Well, folks, the plan to have this final installment of Ghouls’ Night Out! 2012 posted last night was derailed by a monumental, last ditch effort to finish my costume which was nearly as successful as it was hair raising. That’s the bad news coupled with a smidgeon of good news, the truly good news being that we’ve arrived at last- All Hallow’s Eve is here, and Ghouls’ Night Out! has the perfect compilation for when grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize! Clearly, I’m uber excited, and I hope all o’ y’all are as well. I’ve thoroughly been enjoying October and every glimmer of phantasmal fun that comes with it, thanks in part to plenty of killer music. Let’s blast off for one final night out on the (ghost) town before it gets too scary, so grab your iPod and let’s shred!
You ever find yourself jonesing for something obscure to electrify your musical getaways? Well, it doesn’t get much more obscure than France’s strangest children, Shub Niggurath. Named after an entity from H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Shub Niggurath sound like a funeral dirge conducted by Ornette Coleman. Jazz, chamber pop, and doom metal strangle at one another on Les Morts Vont Vite, an exercise in harnessing (not taming, mind you) chaos for maximum spine-chilling effect. Listening to this album is like watching Race Bannon wrestle an alligator, except here most of the time it really looks like the ‘gator’s going to win! Tune in if you can find it and turn off all the lights for some real festering, frightening fun.
Bauhaus’ second album Mask is a chilled platter of morbid hijinks and exhibits a self-deprecating confidence rooted in the band’s matured awareness that they tightly toe the line between frightening and ridiculous. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, these godfathers of goth spew out some deliciously shattered death disco with songs like “Kick In the Eye,” interspersed with the dark rumination of songs such as “The Passion of Lovers” (whose chorus is, “‘The passion of lovers is for death,’ said she”- yup, pretty cheery!). Theatrics and melodrama abound on Mask, but don’t mistake the irony for unhinged silliness run amok- Bauhaus really mean it. They’re simply fully rounded, and possess a sense of humor the vast majority of their musical grandchildren so desperately need. Listen to “Hollow Hills” alone in the dark though and that’ll make you consider never smiling again!
Pornography, the Cure’s fourth album, is a bleak, doom-laden portrait of a soul flatlining. Don’t pop this one in expecting “Boys Don’t Cry!” Boys do cry, as a matter of fact- liter upon liter of ice cold tears, and Pornography bottles every one of them and presents it for your cathartic listening pleasure. Robert Smith’s forlorn, plaintive vocals emanate from the swirling chaos of the music, sounding like a condemned soul peering down into Gehenna. You know you’re in for some decidedly un-poppy fare when the first song begins with, “It doesn’t matter if we all die!” Pornography is grim stuff, a sobering glimpse into a tortured mind tottering on the edge, but man! Is it catchy!
Closer is the final album Joy Division composed before singer Ian Curtis’ 1980 suicide. Curtis’ lyrics and idiosyncratic voice echo through the album’s cold, cavernous production, foreshadowing the end that was soon approaching. The shadow of Curtis’ imminent death looms over the entire work, subverting the title by manifesting vast gulfs of distance between Curtis and the listener. The band sustains a somber, haunting atmosphere from the tribal pounding of opener “Atrocity Exhibition” to the morose elegance of “Decades.” Anymore, it’s difficult not to see the only proximity the album truly captures is rapidly approaching, inevitable doom. Incredibly spooky stuff.
Midnight Syndicate is a diabolic duo of instrumental pharmacologists providing just the mood music the coroner ordered. Symphonic scares abound with this album, their breakout release that found them perfectly balancing frigid atmospheric frights and bombastic, fun house jumps. It’s no wonder these guys are the darlings of the haunted house industry with their blend of sonic spookiness. Born of the Night is excellent for reading Edgar Allan Poe or Arthur Machen to, or for waiting for little boils and ghouls to come to your front door trick or treating- the ideal background music for your eerie evening in!
You’ll be forgiven for assuming from the tenor of their name that This Will Destroy You are a metal band, but one listen will amply demonstrate that they are anything but. Their self-titled first album was a gallery of gut wrenchingly beautiful post-rock, a tearstained, hope nurturing masterpiece.
Tunnel Blanket is not that.
This Will Destroy You appear to be shooting for post-everything now and spectacularly succeed in sustaining an atmosphere of dread across this sprawling specter of an album. Tunnel Blanket’s tone poems are transmissions from the underworld captured as studio EVP and are guaranteed to deliver goosebumps with every spin.
What can I possibly add that hasn’t already been said about the Misfits? For one brief, shining moment, the Misfits were one of the best bands in the early 80s American punk scene, a brilliant and unbeatable blend of B-movie horror, hardcore vitriol, and sock hop-approved pop sensibility. Speed, aggression, infectious melodies, and fright film imagery collided in the circle pit and coalesced into a compelling catalogue of killer tunes.
The sheer campy, kitschiness of it all is what made it work so flawlessly. The Misfits weren’t interested in abolishing government- they devoted themselves to real issues, like astro zombies, brain eaters, and vampiras! Who else could evoke such pathos in a song like “I Turned Into a Martian” but singer Glenn Danzig, transforming an undeniably silly song into an empathetic portrait of identity crisis? Who else could croon “I want your skulls/ I need your skulls!” and believably render such heartwarming yearning? Their careful handling of goofball subject matter was never at odds with the deadly seriousness with which they pursued their mission. The Misfits were the cream of the crop because they took themselves seriously enough to be utterly professional, but that was it. Their appearance onstage and in album art was all part of the total aesthetic package that was the Misfits, and, unlike KISS, you intuitively understood that they stood behind the entire musical enterprise they had painstakingly handcrafted because they truly loved it. Walk Among Us is a staggering collection of horror-spun anthems that will grip your heart before tearing it outta your chest.
Well fiends, that about wraps it up. You have plenty of tunes to conjure some creeped out ambience with, and even more awaits, lurking in forgotten corridors of the musical shadow realm, biding their time until the stars are right. Have a stellar Halloween tonight! Find a scary movie or two, dust off that old, ratty collection of Ambrose Bierce, scare some trick-or-treaters, and for Pete’s sake, don’t be afraid to do the monster mash! Fangs for dropping by!