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Halloween Treat Bag

Okay, it turns out that I have more Halloween music than I have time to post about, so I have decided to round up some of my favourites into one big post. If you still haven't found any good music for your Halloween activities, or you are just looking for some more, I hope that this helps you to find what you're looking for.

First up is an EP that I originally spotlighted back in the spring: Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I. This first part of the quadruple EP Ghosts I-IV is available to download for free and consists of 9 instrumental tracks that range from haunting and beautiful to loud and noisy. While not Halloween music per se, ghosts are such a common theme at this time of year that this release is nonetheless very appropriate.

Next, we'll stop by for Februus' cover of "This is Halloween", originally from Tim Burton's 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas. To me, this sounds like a great cross between the original version from the movie and Marilyn Manson's cover version from the bonus disc of the 2006 reissue of the soundtrack: the instrumentation is a gothic metal style much like Manson's version, but the variety of voices in the vocals is much more like the ensemble style of the original.

Our next stop will be Jonathan Coulton's website for a pair of songs. "Creepy Doll" is a song inspired by "various 70s horror movies that scared the hell out of [him] when [he] was a kid," and "Skullcrusher Mountain" takes us to the secret lair of a misunderstood evil genius. You'll probably meet his half-pony, half-monkey monster and his hungry wolves along the way, if his doomsday squad doesn't ignite the atmosphere first. Like most of Coulton's songs, these two are a lot of fun to listen to, so if you like what you hear, I would highly recommend checking out some more of his songs - a lot of them can be downloaded for free.

Mary Shelley Overdrive is another band that I have discovered thanks to the Free Metal Albums blog. They have two Halloween-themed EPs available from their blog: Shock Theatre and Bride of Shock Theatre (download links can be found in the right sidebar of their blog). I was initially drawn to these releases for the covers of Rob Zombie's "House of 1000 Corpses" and Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla", and after a couple of listens their version of The Misfits' "Halloween" quickly became another favourite of mine. I love the movie samples that are sprinkled throughout many of the songs. Most of the music has a punk or metal feel to it, and much of it is rather noisy, but it could make a great soundtrack for whatever you're doing this Halloween.

Ondrej Kapov De Triste's Creeps Theme is a short but very sweet release featuring the opening and closing themes for a horror movie. There is some wonderful potential here and I would love to hear what this artist could come up with for a full film score; for now, please enjoy "Emotion" and "Emotioncreep" this Halloween.

As a bonus treat, why not help yourself to some free Smashing Pumpkins music, perhaps to listen to whilst carving jack-o'-lanterns? Hundreds of their live recordings, spanning nearly two decades, are available from the Internet Archive. The Smashing Pumpkins were also one of the first artists I featured on this blog for their freely available studio album Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, which makes for an excellent listen at any time.

I hope that these last few posts have helped you to find some good music to listen to this Halloween. If you've found anything cool here or elsewhere, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Have a safe and Happy Halloween, and Happy Listening!



Album Spotlight: Silber Sounds of Halloween

Are you all ready for Halloween yet? Need some spooky music to help set the mood for whatever you'll be doing? Then Silber Sounds of Halloween, a free compilation from indie record label Silber, may be just what you're looking for. Much like the previously mentioned Calling All Fiends compilation, this is a collection of offbeat, cool, and often very creepy music that is great for establishing a Halloween mood.

The album opens with a beautifully haunting, almost Pink Floyd-like song called "The Dreaming Body" by Lycia, and is then immediately followed up with "Dawn of the Dead", a hip hop song by Peter Aldrich. This abrupt shift in styles in the first two songs alone is very indicative of the album as a whole: this compilation is not restricted to any one genre or style; you will find quiet atmospheric music, heavy metal, post rock, soundcapes, and a number of other genres. With such a broad range of styles represented, there will very likely be something that will interest you, and maybe you will find a new favourite band to follow.

A few of my personal favourites from the compilation are Rachel Goldstar's dreamy "Amsterdam"; The Wades' "Sídhe", a haunting track full of screams and whispers, all played over a slow metal groove that would not sound out of place on an old Black Sabbath album; and Cam Butler's "Does Your River Run Deep", a classical/rock hybrid which has an awesome groove. But with 30 songs and over 2 hours of music, I find myself discovering new things to like about the album every time I listen to it, and I am really looking forward to checking out some more work by many of these artists.

More information about Silber Sounds of Halloween, including links to many of the artists' own websites, can be found on the Silber Records site. The compilation itself can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Check it out, see what songs work for you, have fun listening to it, have a safe and Happy Halloween, and happy listening!



Halloween Special: Album Spotlight - Calling All Fiends

I think this is a good time to start sharing some Halloween music that I've found recently. I've found some pretty cool music and I'll try to post about as much of it as I can.  The first one I'd like to mention is a fantastic compilation from Oddio Overplay called Calling All Fiends. The premise of this compilation was to create Halloween music that is "frightening, damaging and disturbing", as an alternative to the more popular novelty songs like "Monster Mash" that typically get played at this time of year.

After a couple of listens, I would say that they certainly succeeded. This is not the kind of music I would play for my kids, thanks in no small part to all the screams, backward vocals, strange sound effects, and just plain startling and unsettling moments found throughout the album's 31 songs. However, those very qualities make it absolutely perfect for use as background music for a Halloween party, while handing out treats on Halloween, or just if you enjoy being scared and want something to help get you in the mood for Halloween.

There is a great amount of variety to be found among the songs. A quick look at the track listing on the website reveals that the album is broken up into 3 parts, each carrying its own cautionary description: the first, which encompasses more than half of the songs, is Cinematic, Soundscapes, "frightening works [which] draw the imagination into dangerous territory, risking paranoid madness"; the second, consisting of 6 songs, is Rock, Dance, "ghoulish songs [that] steal control of your body, leaving you a helpless dancing zombie"; the remaining songs are Fiendish Songs, "disturbing tunes [that] open doors into your own terrors, causing nightmares and nervous disorders."

With so many songs all fitting into such broad categories, everyone is bound to have their own favourites. Some of mine include Bureaucratica's "Southern Gothic", which is a great little story set to music that is reminiscent of Steve Earle at his very darkest; Nigel Simmons' "Devil's Candy Shop", which feels like it could be film score music; Sublinear's "Fragility", which has an excellent beat; and Jeffrey Letterly's "The Story of the Stairs", which creates a wonderfully tense atmosphere. Splogman's "Metempsychosis" deserves special mention for being perhaps the most unsettling track on the album - I find the ending of it extremely chilling.

The website for the compilation has a ton of information about both the compilation itself and the artists on it, including website links, which makes this a great way to get introduced to some new artists. It's nice to see how much care has been put into assembling this compilation.

If you're looking for Halloween music that is a little different (and perhaps a little scarier) than you're used to hearing, then Calling All Fiends may be the perfect thing for you. Go check it out, have a Happy Halloween, and happy listening as well!



Album Spotlight: Duff McKagan's Loaded - Dark Days

Lately, there has been quite a bit of attention given to Guns N' Roses. The video game Rock Band 2, which was released for the XBox 360 last month, features "Shackler's Revenge" as a playable track; this was the first time in nearly a decade that new Guns N' Roses music was officially released. The movie Body of Lies, which was just released last week, features another new song called "If the World" during its closing credits. And perhaps the biggest GNR-related news of all was the announcement last week that Chinese Democracy, the band's first album since 1993's cover album "The Spaghetti Incident?", will be released on November 23, 2008 - incidentally, this will be exactly fifteen years since "The Spaghetti Incident?" was released.

A lot has happened in those fifteen years. For one thing, the only remaining original member in Guns N' Roses is Axl Rose. The other members have long since gone their own ways and have been keeping themselves pretty busy. Take bassist Duff McKagan, for example: since leaving Guns N' Roses, McKagan has continued to find success as the bassist for Velvet Revolver. That is far from the only band he has been involved in, however. A few weeks ago, one of my favourite blogs, Free Metal Albums, posted a link to an album called Dark Days by Duff McKagan's Loaded. As a longtime GNR fan, I naturally was very curious about this album, so I decided to check it out.

I was very pleasantly surprised with what I heard. Dark Days has a sound that is strongly reminiscent of old Guns N' Roses, which is mainly rock and roll with a good dose of punk rock. Unlike his role in bands like GNR and Velvet Revolver, Duff actually takes center stage in Loaded, singing and playing bass, rhythm guitar, and piano; think of some of the songs that Duff sang lead vocals for on "The Spaghetti Incident?", like "New Rose" and "Raw Power", for an idea of what to expect. But Dark Days is far from being a rehash of old GNR ideas - songs like "Criminal" and "Misery" feature added instrumentation in the form of strings and piano, respectively, which really add a lot of depth to the sound. "Want To" has an amazing outro, and "Shallow" sounds at times like a dark version of The Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side". Album closer "Your Way" has a dark, keyboard-driven sound that is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter".  The entire album has a surprising  amount of depth, and I find myself hearing new things everytime I listen to it.

Whether you're a long time Guns N' Roses fan, a newcomer to the band, or just someone who likes to hear a good, hard rocking record every once in a while, I can't recommend Dark Days highly enough. It makes for some great music to listen to while we count down the remaining few weeks to one of the most highly anticipated albums of all time. If you are at all intrigued by any of this, please head over to the Loaded page at Idol Management to download a free copy of Dark Days.

Happy listening!



Album Spotlight: Marillion - Happiness is the Road

My interest in Marillion began about ten years ago, and they very quickly became one of my favourite bands. But as much as I love them, I have to admit that I haven't actually kept up with them lately: the last album I actually purchased was the special edition of 2001's Anoraknophobia, and while I have heard the bulk of their recent material, it hasn't yet found a place in my CD collection. Part of the reason for that is the fact that it been very difficult, if not impossible, to find their albums where I have lived, leaving rather expensive special orders as the only option for obtaining them.

Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I learned of the innovative way in which Marillion have made their latest album available. The official release date for Happiness is the Road is October 20, 2008, but a digital copy of the album has been available for free from for the last nearly a month now; all that is required to obtain the tracks is an email address. Marillion have essentially leaked the album themselves, but in a manner that gives them much more control than they would have over a normal leak - videos and messages embedded within the files themselves let the listener know about the hard work that went into making this music, direct them to the band's website, and urge them to support the band in any way they can. For a band that has become known for making bold moves (for example, being one of the first bands to utilize the power of the Internet to communicate directly with their fans, and funding the recording of their last few albums from fan pre-orders), this one seems to be exceptionally bold indeed, and it will take some time before its impact will be fully known. At the very least, it has allowed new Marillion music to find itself in heavy rotation in my playlists for the first time in years, and I am doing my part to let others know about it as well.

So, how about the music? I think that anyone familiar with at least some of Marillion's music will feel quite comfortable listening to Happiness is the Road, and anyone who hasn't heard them before may find themselves pleasantly surprised by it. Of the two discs, I have found the first (titled Volume 1: Essence) to be more immediately accessible than the second (titled Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder), although the latter has been growing on me after repeated listens. Some of my favourite songs from Essence are "This Train Is My Life", which has a classic mini-epic sound reminiscent of past Marillion songs like "Afraid of Sunlight"; "Woke Up", which has a beautiful, slow, dreamy sound with gorgeous layered vocals; "Liquidity", a short but very pretty piano-based instrumental; and "Wrapped Up in Time", which has a beautiful, chilled out feel to it. The Hard Shoulder has a pair of excellent pop songs in "Half the World" and the first single, "Whatever is Wrong with You" and an excellent, epic outro in "Real Tears for Sale".

Overall, I am very pleased with Happiness is the Road. It's wonderful to hear some new music from one of my favourite bands, and it's exciting to see that the band is trying new things in order to reach new fans and reconnect with old fans. I can't recommend this album highly enough, so if you're still reading this, I would urge you to head on over to and begin downloading, as it will take some time to obtain all of the tracks. If you like what you hear, then please support the band in any way that you can, whether that means buying a physical copy of the album, buying a concert ticket, helping them to reach more potential fans, or whatever else you can do. Please leave a comment here if you feel so inclined, as I would love to know what people think of this music.

Happy listening!