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Greetings and Salutations, friends! The bizarre one has risen from his eternal slumber once again to bestow ancient clandestine knowledge upon you all once more. October is upon us, temperatures are dropping, leaves are turning crimson and falling down one by one and a macabre feeling is permeating through all things. It's the season of spooky scares, living nightmares, creatures from beyond this realm and horrors that will overwhelm. So let's get spooky, let's get creepy and on this wonderful Friday the 13th, let's enjoy the latest blog entry about music inspired by horrors, the paranormal and Halloween!
One of the greatest horror authors of all time, H.P. Lovecraft, is quoted as saying "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Perhaps for this reason, humans have been fascinated by all the terrifying things that we couldn't comprehend. Phenomena that man couldn't fathom were turned into demons, curses and Devils. Our primal fear of predators evolved through our imagination into monsters, cryptids, vampires and werewolves. The most innate fear is the fear of death and from this was born our forever fascination with ghosts, spirits, the undead, the underworld and the occult. And as with any part of human culture, music has been used as a tool of expression for these things.
The first time popular music had begun to use horror themes extensively is during the rise of shock rock during the 60s and 70s, inspired by earlier artists from the 50s, particularly blues artists such as Screamin' Jay Hawkins, a man whose theatrical voodoo magic-themed performances inspired by opera were decades ahead of his time. Early legends of the genre such as the undying Alice Cooper sought to elevate their aggressive rock performances with wild stage theatrics, including pyrotechnics, monster costumes, fake blood and magic tricks. The horror movies of the first half of the 20th Century served as huge inspiration. Naturally, this unique and bombastic approach, that is as engaging as it is jarring, achieved great success, with the "Satanic panic" only boosting it further.
Heavy metal was born from darkness, from the most shadowy reaches of the soul. It was a counterpoint to the flowery and saccharine rock of the 60s and went in the other direction, cultivating an evil and melancholic sound and delving into topics few dared explore. Naturally, horror films and horror literature already appealed to such tendencies and served as a natural inspiration. Since the very beginning, heavy metal has been linked with horror fiction and has never stopped drawing inspiration from it. Black Sabbath, the undisputed godfathers of the genre, even got their name from an old horror film and frontman Ozzy Osbourne's interests in the occult had a key influence on the band's sound and imagery, which would inspire generations to come.
To this day, modern rock and metal bands of all kinds of genres continue to turn up the spooky in their music and live performances, with shock and awe being a tool that is ever as efficient. Some acts like Ice Nine Kills have even cultivated an entire gimmick around their love of horror films.
Death and Black metal naturally gravitate towards the horrific, being the heaviest and darkest parts of the metal sphere. Death metal was born out of and continues to indulge in the spectacles of gore from classic slasher films, while black metal conjures dark images of occult rituals, demonic imagery and looming evil.
Naturally we have to talk about horror punk and goth rock. These two genres have cultivated similar aesthetics, aiming for a creepy and inhuman appearance - all black clothes, black eyeliner and nail polish, fishnets, facepaint, excessive jewellery, skulls and pentagrams galore, etc. Goth strives to explore the darker sides of the soul and tackle the innate melancholy of life,
Meanwhile horror punk ditches the political aspirations of typical punk and instead just indulges in the pure fun of cheesy horror movies of the past and singing about monsters, zombies, ghouls and creepy crawlies of any kind. Legend has it you get bonus points if you put "from outer space" in your song or band name.
If rockin' stuff aren't your cup of tea, how about something more electronic? Horrors can be digital too you know. Many artists in this sphere have also taken inspiration from horror films of the past and created a spooky atmosphere to match, Carpenter Brut probably being the most famous, his very name coming from iconic horror film director and composer John Carpenter.
And in the realms of pop music, spooky and scary tunes can also be found, none more iconic that the King of Pop's Thriller. The dead like to party too you know.
Of course, talking so much about horror films, it only befits that the soundtracks of these films are the biggest inspiration here and the most important ingredient for a proper spooky atmosphere befitting a Halloween celebration of doom and gloom. Horror games are not far behind either, hell, it's often even scarier when you actually are in the shoes of the ones being haunted or hunted.
In these final paragraphs, I'd like to talk about the artists that truly embody the horror spirit and hence deserve sections of their own. First, let's talk about Marilyn Manson. This man created an entire career around being controversial, provocative and shocking, with live performances wrought with violence, theatrics and explicit imagery. Parents all over the world warned their kids against him, but his unyielding charisma and relatable raw emotion drew them in regardless. Many disregard MM as a mere shock act, being edgy for the sake of it, but beneath all that is a very talented and intelligent man whose music is objectively amazing and very varied in sound and vibe.
Next up, we have the enigmatic chaos of Gwar, which is short for Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh if you're curious. This is one of the most unique bands to ever exist. Featuring a large number of musicians that have come and gone and exploring a multitude of genres like thrash metal, hardcore punk, alt metal and more, there is but one constant with this band - unfiltered madness! They arrive in full costume, each member playing a character within the chaotic lore of the band, featuring interplanetary barbarians who travel the galaxies in search of war and pleasure. With lots of fake bodily fluids sprayed on the crowd, sacrifices of stuffed animals, elaborate props, highly offensive humour and over the top theatrics, this is as close as it gets to a live horror show.
And if we talk about Gwar, we have to talk about their brothers from across the pond - mighty Finnish rock monsters Lordi! It's curious how these two bands are so similar yet so different. While Gwar focus on wild stage antics, violence and chaos, Lordi embody the campy and fun aspects of horror. With elaborate stage costumes and props designed by frontmonster Mr. Lordi himself (who works in the film industry too), the Finnish titans are one of the most unique sights to behold on a stage. They gained a lot of popularity when they won Eurovision in 2006, but the biggest sin one can commit is to discount them as a one-hit wonder. They are an amazing band with a rich and varied discography and they play some of the best and catchiest hard rock that Europe has to offer. And of course, their freakshow is one of the best live performances in the world. They earned the sizable cult of loyal servants they have all over the globe.
Last, and certainly ready to feast, there is only one artist who truly embodies horror music to it's fullest - the Rock God, the Master of Fear, Rob Zombie! This undead gentleman has horror films flowing through his very veins. He has fully embraced the cheesy fun of oldschool horror and made it his identity. With epic live performances featuring monster costumes, pyrotechnics, special effects and elaborate stunts, he will spook you and shock you and then make you dance and headbang. Mr. Zombie is even a filmmaker and has produced several horror movies of his own, such as House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, which he scored himself too obviously. But besides all that, his catchy hard rock/industrial metal sound, festooned with spooky keyboards and samples from horror films, is just irresistibly fun and the horror vibe is equal parts scary and jovial, and 100% enveloping. Rob Zombie and his rag-tag band are a walking non-stop Halloween party and that's why he gets to close off our spooky journey here.
As we navigate this night of ghost, ghouls and other scary sights and sounds, we remember that we only live once (probably), so it's important to have fun while we can. Fear is a natural response, because we cherish life itself and because living is worth it. So celebrate, be merry, look behind you, check under your bed, but above all, remember to celebrate and have a good time. May my list of terrifying terrific tunes be a nice soundtrack to your trick or treating this year. Happy Halloween!