As mentioned earlier this week in our roundup of albums you need to hear in October, one of our favorite discoveries for the month is the self-titled debut by Brooklyn band ERAAS. If you like your rock ‘n’ roll laden with lots of heavy percussion and spooky atmosphere, we highly recommend checking it out — it’s been on heavy rotation round Flavopill’s way of late. In view of this — and, of course, with Halloween 0n the horizon — we thought we’d round up a selection of some other genuinely spooky records that have been among our favorites over the years. Let us know if there’s anything in your collection that you think twice about playing late at night.
Snowman — Absence
When we heard the ERAAS record, it reminded us instantly of this, the third and sadly final album by excellent Australian quartet Snowman. The band always had a way with a creepy theme — their first EP was called Zombies on the Airwaves of Paris and featured a song with the memorable refrain “They’re coming through the roof!” — but this was their crowning glory, an album of goth-influenced atmospherics that was as beautiful as it was mildly disconcerting.
Xander Harris — Urban Gothic
We mentioned this last Halloween, but we still think it’s a thoroughly overlooked gem, so we’re mentioning it again. Urban Gothic plays the oft-hackneyed “soundtrack to an imaginary film” idea beautifully, creating a suite of Carpenter-esque compositions that are as creepy as they are weirdly catchy. And then, of course, there’s the song titles: “Tanned Skin Dress,” “Hatchet in the Teeth” and, um, “Fucking Eat Your Face.”
Zola Jesus — Stridulum II
Let’s be honest: she is kinda terrifying, isn’t she?
Diamanda Galas — The Litanies of Satan
Actually, no, we take it back. It’s Diamanda Galas who’s flat-out terrifying.
Guru Guru — UFO
Apart from the title track, which is whacked-out enough, this contained a song called “Der LSD March,” which gives a pretty fair idea what was going on chez Guru Guru when they recorded UFO. It’s the sound of psychedelics going very, very wrong.
HP Lovecraft — HP Lovecraft II
And speaking of dark, trippy weirdness: oh yes, there really was a band named after HP Lovecraft, and they sound pretty much like you might expect. Perfect for a quiet night in with Nyarlathotep and a few shoggoths. And a metric fuckton of acid.
The Microphones — Mount Eerie
Phil Elverum would later go on and rename his band after this album, and understandably so — this whacked-out concept album about climbing the titular mountain in search of enlightenment is pretty much the embodiment of his artistic vision. It’s also spooky as hell, especially the way it lurches from manic activity to quietly menacing near-silence.
Salem — Yes I Smoke Crack
As far as we’re concerned, Salem were better when they were less trance-y and more creepy. Their ridiculously limited-edition debut EP certainly anticipated the big sawtooth synths of “King Night” and “Asia,” but there’s a certain oppressive, lo-fi atmosphere to the music here that makes it all the more compelling. The video’s kinda freaky (and definitely NSFW), too.
The Birthday Party — Junkyard
RELEASE THE BATS!
* And yes, quibblers, we know this track was only on the CD reissue.
Fields of the Nephilim — The Nephilim
It wouldn’t be a proper list of spooky records without some goth action, so let’s finish up with genre mainstays Fields of the Nephilim. You could pick any of their records, but it’s hard to beat their classic, almost-self-titled second record — “Last Exit for the Lost,” in particular, is one of the great epics of the ’80s, built around atmospheric guitar arpeggios, mournful synths, and Carl McCoy’s sonorous voice.