In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve compiled a list of some albums that I have found genuinely disturbing at points. I’m sure there are many I’ve missed but these albums wouldn’t be absent from my rotation around Halloween! (in no particular order)
The Fall – Bend Sinister (1986)
Named after a dystopian novel by Vladimir Nabokov, this album sets the The Fall in a dark place – it actually got mastered at a speed slower than intended which resulted in a ghastly and, pardon the pun, sinister, sound. The album is sludgy and slow-moving but the suspense is invigorating and the tones are haunting. One of my favorite Fall albums.
Gravediggaz – 6 Feet Deep (1994) – Perhaps the most interesting RZA side project, this album is also the least disturbing on the list. As an auditory experience, it’s not too uncomfortable but by the time RZA starts rapping about being nailed to a cross and chewing his arm off to escape, it’s hard not to become a little unsettled.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral (1994) – Another 1994 album, this was Nine Inch Nails’ (Trent Reznor’s) masterpiece. They never topped this. The album is so good that Johnny Cash felt it necessary to cover the last song on the album, “Hurt”. A very moving experience of a man descending into the darkest places of the human conscience. Cathartic, depressing, exhilarating, and simply unforgettable.
The Sound – From The Lion’s Mouth (1981) – The second album from a very underrated post-punk band, this album is story of human suffering and human resilience. Never completely crafting their own identity, the Sound went under the radar, but this album deserves to be heard. A mellow, reverb filled synth ride along the neural pathways which we exile to our subconscious. Similarly to Ian Curtis, the lead singer of this band met a gruesome end. You’ll have to look it up if you’re interested.
Joy Division – Closer (1980) – I do not like this album more than their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, but I have a much more difficult time listening to it. The tribal opening track “Atrocity Exhibition” is somehow the most upbeat song here. By the time the second half of the record kicks in, its completely tangible the kind of despair lead-singer Ian Curtis was feeling at the time. This would be the last studio album he recorded before he committed suicide by hanging.
Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible (1994) – I’ve sang the praises of this album so many times that I really don’t need to repeat myself. An album borne of depression, addiction, self-mutilation, and hopelessness, the subject matter includes prostitution, WW2, anorexia, drug addiction and the death penalty. The lead lyricist and guitarist, Richy Edwards, mysteriously went missing a few months after the album was released. It is theorized that he jumped off a bridge but a body has never been recovered. He was declared officially dead 12 years later. For a more in-depth look at this album, check out my review here.
Dalek – Absence (2005) – I really don’t know how to describe this one so I won’t. It’s “abstract hip-hop” (supposedly), but it sounds like something you’d hear in a nightmare. Look it up and judge for yourself.
Brotha Lynch Hung – Mannibalector (2013) – This guy is a veteran horror-core rapper and I don’t care what anyone says, this is his best work yet. His rapping is spot on and he flows like a madman. He’s like a mix of Tech9 and Bushwick Bill. The album is part of a concept-trilogy revolving around a cannibal/serial-killer/rapper. That about says it all. An excellent album.
The Cure – Pornography (1982) – Their fourth album and part of their “dark trilogy”, this particular album marks the absolute dirgiest and darkest form this band every materialized in. An absolutely difficult album to listen to – it’s also a post-punk masterstroke. For God’s sake, the first lyrics in the album are – “It doesn’t matter if we all die” – and it just gets worse from there.
Honorable Mentions: Portishead – Portishead (1997), Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped (1991), Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box (1979), The Pop Group – Y (1979)
If you haven’t heard these albums, check them out! From all the folks at WPCR, have a fun and safe Halloween everyone!