Happy Halloween, gear mortals! We thought as a special spooky treat, we’d run down some of our favorite scary albums from a production/performance perspective. Most of the Gear Gods staff contributed to this pretty diverse list, so we hope you enjoy!
…And leave your own picks in the comments section.
The Haxan Cloak – Excavation (Max Frank, Senior Editor)
Literally the sound of nightmares. A perfect, perplexing, terrifying work.
1349 – Hellfire (Trey Xavier, Editor In Chief)
Such a terrifying album, zero fucks given as far as things like dynamics or subtlety are concerned. It sounds like I imagine hell to feel, endlessly falling through fire with only enough respite to get a perspective on how scary it is. Gives me the willies every time.
Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon (Trey Xavier, Editor In Chief)
The symphony orchestra backing the band on this album is like if Danny Elfman put on corpse paint and scored a real horror movie. It gives me chills every single time, it’s easily one of the most epic metal albums ever made, and it’s got so much spooky flavor I want to sprinkle it on my Frankenberry.
Nails – Abandon All Life (Max Frank, Senior Editor)
This album reminds me of the first time I heard Slayer and Black Sabbath. Something about the depth (and the perceived depth) of the guitar tone that producer Kurt Ballou’s Emperor cabs creates is so haunting. And of course, the abstract & creepy album art – what the hell is going on in this image?
Opeth – Blackwater Park (Maxwell McAllister, Intern)
Steven Wilson is a god! You heard it here first, people. Thanks to his production and guidance, particularly on ambient guitar layering, this album has a haunting coldness and atmosphere to it, and somehow a sterility, that feels more like I’m in a hospital room than in the bleak scene on the cover—which, frankly is way more terrifying, anyway… in the best way.
Fit For An Autopsy – Hellbound (Connor Gilkinson, Intern)
This recording blasts right past “spooky” and “creepy” and goes straight for twisted and utterly terrifying. With a subject matter covering the loss of hope to the destruction of our entire planet, the production of this album drips with hate, terror, and fear. The perfect blend of reverbs, delays, massive kick drums and face-melting guitar tones send chills down your spine, as if experiencing the inner monologue of someone entirely consumed by their own demons. Load up “Thank You Budd Dwyer” to hear this terrifying production at its peak.
Ebonylake – On The Eve of the Grimly Inventive (Zeke Ferrington, Intern)
When I think of “scary” album production album, I think of Ebonylake’s On The Eve of the Grimly Inventive.
The thing’s got this eery soundscape. Especially in the vocal production. The way those tortured moans weave across the stereo spectrum with long trailing reverb. The soft whispers, maniacal crying and nonsensical rambling peppered in the background. And it’s got this really wide dynamic range. It will move unpredictably from almost inaudible, lightly keyed piano, into a dissonant cacophony of shrieks and stabs. Like, spooky Scoob.
Katatonia – Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Chris Vinter, Intern)
Last Fair Deal Gone Down was the album in which Katatonia really managed to weld their trademark characteristics together successfully. Previous albums, although good, lacked a certain something, but LFDGD was where it really came together for them. Still gloomy and brooding like their predecessors but with a more crisp sound than anything previously heard. The overall atmosphere of the record is completely haunting and un-easy, generated by the melancholic resonance of the guitars and vocals complimented by an extremely well crafted production job.
The overall mood of the album from start to finish is definitely uneasy and menacing. The tones are disturbed and incredibly dark, however the catchiness and execution of each track brings a clearer sheen to the band’s sound. All of this is made even more poignant with its production. The guitars really cut through the mix but aren’t “clean” and nice sounding in any respect. The drums are hard and pounding throughout and well produced, yet this does not take away the overall feel that the album has multiple layers of dirt and blood beneath its fingernails. The vocals, although mostly all cleanly sung, are haunting, With an obviously strong influence from The Cure’s darker side. It is quite difficult to even call this a heavy metal album, it sounds more like pop songs put through a meat-grinder and then hung out to dry.
The artwork even looks like something out of Silent Hill and it fits the mood perfectly. The lyrics are also sinister, at one point vocalist Renske sings “We must bury you so deep that no-one can find you”, sounding even darker with its sinister sounding reverb and light distortion.
If you haven’t heard this album then I seriously recommend you check it out. it won’t make for an easy listen but it is extremely enticing and entertaining much like a horror film, it is at times hard to listen to but you can’t help but give it your full attention.
Dream Theater – Scenes from a Memory (Lucas LeCompte, Intern)
I am going to have to go with Dream Theater’s Scenes from a Memory. It was one of the best concept albums of all time and features some of John Petrucci’s best guitar tone.
Black Breath – Sentenced to Life (Max Frank, Senior Editor)
When you think that this was recorded shortly before Abandon All Life – and that in the same span of time he’d also made records with Kvelertak, High on Fire, Converge, etc etc etc – Kurt Ballou was really on quite a run between 2012-2013.
As a former Earache intern, the old HM2-based Entombed records hold a special place for me, but on Sentenced to Life, Black Breath brought the style to its ultimate realization point: punk rock attitude, Dario Argento/John Carpenter horror, Led Zeppelin/Thin Lizzy rock n’ roll grit. The quality of the HM2 tones has been kicking around in hardcore/punk since Trap Them got started, but Black Breath’s sense of melody and space played through those Kurt Ballou tones truly makes for a spooky listen.
Combined, the elements are like a green potion cooked up in a Wizard City somewhere in the Emirates.