Ten creepy and scary albums from 10 different genres
How does something like music have the ability to be terrifying?
Music is subjective, so the emotions it can bring out varies from person to person. But what specific characteristics does a composition, or sound in general, have to possess in order to evoke fear?
“Dissonance” is probably the most agreed-upon answer to this question, which leads many people to assume that genres defined by harshness are the only ones capable of being scary.
The goal of the following list is to disprove that idea and show that any genre of music can spook your pants off depending on how it’s made. So without further ado, here are 10 creepy and scary albums from 10 different genres.
James Ferraro – “NYC, Hell 3:00AM”
Genre: Alternative R&B
Although mostly known for his innovations in the vaporwave genre, James Ferraro is constantly tinkering with different sounds. The ominous tone of this R&B album stems from its collage-style production, industrial, dark ambient soundscapes and Ferraro’s purposefully off-time, shoddily mixed vocal delivery.
Comus – “First Utterance”
Genre: Freak Folk
On its celebrated debut album, Comus provided the world with some of the most manic, unhinged and bizarre folk music the world had ever heard. The energy of the band’s eccentric performances, paired with the album’s dark lyrics give the music a suffocating and overwhelming level of intensity.
John Coltrane – “Om”
Genre: Free Jazz
“Om,” released in 1968, is one of the strangest albums John Coltrane ever recorded. His unending improvisations almost sound violent, which is odd considering how the themes of the album are very spiritual. Though likely unintentional, the chanting and shrieks of agony from Coltrane’s saxophone make for a truly unsettling listen.
Dälek – “Absence”
Genre: Abstract Hip Hop
No other artist in hip-hop makes music the way Dälek does. Influenced by genres as diverse as shoegaze, noise, drone, dark ambient and industrial, the production on “Absence” is a caustic amalgamation of distorted grit. It transforms the album’s boom bap beats into a nightmarish sonic terrain straight out of a decaying dystopian world.
Racebannon – “In the Grips of the Light”
Both mathcore and screamo are such inconsistent genres that it is easy for any band of either to turn heads, but Racebannon has always taken things to a level all its own. On this record, discordant playing meets amplified noise for a chaotic sound that’s supplemented by rambling lead vocals.
The Knife – “Shaking the Habitual”
The Knife’s music always had its share of eccentricities, but nobody expected the duo to embrace these as fully as they did on this 2013 double album. A 19-minute drone track and a 10-minute song comprised of deep moaning and creaking machinery stand in stark contrast to the album’s few danceable cuts.
Throbbing Gristle – “D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle”
Though this was only its second album at the time, by the time “D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle” was released in 1978, Throbbing Gristle were already noted for creating some of the most disturbing music ever. The heavily processed vocals are as cold and mechanical as the sparse and rippling instrumentation of each track. Definitely something that will have one looking over their shoulder.
Diamanda Galás – “Plague Mass”
Genre: Spoken Word
This live album is largely vocal-based, as long sections of the performance are a cappella and spoken word, and the presence of instruments throughout is minimal to begin with. Diamanda Galás sounds utterly possessed as she performs howling scat vocals and hysterically wails in the style of opera.
Swans – “Public Castration Is a Good Idea”
The heaviest album of all time and it’s not even metal. Swans stripped their sound down to its most primal essence for these live performances, showcasing repetitious guitars that mercilessly pummel listeners into the ground and Michael Gira’s nearly inhuman growls, in which he condemns society for its greed.
The Conet Project – “Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations”
Genre: Field Recordings
This is an almost five-hour compilation of recordings of mysterious radio stations believed to have been used by governments to communicate with spies. The recordings all have very rough audio quality and open with insanely eerie chimes and music box jingles before robotic voices say a series of numbers. I personally find this to be the creepiest album ever because of the fact that these stations are actually real, and some can even still be tuned into all these years later.
Alexander Beebe can be reached at email@example.com.