Back around October 25th, I went a little bit off the deep end on Twitter in terms of holidays with their respective timings and observations. People were complaining about there being Christmas decorations on display before Halloween, there was Halloween candy at stores in August, and clearly capitalism just continues to go unchecked to the point where holidays and seasons don’t really matter much anymore. Did they ever really matter?
That said, there were a number of Halloween related albums which were released within the synthwave scene around the end of September, and into October, but I have to admit that I just really wasn’t feeling the spirit of the season at the time. In fact, by the end of October, I decided it was best to take a month long hiatus from the internet and so I therefore celebrated “No Net November” by staying off social media. Now that I’ve returned, and have more or less gotten back on my feet in more ways than one, I’ve suddenly got that feeling back in terms of wanting to indulge in a little bit of Halloween… in December.
Honestly, I still see no problem with this and so I stick to my previously mentioned tweet; I don’t think you really need to let holidays and seasons dictate when you should and can enjoy something. We’re a couple months removed from the “spooky season” and Halloween, yes, but does that mean I shouldn’t be able to go back and enjoy something now which was meant for only then? Just as how you can eat a turkey dinner every other day of the year besides Thanksgiving, and how you should show someone you love them every other day besides Valentine’s Day, I believe that you should be able to enjoy scary synthwave music any day of the year as well; that’s what darksynth is for, no?
Anyway, here’s a fun size sampling of Halloween related synthwave albums which I enjoyed along with me comparing them to brands of candy (with no gimmick infringement intended towards OSW) just because, hey, why not?
Spooky Action from a Distance
One of the best treats to come along this past Halloween season, at least for me, was the completely unexpected and surprise release of The Horrornauts’ sophomore album entitled “Spooky Action at a Distance.” I was an immense fan of The Horrornaut’s debut album which came out two years ago, “A Night with The Horrornauts,” due to the way in which it seamlessly blended elements of both psychobilly and synthwave into something entirely unique; truly a strong case of the original whole being greater than the sum of its influential parts.
If The Horrornauts remind me of any candy it would have to be a Mallo Cup. Unlike a Reeses’ Cup, which you can find everywhere and in any form, you don’t often seen Mallo Cups all that often but that’s what makes them so special and unique. Regardless of availability, they’re still delicious in that “two great tastes that come together in order to make one thing extra delicious” kind of way too.
The most unfortunate thing about “Spooky Action at a Distance,” however, is the fact that it has completely flown under the radar. As of this writing, when were almost a couple of months removed since the initial release of said album, there’s only been two purchases: myself and See Thomas Howl, an amazing synthwave producer in their own right who made me aware of The Horrornauts in the first place. Therefore, do yourself (and me) a favor: stop sleeping on The Horrornauts and check them out right now! Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
Mischief Night EP
See Thomas Howl
Speaking of See Thomas Howl, they released their own Halloween related album in the form of the “Mischief Night EP” and it’s like if someone replaced your Cinnamon Tic Tacs with Red Hots! You technically know what you’re going to get, which is something spicy, but it ends up being dialed to eleven. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a trick, despite being named “Mischief Night,” but more like an unexpected treat as you’re getting a lot more heat than you initially anticipated.
Which is a good thing, of course, because when I say “heat” I mean the fires of hell in terms of the way these tracks are like a slow burn on your soul. There’s a maniac at work here, not unlike a slasher villain, with each track being another implement in their arsenal. Which is all to say that See Thomas Howl knows just how to sink his claws into you and then go right for the neck… or your ears? Hm.
Either way, I just love how this album starts: with a creepy narration set against unsettling sounds which one might expect from either a late night cable access horror movie marathon or some kind of grindhouse flick; its equal parts threatening yet oddly comforting. Like a handful of Red Hots, y’know what I mean? Seriously though, this is an album that I’ll most certainly revisit next year in order to help put me in the proper Halloween mood, for sure! You should too.
M OO N // MI RR OR
Not everyone can fully appreciate experimental dark chocolate, even though it’s supposedly better for you than mainstream milk chocolate, but take a chance on it and you’ll be rewarded with fluffy nougat and creamy caramel like with a Milky Way Midnight or “M OO N // MI RR OR” by neon shudder, for comparisons.
In the case of the latter, just replace “fluffy nougat” with sinister synths and “creamy caramel” with anarchic ambiance. Its not unlike walking through the woods on a dark night, the full moon looming above you, as the cold wind wisps through the trees and carries with it a handful of leaves that swirl into the air.
Each track title is actually in reference to something either horror or science fiction related (in some cases both) and it was a bit of fun to figure them out in the process. A few are a bit obvious, like “Nostromo” being a reference to the ship in Alien, “I am Tetsuo…” being a line from Akira, and “The Deadlights” being from IT; it also helps that these three tracks in particular have appropriate audio cues.
Others might be less apparent but are still equally effective regardless such as “Underworld Dreams” being a reference to a Magic: The Gathering card, “Artificial Devil” is an allusion to a character in Dorohedoro, and “Strawberry Nightmare” is featured quite often in the videos for the YouTube channel of the same name.
I’ve been told by neon shudder themselves that the song “Season of the Witch,” while it is known as the subtitle for the third film in the Halloween franchise, wasn’t really an influence as much as they just like that phrase in general.
While I do enjoy the album as a whole, I must admit that I personally love the track entitled “Time Compression.” Mostly because its a reference to an event in Final Fantasy VIII, my favorite game of all time, but also due to the fact that its an epic (in the classical sense) which clocks in at exactly seven minutes. Its the kind of song which is absolutely perfect for gazing at the moon on a cold autumn night, while you’re contemplating your place in the world and reality while surrounded by monsters, which is all rather appropriate when you consider the events of Final Fantasy VIII in general but especially in regards to the Lunar Cry.
Babies in the Bunker EP
This album is “dedicated to the children I will never have,” as Burial Grid declares on the album’s Bandcamp page, and with that it reminds me of Sour Patch Kids.
The album is indeed sour, in terms of its rather dark subject matter mixed with equally somber lyrics on top of droning and abrasive synths. Yet, in a way, its also quite sweet—perhaps bittersweet is a bit more apt of a description—in its dedication and, at times, it even displays an almost dark synth pop like nature.
Now I’ll admit that it’s also quite short, with just two original songs and an excellent cover of David Bowie, but at the same time you also can’t help but go back immediately after and experience it all over again. Which is to say that its not unlike the feeling you get when that sour taste fades into sweet and then to absolute nothingness while eating a Sour Patch Kid. So you just keep gorging yourself, all in order to run through that gamete of emotions again, to which there’s really something quite hypnotic about such a tragic and fleeting process.
I mean, Halloween comes just once a year but true horror lasts a life time.