published: 29 /
In his new series 'Bandcamp Explorer' Mark Rowland reviews some of the spooky genres on Bandcamp.
We’re in the month of Halloween, so it’s time to get spooky. I’d say we’re doing something different with this column, but, given how new this column is, it’s probably more reflective of my inability to establish solid parameters.
This month, I’ve delved into the ‘spookiest’ genres on Bandcamp to find an interesting release in each one. I’ve been looking for albums and EPs that capture the spirit of Halloween – creepy, disorienting, gloomy, menacing and of course, fun.
Of course, traditionally the spookiest genre (or at least the gloomiest) is goth. Goth has, to an extent, transcended the tropes that established the genre in the early 80s. Now, we have goth metal, goth folk, goth EDM, and the list goes on. I’ve selected an untitled EP of gothic shoegaze twang by Denver’s Dormition, which pairs some of goth’s original sounds with a Western dustbowl feel and a few bursts of Kevin Shields’-style noise. The EP has been almost twenty years in the making – the band started recording it in 2001, but the original tracks were lost when the computer they were stored on crashed. It’s a lovely piece of work, and listening to it brings to mind images of sad cowboys trying not to cry into their drinks. To add to the spookiness, imagine they’re crying about vampires.
Onto a more modern genre – or genres, as this next release touches on all of the spooky dance/electronic genres: witch house, darkwave and darktrap. I couldn’t actually tell you the difference between these genres as I’m a little out of the loop with my dance subgenres. Anyway, Dazzling Malicious, based in Aachen, Germany, has made an excellent album of brooding, oppressive tunes on ‘The Ghos† Cat & The Witch Høuse’. Mr Malicious builds menace through lumbering, disorienting bass, sparse drums and sinister synth lines. At times, it builds ambient noise, at others, such as ‘flight of the amygdala’ it hits as hard as most metal. The release also comes with additional remixes; as always some are better than others, but they’re a nice bonus.
Speaking of metal, what spooky list would be complete without a dip into the most horror-friendly of genres? Of course, we have to go for metal at its scariest/most ridiculous, so only black metal will do. The subgenre has moved on quite considerably from the idiotic and dangerous Norwegian second wave that established much of its tropes. Bands are more willing to experiment with its form and mix it with other genres – see Deafheaven, Zeal and Ardor and many more. All of this pisses off the black metal traditionalists, so should be celebrated. Serpent Column are certainly on the more experimental side with their album ‘Kathodos’. Challenging, math-rocky riffs and time signatures rub shoulders with the blast beats, screeching vocals and lightning-fast, trebly guitar you’d expect from black metal. It’s atmospheric and disorienting. Sometimes, such as on ‘Night of Absence’, it feels very much like a film score. At others, it pummels you ‘round the ears. It even throws in a bit of drone on the nine-minute ‘Desertification’. It’s an exhilarating listen.
Let’s dip into some real 80's horror soundtrack territory with the synthwave genre, which is pretty much all about recreating old synth soundtracks. Hobb’s End, another Denver act. Paulie Lipman, the man behind the project, is all about recreating the feel of 80's horror movie soundtracks. ‘Blood on the VCR’ is six tracks of spooky synth that brings to mind the campy, OTT fun of the horror of that decade, from ‘Halloween’-style plinks and swirling synth strings. It very much sticks to its brief, so don’t expect it to take any lurches into any other decade, but it does what it does well. A nice little slice of aural nostalgia.
Punk is pushing it as a spooky genre, but you know it had the Misfits, the Damned and The Cramps, so it’s at least horror adjacent. Dummy Toys, an all-female band from Qingdao, China, made the grade as they had come Cramps-style artwork and a song called ‘I’m A Zombie’. They mostly play hardcore punk of a similar style to bands such as Black Flag, and they play ferociously. ‘Adespota Thing’ is them at their best ‘full-on hardcore’, but they do push the envelope too – ‘Anti Sweet Girl’ sounds like the Slits playing Minor Threat’s instruments – great fun.