Heads up, boils and ghouls! It’s time once again for Ghouls’ Night Out, so turn out the lights and kiss your sanity goodbye with this week’s sinister selections!
To say that Heresie is out there would do other out there albums a disservice by scooting them closer to the central hub of normal. Belgian band Univers Zero conjure up some deliciously weird potions with this one, sounding like nothing so much as Bernard Hermann joining forces with Neu! to unleash Ragnarok with a preternatural brew of Sun Ra jazz freakout, krautrock and Stravinsky. A rock rhythm section unites with oboe, bassoon, harmonium, violin and viola to weave a gruesome neoclassical tapestry that drags you kicking and screaming into a maelstrom of dread.
There are very real similarities to Godspeed You! Black Emperor that I was never aware of back when I was a big Godspeed fan, but Univers Zero makes the most of Heresie’s arrangements (unlike Godspeed with theirs, I opine) and capitalizes on symphonic dissonance and eternally escalating tension to maximum eerie effect. While Godspeed rotates between seasons of utter despair and transcendent bliss, Univers Zero is tidally locked in its orbit around a sinister, extinguished star, perpetually oriented towards ghoulish thrills and chills. Heresie is a wraith flickering in and out of solidity as it stalks through murky woods, howling as it voraciously hunts down naive interlopers, leaving no footprints where it has passed- only carnage. Listening to this album you visualize the most adrenaline-soaked, go mad with terror chase scene in film history and picture yourself breathlessly tearing through a midnight forest, desperately keeping one step ahead of the horror at your heels. Masterful dynamics mercilessly stretch out the suspense to torturous levels- these Belgians are ruthless! Give Heresie a spin and just try to embrace losing a few night’s sleep as a worthy price to pay.
Dead Can Dance’s second album, Spleen and Ideal, retains the moody atmospherics of their self-titled debut while incorporating elements of world music into their impressionist strain of baroque New Wave. Tribal drums blend with delay-drenched guitars, cello and harmonium to concoct a glittering jewel of morose grandeur. Lisa Gerrard’s incantatory vocals shimmer with an ethereal beauty that irresistibly draws you in, but they are cloaked in a spooky, otherworldly sheen that renders any potential pop accessibility inert. Even when Brendan Perry takes over singing duties, his aristocratic croon douses every enunciation with an eerie intimation of arcane secrets. Many of the songs on this album sound like a secret ceremony you’ve accidentally stumbled upon that you ought never to have witnessed, particularly “De Profundis” and “Mesmerism.” Spleen and Ideal eschews most of the hackneyed trappings of mid-80s goth to venture into a wider (though no less dark) world and concocts a compelling album that will haunt you long after the final song finishes casting its spell.
Nurse With Wound’s Soliloquy For Lilith is a tour de force of nerve shattering sonic deconstruction, a nightmare landscape painted in a hundred shades of black. Soliloquy is a minimalistic masterpiece of noise architectonics, a macabre marathon of splintered electronic pulses. The frequencies and tones shift and solidify at a funereal pace through many repetitions into dense thickets of gnarled, night terror ambience, simulating howling wind, ringing gongs, whispering chimes, and skittering insects. It’s impossible not to shudder at these lugubrious dead of night ravings; dread gnaws at your insides every moment of this album, sucking the very breath from your lungs as you hope the nameless fear lurking in each track loses your scent and moves on. If Heresie is the soundtrack to the ultimate horror flick chase scene, then Soliloquy For Lilith is the first person perspective of what you hear surrounding you as you hug the ground, heart slamming in agonizing 32nd notes, peeking out from beneath foliage to scan for figures in the fog and breathlessly parsing the sounds of the forest for the sound of your pursuer. If you’re up for an utterly unique slab of skin crawling musical masochism, look no further!
The soundtrack to Requiem For a Dream is a listening experience nearly as harrowing as the film itself. The film is an exploration of the horrors of addiction and brutally depicts the soul-crushing misery of addict existence. The soundtrack viscerally captures the anguish and absurdity of slavery to any demonic master, be it drugs or otherwise, and inspires a terror that is all the more awful for its closeness to home. The Kronos String Quartet gives Clint Mansell’s score limbs and fangs and releases cascades of doom made manifest. Banshee shrieks punctuate the main theme, gouging deeply into the listener’s psyche with an insistent death knell. This is the crash of judgment piercing through the haze of unexamined existence, and it is terrifying in its unyielding, incriminating pronouncement. The production gives instruments known for their warm sound a crisp, frozen distance, conveying the sense of cosmic powers behind the scenes, invisibly poisoning reality and pursuing the degradation of divine image bearers, as well as the awful tragedy of sin inevitably coming home to bury would-be master. This music unpacks the sickening emptiness that is passed off for living by so many and is incredibly taxing emotionally to endure through. Its frights are of a different stripe than any of the other records this week, but its terrors are not one iota less vivid.
Well, that’s it for this week, fiends! Tune in next week for more Halloween highlights to turn your hair white!