For all its countless genres and multitude of interpretations, music is the only medium where you arguably can’t have an outright horror genre. Scary films, television shows or games all rely on the visual to deliver their spooks – so where should music addicts turn their attentions for some scariness in the upcoming season? Maybe you want to move beyond the classics, and have something to squeeze in between repeats of the Monster Mash. Fear not – check out these genres, and get ready to bulk out your Halloween playlist for years to come.
Drown yourself in Southern Gothic
Composed to evoke the black bayous and claustrophobic climate of the southern United States, the Southern Gothic genre is an under-appreciated gem perfectly suited to the darker seasons of the year. By blending haunting lyrics with acoustics that wouldn’t be out of place in the background of your average horror movie, it is often all together transformative. It is a genre where songs often tells stories – stories about things lost to the river, or the grotesque deeds one might do for love. Rhythms sizzle hot, or move slope like treacle-thick, seeping black rivers. Instrumentation crackles at the edges of your consciousness, suggesting that there might be something stirring just outside your door. It’s the perfect thing to listen to alone in the dark, if you want to thoroughly creep yourself out.
Interested? Give Timber Timbre’s ‘Lay Down In The Tall Grass’, and Mirel Wagner’s ‘No Death’ a try.
From demons to the devil himself, or a good old fashioned exorcism, horror is often preoccupied with classical Biblical imagery. It has a weight to it, a resonance – because even in the form of music, there’s something a little unnerving about inviting judgement and willingly invoking a higher power. Plus, it often accompanies the deliciously devious threat of eternal damnation and boundless torture at the hands of the all powerful. That’s scary enough for you, right?
Classics to know include Johnny Cash’s ‘The Man Comes Around’, and Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’.
Come on in, make yourself uncomfortable
Maybe you’re not fancying something outright spooky. Maybe you just want to be a little bit unsettled, or a little bit on edge. Music might not be able to give you jumpscares like a horror film or show – but is excellent at leaving you with that spooky feeling that follows you home and haunts you after the lights are turned out. What’s more, music has the power to do it with both song and lyrics. For the former, you can try tracks textured with heavy distortion, guaranteed to tickle the hairs on the back of your neck. For the latter, the most insidiously uncomfortable songs are often those that seem pleasant on the surface but unnerve you the more closely you pay attention.
Try Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ for some eerie instrumentation, Sufjan Steven’s ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jr.’ for memorable lyrics, and The Magnetic Fields’ ‘A Cat Called Dionysus’ for a little of both.