Fall is upon us, and there are many who look forward to the s’mores and pumpkin spice lattes. Others, however, are more eager to embrace the spookier traditions of the season, such as horror movies, haunted houses, and basically anything that is dark, mysterious, or macabre. I myself have always found dark mystic tales to be highly intriguing, and since I am also a music enthusiast (generally in the Rock sector) I thought it would be fitting to talk about the dark side of music that can be ventured into in the name of Halloween spirit.
Let’s start with the three horror rock icons most well associated with the spirit of horror. For the OG Alice Cooper, listen to his 1971 album Killer, or watch him perform the song “Ballad of Dwight Fry” live. Next we go to the truly macabre Marilyn Manson, and I would recommend listening to his albums Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals for a real vicious taste. Finally we have my favorite of the three, hard-rockin’-skull-stompin’ mad man Rob Zombie with his albums Hellbilly Deluxe or The Sinister Urge to get down to.
But we can go back further, because if those are the gods of dark rock, here are some titans. First let’s talk about my favorite band of all time, The Doors. Jim Morrison led the charge for mysticism in rock music and to hear that just listen to the albums Strange Days or L.A. Woman and let the doors of perception unfold. To dive a little further, listen to The Doors perform their epic 23 minute song “Celebration of the Lizard.”
Titan number two would have to be Black Sabbath, the parental guardians of metal itself and the starting point for the infamous Ozzy Osbourne. Primary lyricist of Black Sabbath Geezer Butler was highly influenced by the dark arts and black magic, which booms through the sound waves in both 1970 albums Paranoid and Black Sabbath. Frontman Ozzy would take this style and carry it into his solo career for great albums like Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Ozz.
Titan number three is a man that is more unknown and off the beaten path, like something lurking in a dark alley of the dirtiest side of town, and that’s probably how he’d prefer it. This man goes by the name Tom Waits. With a voice said to be made of throat soaked in gravel, spiders, and whiskey, you can’t get much more in the strange spirit than you can with this shadow-lurking legend. When asked about his songwriting, Waits said, “What I try to do is write adventure songs and Halloween music.” If you don’t believe him just venture into the albums Raindogs, Real Gone or Frank’s Wild Years.
Some of the artists mentioned are still active today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find more current artists to fit our criteria. Such as the ghostly Latin prog rock band The Mars Volta. Tales of conjuring demons and ghosts of the mirrored past can be heard in albums De-Loused in the Comatorium, Frances the Mute, and The Bedlam in Goliath. Or you could listen to the weird, dark bouncy music from any of Les Claypool’s many bands such as Primus, Oysterhead, Holy Mackerel, Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, Electric Apricot, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang or the Claypool Lennon Delirium, to name a few. You could also venture into the astral void music of Maynard James Keenan’s three bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, or Puscifer.
Back in my middle school days, a lot of dark rock artists were in the picture that are worth mentioning here. Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, System of a Down, Slipknot, Korn, Godsmack and Dream Theatre come to mind. All of those bands and some others mentioned earlier may have gained influence from classics groups like King Crimson, Metallica, Gwar, Iron Maiden or Slayer.
For those who don’t find these musicians twisted enough, let’s continue into the darkest corners I could find, music that even I find to be too far out there. Artists like Aphex Twin, Slint, Lighting Bolt, Nurse With Wound, Whitehouse, and Scott Walker all bring something either so sporadic in noise or dark in lyrics that it becomes eerily comfortable for some to listen to.
Of course one can’t leave out the church-burning, Satan-worshiping and black magic practicing black metal bands like Electric Wizard, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Paysage D’Hiver, Sun O))) and the band Burzum, whose lead singer was actually imprisoned for murder.
Speaking of murderers, why not listen to the famous cult leader/serial killer Charles Manson’s album Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. In the vein of crazy you can listen to the bizarre music from the band Swans, whose founding member Michael Gira apparently spent a number of years in psych wards.
One truly dark musical entity to absorb comes from a woman named Chelsea Wolfe, whose music sounds like it must be inspired by the occult, witchcraft and dark rituals of old. Her voice is both haunting and terrifying, while simultaneously sounding warm and inviting, making some of the most haunting sounds I have ever heard, many even speculate whether or not she is an actual witch.
Finally I want to mention what is probably the strangest and most evil sounding music one might find, if you could even call it music. That would be any albums coming from the recording label Enemies List, whose slogan is “NO FUN. NOT EVER. SINCE 2003.” This is a label that records some of the most obscure music one could imagine. The most noteworthy album being Deconstructionist by Giles Corey. With over an hour of music designed to induce trances, possession states, and out-of-body experiences, this album comes with a booklet exploring the why, how and history of trance, the illusion of self, the reason people commit suicide, and why people ignore stab victims on the street. This album also comes with a warning label for those prone to seizures or a history of mental illness.