What does the fall mean to you? For me, it's eating every pumpkin flavored thing in sight, watching tons of horror movies, and listening to music that flirts with (and sometimes completely dives into) the dark side. Creepy, sinister, even macabre sounds all fit in very well with this season. It gets dark earlier, there's a chill in the air, and All Hallow's Eve is on the brink. Sure, songs like "Monster Mash" are fun for the holiday, but what really gets me in the Halloween mood is stuff that makes me just a little bit uneasy when I listen to it.
Alice Cooper "This House Is Haunted"
Alice Cooper is known for drawing lots of inspiration from horror movies, whether it be during his live show (which often features props such as skeletons, fake blood, and guillotines), or in the songs themselves. "This House Is Haunted" tells the tale of the untimely death of a woman he loves. The singer claims he can not only feel the moment she dies, but can see, sit with and kiss his lost love in the house. A brilliant metaphor for how we deal with the loss of a loved one, this chilling song is one of Cooper's best.
Marilyn Manson "Sweet Dreams"
This is a perfect example of an artist taking a song they did not write and completely making it their own. The original classic "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurthymics is one of my all-time favorite songs, and usually I'm not crazy about covers of my favorites. Manson, however, did something so unique and amazing with this tune that when I hear the guitar at the beginning, I literally get chills. He took a song that had a bit of a dark vibe and twisted it into a fabulously sinister treat for the ears. By the time he starts growling the lyrics at you 3/4 of the way through, you're not even taken aback by the sound because you've fully committed to a descent into the darkness. I don't even know how to describe what you hear at the end of the song, so you'll just have to strap your headphones on and go on the ride yourself.
Manuel de Falla "Dance of Terror"
I really wanted to choose a great classical piece because there are so many that are creepy as hell that people really don't play enough around Halloween. You want to genuinely freak people out? Play some eerie classical music on a constant loop instead of those dumb "Halloween Sounds" CDs they sell at Party City. I chose this song specifically because it's very in your face. A lot of classical music I thought of for this list is more of a slow burn, staggering kind of creepy, while "Dance of Terror" just totally slaps you in the face with its screechy strings and fast paced tempo.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Red Right Hand"
It has been reported that most serial killers are charming and charismatic males, and this song dives deeply into that fact. Nick Cave slowly seduces you during "Red Right Hand" the same way a sociopath might, and if that's not unsettling, I don't know what is. Also, after the verses, there's about a minute of music that goes so many different places and uses so many different sounds that I don't even know where to begin, but it somehow all ties itself together rather brilliantly.
Danny Elfman - Sleepy Hollow Soundtrack
It was hard to think of albums that are creepy as a whole, so I decided to go with a film soundtrack. There are so many amazing horror movie soundtracks I thought of-- that's a list all its own. In the end, though, I had to go with Danny Elfman's brilliant work for Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Elfman is my favorite film composer. Play me one of his amazing compositions, and it'll bring tears, joy, fear, and a million other emotions within seconds. I almost decided to go with The Exorcist soundtrack which is absolutely fantastic (I actually find the music alone more effective than watching the film-- seriously, try to listen to "Night of the Electric Insects" or "Tubular Bells" in the dark and not freak out), but the reason I chose Elfman's music was because it's so tight and brilliantly measured. From subtly spooky tracks to pounding and abrasive frightfests, even injecting some haunted choral layers in there, he's got it all for you. If this one doesn't make you shiver, you aren't paying attention.
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
This is the hardest to describe of any of the music on this list. If you've heard it, you know how explosive and brutal it can be, and if you haven't, you can't possibly imagine. Entertainment Weekly referred it as "aural terrorism" in what was a positive review. This is dark, depressing, and relentless concept album from the brilliant (and some would say twisted) mind of Trent Reznor, which takes you on a frenzied journey through the unraveling and complete downward spiral of a man. It claws at you, clutches onto you, makes you bleed, and doesn't let go until the man's eventual violent suicide and then reflection in my favorite track on the album, "Hurt". If that's not eerie enough for you, maybe this will do it: the album was recorded at the house where the Manson Family brutally murdered Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969. Reznor also lived there for 18 months, claiming it inspired and interested him more than any other place at the time. I'm not one of the superfans that finds this album to completely flawless-- there are parts of it i'm not crazy about, but I still consider it a great record and perfect for this list. As far as albums that are sure to make you uneasy go, The Downward Spiral takes the cake.
Madonna "Bedtime Story" There are so many violent and horrifying videos I could have chosen for this. Blood, guts, death, fire, the occult... it's all been done and often times ends up banned by MTV and VH1. I decided to go with something a little more interesting and strange than flat out scary. "Bedtime Story" is artsy-fartsy creepy, done at a time where Madonna was looking to take a different direction and looked to Bjork for some help. Inspired by female surrealist painters such as Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington, this video bombards you with many different images: some are beautiful, some are odd, some are both. It always leaves me with a "what did I just watch?" feeling, but in a good way.