While stores are already beginning to usher in glowing reindeer and inflatable Santas, a night of ghouls, goblins and ghosts is only just arriving. For those who have been sipping pumpkin ale and watching horror films in anticipation, Halloween night has finally arrived.
Though holiday music comes in about as many styles as Christmas sweaters, the Halloween landscape has always seemed a little sparse in terms of spooky tunes. Last year, The Oracle offered up a few new standards that deviated from Halloween classics such as “The Monster Mash” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” featuring acts ranging from Dead Man’s Bones to Will Smith. This year, Scene & Heard hopes to keep that tradition going.
The following are just a few selections that should keep any Halloween festivities appropriately spooky, and keep your Halloween spirit lit as if the ominous flame inside a jack-o-lantern.
“Night On Disco Mountain” by David Shire
While many will be suspect as to why a track off the soundtrack for the 1977 dance film “Saturday Night Fever” is worthy of a Halloween playlist, it’s important to note David Shire’s disco-influenced reworking of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” is most commonly associated with a horrifying segment of the same name from the 1940 Disney musical “Fantasia.”
In “Fantasia,” an ancient devil is awakes to release the spirits of the dead from their graves to dance to the tune of Mussorgsky’s composition into the midnight hour. However, Shire’s reworking is more likely to awake the glittering spirit of dance from listeners with his dizzying, disco-fueled spectacle.
While Shire would later go on to provide the atmospheric scores for “2001: A Space Odyssey” sequel “2010” and director David Fincher’s haunting, real-crime film “Zodiac,” “Night on Disco Mountain” perhaps remains his most macabre and enjoyable work. It’s a track that should keep things moving at any Halloween party with a zombie Tony Manero in attendance.
– Benjamin Wright
“(Every Day Is) Halloween” by Ministry
Prior to becoming an industrial metal band known for singles such as “Just One Fix,” the Al Jourgensen-led Ministry was a synth-pop outfit that produced tracks more in the vein of groups such as Depeche Mode. “(Every Day Is) Halloween,” the group’s 1984 single, is a loving tribute to the Goth culture they helped foster, accompanied by a raucous shout-out to All Hallow’s Eve.
With lyrics about the intolerant nature of others and the lack of acceptance of Ministry’s Goth subculture, lead singer Jourgensen stands up for his army of dimly dressed minions by singing, “I dress this way just to keep them at bay, because Halloween is every day.”
Despite such grim lyrics, the song is actually quite jubilant in nature, suggesting that every day should offer a chance for people to standout and be individuals free of judgment. Its synth pulses and spine-tingling sound effects sound as if “Halloween” director and composer John Carpenter became a regular member of Depeche Mode, which is why it’s right at home on any Halloween playlist.
– Benjamin Wright
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus
Sounding similar to a grown-up version of “Monster Mash,” this track by seminal English goth rockers Bauhaus hits just the right balance of spooky and catchy.
Clocking in at more than nine minutes, this too-cool-for-Edward-Cullen tune is a slow burn that builds up a spooky atmosphere with an almost danceable bass line. Sharp, abrasive scratches of guitar strings add another layer of creepy crawly playfulness.
The lyrics, which grow more and more impassioned as the song goes on, perfectly conjure up spirits of black and white vampire films of yesteryear, such as Lugosi’s iconic vampire portrayal in “Dracula.”
Tailor-made for the holiday, this song will make the perfect unexpected slow-dance selection for any Halloween party.
– Damon Lord
“Laura Palmer’s Theme” by Angelo Badalamenti
If you want a suffocating feeling of dread to permeate your Halloween, let this tune hum in the background.
With a beautifully melodramatic piano melody, this memorable selection from the soundtrack to the cult classic TV series “Twin Peaks” lures its listeners into a false sense of security.
As with a cold gust of wind, feelings of comfort are ripped from under you when the piano notes morph into one of the most oppressive synthesizer melodies ever produced. Don’t listen to this track when alone. It makes you swear someone is watching you and adds the perfect measure of menace to your day.
– Damon Lord
“Something Wicked” By British Sea Power
From the shimmering piano notes to the distant howl that opens the British Sea Power track “Something Wicked” off the group’s debut album, “The Decline of British Seapower,” it’s clear that something wicked truly is coming. The group, which hails from Brighton, England, offers a track that will evoke images of the sort of darkened hollows and leaf-strewn fields found in the pages of author Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
The track is an abrasive blast of rock that builds to a point that causes lead vocalist Scott Wilkinson to exclaim, “I’m not waiting for you.” The song could possibly be a metaphor for a volatile relationship conflict, though if Wilkinson in fact believes that something truly wicked is on the way, he seems quite fearful.
While the rest of the group’s discography isn’t quite as Halloween ready, “Something Wicked” is a rock song that mostly likely wasn’t written with the intention of becoming a Halloween playlist staple. After a few listens, it’ll be hard to convince yourself that it doesn’t give you a creepy, uneasy, yet mysteriously-freeing feeling altogether.
– Benjamin Wright