I firmly believe that somewhere it is written in the horror bible (probably in fresh, dripping blood) that one is simply not allowed to talk about anything that is horror music related without also mentioning, in hushed reverent tones, the words 'John" and 'Carpenter'. The reason is simple, the influence that the greatest director within the horror genre has had is almost immeasurable (he IS the greatest, and I'll challenge anybody who disagrees to a dual with freshly caught haddock). I'm not just talking about the quality of his film work - but his contribution to the horror music soundtrack is equally undeniable.
Forced to write his own synthesiser music due to budgetary constraints in his first few movies Carpenter quickly realised the importance that music can provide. He has never been content to let a musical score simply accompany a film to fill the odd silence and occasionally add something to the overall effect. Instead his music often acted as a principle character in the story.
The likes of Assault on Precinct 13 (the music written in a staggering three day period), Halloween ( where perhaps he created arguably his most iconic piece of movie soundtrack) and Escape from New York would be far the poorer if Carpenter hadn't taken real care and passion to intimately wed the music to the cinematography itself. There are times, particularly in films such as Halloween when the musical score seems to be pushing the action along rather than the opposite way round. Moreover, much of his music stands on its own merits as listenable in its own right.
So it warms the heart to know that the legacy of horror and sci-fi music is alive and well in the work that the good people of Graveyard Calling are doing. Not only are the UK based company releasing some sublime horror themed electronic music, they are also making sure that their work ethos has an innovative attention to classy detail that I admire greatly. An example of the quality of their work is the third release from the label in the summer of 2013 “…And out come the bats”. The album was a digital-only release of a stunning compilation of 15 vampire/bat-themed tracks that transgressed a number of genres - the stand-out track for me was the magnificent Werewolves in Siberia and their performance of The House of Nosferatu though in truth there wasn't a particularly week track in the collection, each containing the now trademark excellence of production values afforded by the Graveyard Calling label.
The only thing missing was the company's innovative release of their productions in cassette format. I must admit, I'm not one for nostalgia, for me the digital download is perfect for my personal tastes and needs (hey, keep it clean!). However in my opinion, offering the choice of download or an assorted choice of out of this world cassette colours is nothing short of inspired genius. I still may at some point go searching in the dark recesses of my attic for my Sony Walkman - I know the damned thing is up there somewhere. Now who say's I'm not a follower of fashion?
So when I received an email from Tommy at Graveyard Calling and advising me in breathless hushed whispers of excitement that their fourth cassette-horror-double feature is out on February 4th, I was a little enthusiastic too. This feeling quickly turned to extreme excitement when Tommy mentioned that he thought I might like to check out the releases........ "Oh if I must " I thought, "listening to new and fresh electronic horror - let's buckle up and let the old ears indulge themselves"
And indulge myself, I most certainly did. As of yet I have only managed to listen at length to one of the releases - the album Alchemy, by the American artist, Vespar - and more of that in a moment. I hope to give a concerted listen in the near future to the 2nd release , Destination of Madness, by the Greek artist, Darknesss. Hmm, so much good music, yet so little time.
Vespar - Alchemy
4) Pumpkin King (VIP)
6) Sleep (VIP)
7) Pyramid Head (VIP)
News of the first horror-double feature was described to me as ...."Fresh from the lab- US artist Vespar brings 7 tracks of transmutated-monsterstep! Includes 2 bonus tracks!" .....
"Hmmm, I thought to myself, 'transmuted-monsterstep', truly a statement to suck me in", well almost.....because I wanted to know a little more about this artist before I gave away a chunk of my valuable time to give a listen to it - after all, I have people to do and things to see, or at least something like that. I had questions and as luck would have it, I found answers.
So who is this Vespar chap?
"Vespar is a 20 year old music producer from Pennsylvania. He makes mostly dark and heavy music based around horror related things."
So how long has he been doing his dark and heavy horror related thing?
"Well it seems that he's been making music for about 9 years now, 4 years screwing around with 8 bit and 5 years EDM."
And just what makes him do what he does?
"He simply loves anything Halloween orientated and mainly anything most people would find scary."
Don't we all mate :-) Anyhoo, enough of this nonsense, what about the actual music? I will be honest with you from the outset - I'm not an expert or aficionado of electronica. I know what I like but I can honestly say that i don't know my Theremin sounding hooks from my dub step wobs, beats and 8-bit chip tunes - so if you are expecting reverent recommendations of the complex synth riffs and booming baseline beats then you are going to be disappointed. There are people far more able and knowledgeable than me to talk about that sort of thing. Well, this is not hyperbole - but Alchemy simply blew me away. It is quite breathtaking.
The opening track, 'Slime' is a doom laden attack on the senses with it's unrelenting synth beat intermixed with periods of atmospheric calm that draw you in until the unrelenting chants of 'slime' with the deliciously persistent synth beat come at you once again - I've listened to this particular track countless times now and It remains as fresh and effective after the umpteenth play as it did the first time.
Pumpkin King (VIP) for me is the standout track of the album. The preview list contains two bonus tracks in addition to the list above, one of which is the original mix of Pumpkin King. The vision of the VIP version is as unadulterated and unrelenting as it is dark and beautiful - I'm currently listening to the track now as I write this and the feeling is quite intoxicating. One could easily set this song in some scene from gore filled horror fest or just as easily as the soundtrack for a more ethereal setting. This ensures the variations on Vespars album ethos keep the music entertaining and original throughout.
The freshness transpires throughout the album as synth effects interact easily and seamlessly with traditional piano, guitar and traditional drum samples. The original mix Bonus track of Pumpkin King is deliciously dirty and raw and the feeling of this when hearing the track is to be enveloped in the driving force of the Pumpkin dream - the perfect accompaniment for drifting away on a sea of perfect horror synth.
There isn't one weak track within the list - I cannot recommend it highly enough.
This stunning piece of musical output is going to be available on chemical-green cassette! The advice is to preorder now for instant download of "Slime"........believe me, you will not regret it!
Darknesss - Destination of Madness
Gost - Skull
Gost - S/T
Greek darkpsy artist Darknesss takes you on a psychedelic journey into hell! Each track increases in pace- I must admit that I've only had the chance to give this a fleeting listen - however I can safely say that the press releases claim that you can "feel your sanity slipping away as you get closer to the end!" is no false proclamation. It is a pulsating and relentless assault on your senses - and I mean ALL of them!
The album is packaged in a transparent cassette! So if you wish to feel your last dregs of sanity be stripped away slice by slice then I suggest that you preorder now for instant download of "Horror Visions".
And if that wasn't enough...........
The good people at Graveyard Calling advise me that also out February 4th there is the following horror themed delicacies:
This apparently is "80s-horror-soundtrack influences mixed with electro beats/basslines. Second run on whiter-than-a-bleached-skull cassette! Only 30 made! You can preorder now for instant download of all 7 tracks!".......sounds bloody good to me folks!
Gost's new EP is going to be available on white cassette! Currently available to preorder as a bundle (including an awesome t-shirt) from Gost's band camp. You can preorder for instant download of "Ritual" and "Cascade". In addition, a digital-only version will be available from Girlfriend Records........so what are you waiting for??!!
Graveyard Calling can be located at these reputable establishments...
Their website CAN BE FOUND HERE
Their Facebook page CAN BE FOUND HERE
You can tweet them HERE