Good Horror Soundtracks – Good Horror Albums

Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

If you’re trying to prepare for a Halloween party, then you’ll want to check out this list of good horror soundtracks. And if you enjoy meditating on death and madness all year round, my list of good horror albums should also do the trick. From creepy concept albums to screeching violins, each selection was drawn from the darkest recesses of my twisted mind.

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Good Horror Soundtracks

Some of these soundtracks made the list due to a specific, iconic track, while others were included for their overall selection of nightmare-inducing music. Either way, they’re guaranteed to perfectly set the mood at your next Halloween party.

The Exorcist (1973) – Most of the music in The Exorcist is only heard during scene transitions, and the complete soundtrack has been released just once on CD (as a Japanese import). But none of that matters, as it’s got Tubular Bells being performed by Mike Oldfield. The perfect tune to get possessed to, Tubular Bells sold millions of copies worldwide and nabbed a Grammy for its composer. If you’re a connoisseur of good horror soundtracks and singles, this one is a must-have. Who knew bells could sound so damn creepy?

The Thing (1982) – Director John Carpenter has a long tradition of providing the soundtracks for his own films (most notably for Halloween), but this time around the bulk of the work is done by Ennio Morricone, a legendary composer with over 400 film scores to his credit. He perfectly captures the paranoid tone of the film, turning out tracks such as “Despair” and “Humanity (Part I)” that lumber along at a nail-biting pace.

Psycho (1960) – Hitchcock gave composer Bernard Herrmann a great deal of leeway when he was writing the score for this black and white horror classic, but he was adamant that the infamous shower scene murder should occur in complete silence. Fortunately for fans of both cinema and soundtracks, Herrmann ignored the request. The screeching strings and more subdued bass and cello work on “The Murder” remain instantly recognizable, and the same can also be said of “The Stairs” (which highlights the final fate of Arbogast). In fact, the entire soundtrack drips with themes of regret, dread, and all-too-sudden violence.

Suspiria (1977) – Director Dario Argento frequently collaborated with the rock band Goblin, and this tale of murder and the occult is no exception. A firm advocate of utilizing lighting and sound to enhance the mood of his films, Argento had to be pleased with the finished product for what many consider his most memorable motion picture. In the hands of Goblin (Argento also composed and conducted some tracks), Suspiria is filled with haunting whispers, desperate wails, and a maddening combination of drums and synthesizers. The film’s theme, the aptly-titled “Suspiria” is especially noteworthy, but all the other tracks are just as likely to give you nightmares.

The Crow (1994) – The days of industrial and angst-ridden alt rock have long since faded away, but that doesn’t diminish the gothic longings of this moody little soundtrack for Brandon Lee’s final film. Helmet, The Rollins Band, and Pantera lend some muscle to the proceedings, while the Stone Temple Pilots hit one out of the park with their grandiose “Big Empty.” Other notable contributions are turned in by The Cure, Machines of Loving Grace, Jane Siberry, and For Love Not Lisa. Filled with melancholy goodness from start to finish, it’s exactly the kind of soundtrack you’d imagine a mournful revenant listening to. And that’s exactly what was needed.

28 Days Later (2002) – Waking up from a coma to find that your country has been overrun by zombies would not be a pleasant experience. In fact, it would be a living nightmare where death lurks around every corner. That’s the mood of the soundtrack to 28 Days Later, especially the memorable John Murphy composition “In the House – In a Heartbeat.,” which builds to a maddening crescendo during the film’s climax. And don’t forget about “Season Song,” a standout taken from the 2002 album from British band Blue States. Gloomy and relentless, just like those infected by the Rage Virus.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – This punk rock zombie tale doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the excellent soundtrack often reflects that. Instead of creepy strings and subtle mood music, we’re treated to the deafening sounds and attitude of performers ranging from The Cramps to The Damned. If you’re the type to flip off the zombies while they’re eating your intestines, give this balls-to-the-wall soundtrack a try.

Good Horror Albums

While horror soundtracks can always be counted on to deliver a few well-placed chills, let’s not forget about all those horror-inspired albums released over the decades. Some went platinum, while others went straight to the bargain bin. But no matter what level of success they achieved, they can be counted on to deliver an eerie atmosphere and vocals that just dare you to turn off the lights.

Rob Zombie: Past, Present and Future (2003) – The former frontman for White Zombie and current horror director, Rob Zombie is a man of many talents. That’s quite evident on this greatest hits collection detailing his musical fascination for all things horror and science-fiction (his brother, by the way, is the lead singer for Powerman 5000). From career-making White Zombie hits such as “Thunder Kiss ‘65” and “More Human Than Human,” to solo efforts ranging from “Dragula” to “Never Gonna Stop,” Zombie belts out the horror-themed lyrics with a gravelly voice and reckless abandon. And wait until you’ve heard “Brickhouse 2003,” which pairs Zombie with none other than Lionel Ritchie. If that’s not terrifying, then I don’t know what is.

Abigail (1987) – An atmospheric concept album about a young 19th-century couple who move into a haunted house and fall victim to its dark past. King Diamond provides the vocals, and his unearthly high notes will stick with you for days after listening to disturbing tracks such as “Abigail” and “The Family Ghost.” King Diamond has released a number of horror-themed concept albums over the decades, but this one remains my personal favorite. If you like heavy metal by way of Denmark, give this one a listen.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976) – Progressive rockers The Alan Parsons Project made their debut with this musical retelling of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works. While some critics of the day were left scratching their heads, it remains a testament to the vision of founder Alan Parsons and the bravery with which he would approach future projects. Tracks include “A Dream Within a Dream,” “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.” Later remixed versions include Orson Welles lending narration to two tracks.

Lest We Forget: The Best Of (2004) – A collection of the greatest hits from shock rocker Marilyn Manson, as well as a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” Manson has long been inspired by performers such as Alice Cooper, and his body of work reflects this. From bombastic teen anthems to controversial tunes about incest, murder, and drug abuse, Manson’s entire gimmick is based around the world of horror. This is the perfect place to start, and I’d also recommend heading to YouTube for a look at his music videos. Standout tracks include “The Beautiful People,” “Lunchbox,” “The Dope Show,” and “This Is the New Shit.”

Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (1976) – Before artists like Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor, there was Alice Cooper. His songs may not sound especially creepy in this day and age, but the importance of his early work and its influence on future generations can’t be underestimated. On his second studio album, Alice makes an impression with such tracks as “I Never Cry,” “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” and “Go to Hell.” These are not hard-rocking tunes in the least, but they do capture a legend showing off his lyrical and musical versatility.

The Downward Spiral (1994) – Horror doesn’t always have to be about the occult and knife-wielding psychos, and this offering from Nine Inch Nails is a perfect example. A grim concept album about one man’s descent towards suicide, The Downward Spiral melds metal, techno, and industrial rock to create a horrifying look at a life collapsing in upon itself. Notable tracks include “March of the Pigs,” “Closer,” “Hurt,” and “Big Man with a Gun.” But the songs that didn’t get radio airplay are the really disturbing ones, including “Eraser” and “The Downward Spiral.” If you have emotional problems, avoid this one like the plague.

Danzig (1988) – Sounding like an evil version of Elvis, former Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig belts his way through such metal classics as “Mother.” The emphasis in on Satan and the occult, with demons and black magic frequently cropping up within the snarling shadows of Danzig’s world. It’s great fun, though, and anyone would be a fool to take the songs too seriously. Metalheads with a love for horror will undoubtedly bang their heads to tracks such as “Twist of Cain,” “Am I Demon,” and “She Rides.”

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Now that you’re better informed on the subject, click on the links above and treat yourself to some good horror albums and good horror soundtracks. Even if it’s the middle of the summer, there’s no reason not to subject yourself to a little terror. Please note that we do receive a small commission when you make a purchase through Amazon, but it adds absolutely nothing to your final price.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010 at 11:43 am and is filed under Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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