By Hannah Wisterman
Life in Texas is hard for a few reasons. Among the difficulties Texans face is the heinous fact that we have no environmental cues to tell us when Halloween has come to town. Target sets up the costume aisle, pumpkin spice everything begins populating HEB shelves, yet the temperature stays summery and the trees resolutely hold on to their green leaves. So, it’s up to you to bring the Halloween spirit. Of course you should buy plenty of décor and start watching spooky movies, but if you really want to get in the spirit, you’ve got to have a soundtrack ready.
To immerse yourself in the creepy glory of the holiday, you could build a playlist—or you could go full tilt and find a couple of suitable albums. Listening to a whole album all the way through captivates your brain in a way that playlists sometimes fail to do, and captivating the brain is what Halloween is all about (well, and lots of other things)! Ahead are a few albums that may do just that.
Zeal and Ardor, Devil Is Fine
Despite its February release date, Devil Is Fine is so Halloween it hurts. It’s—and bear with me, this will be a wild tornado of genres—a southern gothic metal blues album, mixing slave spirituals, southern folk, a dash of electronic and heaping buckets full of aggression. Think of every horror movie or game you’ve seen about religious cults in the backwoods of the South. Then think of every classic trope relating to Satan and Satanism; then mush the two together. “A good lord is a dark one, a good lord is the one that brings the fire,” lead singer Manuel Gagneux sings in “Blood In the River” with a call-and-response choir, over a drone of a good old-fashioned metal screams and the rattle of chains (the album references slavery in the American South almost constantly). Give it a shot, even if you’re not a metalhead—the album plays with a wide variety of genres, and you may find yourself daydreaming about breaking chains and drawing pentagrams. It’s worthy of its own scary movie.
Where Devil Is Fine is a violent insurgence, Mausoleum is the unnerving dream that messes up your whole week. You may already know Myrkur, or Amalie Brunn, from a semi-viral video that circulated of her singing and playing a nyckelharpa (a traditional Swedish fiddle). What you may not know is that the girl’s got a truly demonic growl and is carrying on the Scandinavian legacy of great black metal. But, if I hadn’t told you that, listening to Mausoleum would leave you none the wiser. Mausoleum gets its name from where it was recorded: an actual historic mausoleum, where Brunn was joined by the Norwegian Girls Choir. The album is largely a choral, with occasional accompaniment on guitar and piano, and the way the girls’ voices resonate is haunting in and of itself. When you remember that they’re singing literally amongst the dead, it becomes chilling. One of the most popular tracks on the album, “Onde Børn”, translates to “Evil Children”, is an indicator of how eerie this album gets. Somehow, the Danish language in which it’s sung makes it even more haunting; for those of us who don’t speak it, it rings of magic and a time gone past. If you have any creepy rituals planned for All Hallows’ Eve, I recommend Mausoleum as your backdrop for the night.
Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss
Chelsea Wolfe dropped an album about a month ago, Hiss Spun, that’s metal-licious and heavy, but it might not be ideal for entry-level fans. Abyss precedes Hiss Spun by about two years, and carries a lot of the same themes (beautiful, cryptic lyrics, grinding instrumentals) without being quite as difficult, so to speak. Abyss is an apt name, as the album explores what it’s like to struggle and live in the void. Whether “the void” is depression or a dark cave is up to you to decide. Personally, I think it might be a bit of both. The way Wolfe often echoes her own vocals (both by repeating lyrics and with an actual echo effect) evokes loneliness and isolation. One could almost imagine Wolfe as a ghost howling in the attic. Instrumentation ranges from a lone guitar (“Maw”) to a roaring host of instruments (“Iron Moon”) with little in between, so songs either make you a little uneasy or downright scared. Whether you want to channel the hair-raising ghosts of gothic literature or a heartbroken witch who lives in the woods, Abyss more than delivers.
We’ve only presented a few albums here, but there are dozens more that might fit your personal criteria of what a Halloween album should be. Take this as a jumping-off point and amass a whole collection of spooky records for the big day—and be prepared to have the best Halloween ever.
Further listening: Andy Stott’s We Stay Together, The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation, Type O Negative’s October Rust, Dead Man’s Bones’ self titled.
Featured image via Pixabay.com.