sees Blood Axis collaborating with Les Joyaux De La Princesse who has also worked with Death in June.

The songs are mostly ambient, occaisionally broken up by sements of sinister spoken word that embellish the mystical qualities of "the green madness".

Coph Nia - Shape Shifter
2003 - Ambient/Industrial

Another Crowley inspired band, Coph Nia's name itself comes from a passage of Liber AL vel Legis.

The sound of the album is ambient at times, sometimes of an industrial quality but then progressing into a medieval atmosphere of echoed chanting. Other songs are slow and almost militant, all the while dominated by Aldenon Sartorial's doomful vocals.

the pAper chAse - Ctrl-Alt-Del-U
2001 - Indie

MP3 Preview: the pAper chAse - The Unopened Email to God (short)

Much of the pAper chAse's work experiments with a weird dementia that comes across in their songs as subtly disturbing.

Their earlier work is more exemplary of this, showcasing John Congleton's nack for commandeering an uncomfortable confusion into listeners' ears.

Nora Keyes - Songs to Cry By for the Golden Age of Nothing
2001 - Dark Cabaret

There's not much online information available on Nora Keyes, save for a couple scattered interviews and web pages. It seems she is originally from Los Angeles and used to sing for a band called The Centimeters.

This album is a great example of the dark cabaret style; the old-world sounds of the organ and her screachingly sweet vocals are a fitting soundtrack to any silent horror film.

Xiu Xiu - Knife Play
2002 - Indie/Electronic/Experimental

Xiu Xiu are more well known for their newer releases, but Knife Play has always impressed me the most. The unique atmosphere of each song on this album creates an interesting world of dark dissonance and cascading crescendos.

When I first heard this album I knew nothing else like it, and to this day that still holds true.

The video is one that someone made to "I Broke Up":

Portishead - Portishead
1997 - Alternative/Electronic/Trip Hop

Beth Gibbons' haunting vocals are perhaps the most distinct feature of Portishead. Along with jazz samples and the lo-fi characteristics of their music, the resulting sound can be seen as a masterpiece of terror.

The songs may be slow and sound sweetly seductive, but they give time for the imagination to wander about their mysterious landscapes.

Amon Tobin - Chaos Theory - Splinter Cell 3 Soundtrack
2005 - Breakbea/Drum and Bass

Much of Amon Tobin's work borderlines between rhythmically aggressive and slightly unnerving. As one of his newer releases and made as a soundtrack to a stealth-based video game, the focus of this album is made more apparently intense.

The tracks on this album, have a wide range of mentally visual stimulation, and as a fan of both psychologically engrossing video games and music, just listening to this albums has me wanting to try out the game.

The video is of "Four Ton Mantis" off his Supermodified album:


Various Artists - The Shining OST
1980 - Various Artists

MP3 Preview: Bonus Track 15

Released as an LP in 1980 by Warner Brothers, this album was taken off the market and has yet to be officially released as a CD. There are, however, different bootleg versions of the score that are available, some of which include bonus tracks

As with A Clockwork Orange's soundtrack, this album sees the contribution from synth artist Wendy Carlos along with selective classical pieces that heighten the fervency of this most classic of horror films.

Goblin - Suspiria
1997 - Progressive

MP3 Preview: Goblin - Sighs

Goblin's musical contributions to the soundtracks of Dario Argento films are a notable accomplishment for this Italian prog-rock band.

You won't pick up on it by watching the trailer video below, but Suspiria's soundtrack is saturated with a post-rock energy and progressive experimentation that seems ahead of its time.

Ennio Morricone - Death Rides a Horse
1967 - Soundtrack

Composing over 400 film and television scores including the famed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly soundtrack, Ennio Morricone is best known for contributing his musical ear to Spaghetti Western films that starred the likes of Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson.

This soundtrack is more noticably haunting, being comprised of fairly short "old west" compositions that Morricon no doubt helped define.

Climax Golden Twins - Session 9 OST
2001 - Ambient/Experimental

MP3 Preview: Climax Golden Twins - Hobbes Theme

If you've seen Session 9, you'd be able to comprehend how scary this album is. As one of my favourite horror movies, this soundtrack ranks as an equally enjoyable experience of demented fright.

Much of the songs are ambient with weird sound effects, piano and not much general structure to the compositions, yet as much as I usually turn away from ambient albums, I find Climax Golden Twins' work to be quite unique.

Clint Mansell - Pi OST
1998 - Electronica/Experimental/

Clint Mansell and Darren Aronofsky have made quite a team of themselves since working on this movie together; going on to collaborate on Requiem for a Dream and more recently The Fountain.

Mansell's erratic score sets a great mood alongside the psychological thriller and is accompanied by equally peculiar inclusions from acts like Aphex Twin, Autechre and Massive Attack.

See also: Aphex Twin, Autechre, Massive Attack, Orbital

Clint Mansell & Kronos Quartet - Requiem For a Dream OST
2000 - Electronica/Chamber Pop

Various Artists - Lost Highway OST
1999 - Various Artists

This album compiles a lot of the artists that I was hesitant about including on this list, i.e.: David Bowie, Trent Reznor, Lou Reed, Marylin Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein.

I'm including them here, though, because their combination, with added collaboration from Angelo Badalamenti, makes a decent score that added substantially to the mood of this very creepy Lynch film.

Robert Blake. He's a good guy.

Suicide - Suicide
1977 - Post-Punk/No Wave

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
1979 - Post-Punk

Alice Cooper - Killer
1971 - Glam Rock

Misfits - Static Age
1978 - Punk

Black Sabbath - Paranoid
1970 - Metal

Roky Erickson & the Aliens - The Evil One
1981 - Rock

Aliester Crowley - The Great Beast Speaks
1920 - Spoken Word

This album is supposed to have originated from wax cylinder recordings Crowley recorded in the 1920's, and listening to the quality of the tracks may give a strong indication of that.

The content is pretty much just Crowley reciting chants and rituals, perhaps as an aid to those who are ignorant to magickal pronunciation.

Download: http://www.rawilsonfans.com/downloads/Crowley.htm

People's Temple Choir - He's Able
1973 - Gospel

If you listen to this album, you will hear what is a collection of typical gospel songs sung by a church choir. Obiously it isn't the musical content that inludes this album on this list, but the history of the People's Temple and its founder,Jim Jones.

Via WFMU's Beware of the Blog:
The last track "Mass Suicide" is pasted together from two different sources. The first part is an incredible rant/sermon by Jim Jones, where he points out that the phrase "Love is the only weapon" is bullshit (I have to agree with him on this), and vows to "kill them if they come"
Download: http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2006/02/he_was_able_mp3.html

Charles Manson - Manson Speaks
1995 - Spoken Word

The title says it all.

Order of Nine Angels - Christos Beest on Sinister Chant
n/a - Spoken Word

This album is similar to Crowley's The Great Beast Speaks, but was made the Satanic Order from Europe known as the Order of Nine Angels. There is very little information about these recordings; another called Sappho was made as well, and perhaps others.

The tracks include what I'm guessing is Christos Beest, a representative of the Order, performing various chants with preliminary explanation. Most of it is difficult to comprehend, but still a great listen.

Download: http://www.sodl.moonfruit.com/onachantsmusick/4512891307

Botch - The Opera Song

There are many acts who have covered "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, but this one by Botch has to be my favourite.

MP3 Preview: Botch - Opera Song

Unsolved Mysteries Theme

X-Files Theme


sollipsist said...

Great start! One of my favorite types of music. Hope you're not too overwhelmed with suggestions. Here's a few of my scary favs:

univers zero - "heresie" (classic scary)

jandek - everything he does is kinda creepy

cradle of filth - over the top but horror for sure

comus - progressive folk for schizophrenic pagan stalkers

pink floyd - good ol' PF gets plenty spooky at times. How about "careful with that axe eugene" or "one of these days" ?

godspeed you! black emperor - "static" scares me. must be the religious element. Most GY!BE and A Silver Mt. Zion music has a beautiful eerie feel.

crass - no, really! "reality asylum" is one spooky tune

fantomas - most is spooky, but especially the "director's cut" album with covers of the "rosemary's baby" and "twin peaks: fire walk with me" themes

plenty more but i don't want to use up all your space :) BTW: "demented" is usually spelled with an "e". Again, great job!

Stu said...

sweet.. thanks

yeah a few of those came up as suggestions as i was putting this together

radio2019 said...

I'm actually quite surprised that Skinny Puppy's Last Rights was not listed here.

While it is one of my favorite records of all times, it is one that now (in my older years) can really only be listened to on occasion.

Additionally, Coil's Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser should have an honorable mention in your soundtracks section. :)

Anonymous said...

I was also surprised at the absence of Skinny Puppy. Great list but an offering from Skinny Puppy would be a valuable addition. Also, check out Severed Heads.

Anonymous said...

also should be noted
any old John Carpenter Movie soundtrack is pretty fucking scary.

just sayin'


Anonymous said...

hey so i am a young film maker in desperate need of help. i recently made a horror film that was accepted to a state wide film festival. the problem i am having is finding music for my film. the only music i can get rights to are songs that were recorded in Europe since they dont have our copy write rules. if u know any bands the recorded some a scary music cd in europe please let me know. thanks!

Slammerworm said...

Genuinely scary music? Not an easy compilation. One man’s scary is another man’s funny. Anyway, here are four tunes which I consider the real thing. They creep me out, anyway.

1) Suicide: Frankie Teardrop
Somebody once called this ‘swinging light bulb music’, and that is a fine description. Just two notes on a cheap synthesiser, a lawn-sprinkler drum-machine, and a simple story recited over the churn. The tension gradually ratchets up until it becomes almost untenable and you want it to stop. Please.

2) Wayne Fontana: Pamela, Pamela
‘Can a pop song be creepy?’ was a question posed on a blogsite I once went to. The blogger argued that they could not, but I beg to differ. 1962’s ‘Johnny Remember Me’ was one such haunting chart-topper, and here’s another, from 1966. There’s nothing too untoward in the lyric, which details a narrator’s entreaties to Pamela to remember more innocent childhood days, before adolescence‘..when the rest of your childhood forgets as a dream, and the harshness of life dims the peaches and cream’. I always thought something really terrible had happened to Pamela, and that she was actually dead, an impression formed by the jaunty-yet-melancholy melody and strengthened by Fontana’s lonely-dog howling of the title’s final syllable at the end. Jeezus, that’s spooky. What did happen to Pamela?

3) The Girls: Jeffrey I Hear You
A creepy punk rock song? Oh yes, and I’m not kidding. This song from the early 1980s concerns the vocalist’s genuinely deceased brother (there’s a photo of him on the cover), and his current status.

"What causes the lights to flutter?
What causes my momma to mutter?
What causes my mouth to stutter?
What causes the roof to shudder?"

Set to atonal synths, wild guitar solos and a rapid-fire rhythm section obsessing on one note for almost six minutes, the music resembles an early Roxy Music all-in jam, but the living ghost story in the lyric is seriously weird. Maybe it’s just me, but along with the requisite punk snotty snarl there’s also this pleading tone to the vocal which sends the whole thing right into the heart of creepsville.

4) Swans: Blind Love
Big, slow, thumping ‘natives are restless’ drums for a minute or two, then the Frankenstein Monster stirs, moans and begins to share his simple yet troubled thoughts in sepulchral, single-syllable mode. The drums get louder, and the whole band crashes in on the huge clashing chords which section off the ‘verses’. Then we’re off again. Sound funny? No, not in the slightest.

Nick Ernst said...

Excellent List! I have to add a few of my favorites:

Murcof - Somewhere between glitch and classical. Listen to the tracks Mo and Maiz.

Quest Room Project - electronic music/sounds engineered to make you paranoid and claustrophobic.

Tom Waits: The Black Rider - Basically his intentionally scary album.

Venetian Snares: "Befriend A Childkiller". This track will unnerve the listener undoubtedly. "Yor" has the same feel.