Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scary Albums in Honor of Halloween

Okay this one is similar to the Scary Album Covers posts but a little different. This time we're talking about actual albums that are a little frightening from a musical standpoint, albums that curdle the blood and send chills up the spine, albums that are so complex that they sound as if they came from another world. Yes, there are a few, and I'm not referring to the latest from Lady Gaga.

Celtic Frost has always had some spinechilling songs, but on this album, they stretch things over the full course of the record. Even though the band utilizes some clean singing, the vocals are so desperate and cold, that they sound otherworldly. The riffs are typical Celtic Frost bass-heavy riffs that sound like the machinations of Lovecraftian beasts. This album is truly unnerving, taking hold of the listener for over an hour. Once it is over, it is like being able to see the sunlight after days trapped in a cave.

The cover image is frightening enough. Coffins sounds like an even more dark and possessed version of Celtic Frost playing a style of death/doom that is so morosely slow as to actually sound as if it were produced by the zombie-like monsters that so often appear on the band's album covers. The faster tracks sound as if they could have come from Celtic Frost themselves, while the slower ones sound as if they came from the pits of Hell.

That's the band's spelling not mine. This is a classic album from the Norwegian second wave of black metal band. It features the eponymous title track, one of the most well-known and disturbing songs about vampires in heavy metal. Everything else is minimalist, simple, one riff, classic black metal with an extremely dark atmosphere. Only the title track is in English and not knowing what is being said somehow makes the rest of the songs that much more frightening.

Demilich's only full length gives off the atmosphere of being trapped in a dark, dank, moist, cold cave. The music is ungodly complicated featuring numerous changes in time signature and speed as to leave the listener completely disoriented. Then there are the vocals, a sound that can best be described as the croaking of a dying bullfrog.

Incantation was one of the early bands that blended death metal with doom metal and achieved a Hellish sound in the process. The band's angular riffs, throbbing bass, and pummeling drums form the backdrop behind some of the most terrifying vocals in American death metal. The atmosphere is as dark as the Satanic and Anti-Christian subject matter. Most occult death metal bands have been trying to emulate this sound for years, but this is the original.

Quite possibly the quintessential black metal album. This album was recorded after the death of vocalist Dead and featuring Attila Csihar's chaotic vocal phrasing and shrieking. It was also recorded before the murder of guitarist Euronymous at the hands of bassist Varg Vikernes. The backstory alone makes it a frightening piece, then there is the cold music itself. This album, along with Darkthrone's above-mentioned album completely changed the course of black metal, changing the focus to simple riffs and dark atmosphere. I love to listen to this album with all the lights off during a thunderstorm at night.

The music cannot even be described, it is so off the wall strange. Portal pushes the boundaries of metal, and indeed music in general as far as possible. The riffs are chaotic, the drumming seemingly out of nowhere, and the vocals are tortured screams. Portal is one of the most original metal bands to come out in years. I cannot even tell if I enjoy their album or not, it is so strange. All I know is that I feel uneasy whenever I listen to it, and that makes it a prime candidate for this list.

Satan's Host is a unique band. They hail from Colorado and formed in the mid 1980's when they played power metal with occult lyrics. They didn't last long though and broke up. They reformed in the last few years playing a style of blackened thrash and upped the ante on their lyrics. The band is clearly Satanist and feature many invocations to Satan in their albums. This one is no exception. Musically, they are pretty good, though not as good as other blackened thrash groups, it's when they see fit to add in an atmospheric track that they really get strange.

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