Nov 29 2016

6’+ Episode 196 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“It’s time to grin and bear it — as Six Foot Plus comes back from the dead with an episode that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Or not. Strange Jason delivers a soliloquy on the severity of a smile, while Monstter Matt Patterson leaves his victims chuckling with a MONSTERMATT MINUTE. Kraig Khaos gives everyone a real reason to beam brightly with another KILLER KUT. All this and horror rock music from X RAY CAT TRIO, BEAT DEVILS, THE TSUNAMIBOTS and more.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Nov 24 2016

A Fangsgiving Comic

fangsgivingcomic

The above comic by Elmer Andrews Bushnell originally appeared with the caption “The Spirits of Halloween Are Abroad” when it was published in the Cincinnati Times-Star and Cartoons Magazine. Sadly, the text looked too awful to use when I tried posting a direct scan of it.

Although Cartoons Magazine included it in their “Golden October” section, I think the use of “abroad” implies the action of the comic is happening in a different month. It’s hard to say, given how Halloween traditions and November were often mixed together in those days. I hope to have an article ready this time next year which looks at the reasons for this. But until then…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 08 2016

Movie Review: The Grapes of Death (1978) Les Raisins De La Mort

Grapes_of_death_poster_02Zombos Says:
Have a glass of wine instead.

Seriously, have a glass or two of wine instead of seeing this movie. French directors (that would be Jean Rollin in this case) often have trouble handling the subtleties of horror and science fiction; namely that there are no subtleties.

Instead of a clean and clear message delivered through visual and visceral tension and terror, they'll pause the camera on a scene until it's threadbare, insist their characters prattle on and on with soul-searching ruminations, and then have them make interminable philosophical arguments about their predicament, stalling everyone in place while the pace unfolding around them screams for celerity and action. Of course, when you get to movies like In My Skin, the scale tips well past the clean and clear measure and goes sailing out the window, but that's another discussion entirely. Just recall Alien: Resurrection and you will get my drift.

Here are my review notes in lieu of a more polished review. This movie is simply not worth more of my time or effort beyond compelling you, with sufficient information, to make your own judgement on whether to watch it or not. But if you watch it your crazy. 

Review Notes for The Grapes of Death:

(Misc. Notes: Interesting, the IMdB lists a 6.2 rating on this. Wonder what their reviewers are smoking. Wait, they even rate 6.3 for Alien: Resurrection. Must be good stuff. Don't forget to mention the poster art comes from drfreex.com).

Opening beat on worker being overcome from pesticide used on wine grapes. Told to suck it up and get back to work. He does. Foreshadowing trouble to come. Next opening beat on two young woman traveling on empty train to countryside. They are friends. They talk a lot. Comment on how freaky it is traveling with no one else aboard (aside from the conductor, I guess). No attendants, either (budget saver). They stop at one village. Silent guy boards train. What's wrong with him? He's leering. Right. He's infected. Silent, now violent, guy kills one girl, goes to sit in the car with the other.

Takes a long time for Elizabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal) to notice he's the silent, leering, crazy type. He starts oozing–what the hell, is that grape juice? Cheesy effects here we come. Great. Finally she gets the message. She runs to find her friend. Finds her mauled to death in the loo (could get fancy here and say train de salle de bains). Elizabeth stops train and runs away.

And keeps running for a long while.

(Note: drawn out sequence here; too much time between  beats. French directors do that a lot. Unless it's about chocolate, food, or sex, they can't handle down time well.) Good cinematography of countryside (or is it good countryside lends itself to photography?)

She enters cottage, sees man and woman by the dinner table, pleads with them to help her, must call the police, etc. She's hysterical, yelling, she needs to phone cops, he pores a glass of wine for her. Woman standing by him is immobile. What's up? Oh, right, the guy has some creepy looking plastic makeup on his–I mean rotting flesh–showing. He's infected, too.

Extreme, and unnecessary, close ups splice back and forth between her face and their's. She's told to calm down and stay, rest awhile. Sure. She heads upstairs to find a comfy bed. Conveniently open door leads to finding a body in a room. She pulls the sheet away, finds woman with throat cut open. Guy's daughter tells Elizabeth he's insane, killed mom. Right. Kind of caught that before she headed upstairs. Erratic beat here. Can we get on with it? Every scene is lingered over too much, ruining the pacing. Were we that obtuse in 1978?

Finally, he acts violently and kills his daughter with a pitchfork. He makes sure to rip open her blouse first to show her ample breasts. Country living I suspect. She was also infected. Interesting. So story point is men and women are infected differently. Also explains why he didn't kill his daughter before then. Only kills her now because she's helping Elizabeth escape?

But then he regrets killing his family. Elizabeth runs for it. To the car. He stops in front of the car and insists she finish him off. She does, after thinking it over. A lot. She rams the dinky car into him. (Note: dinky cars ramming into people is unintentionally funny.) She drives around. Comes across another crazy guy, stops long enough for him to thump his head through her side window again and again and again. Long take closeup of his rubber appliance–I mean weeping sores from his infection. She shoots him dead. (Crap, where'd she pick up the gun(?). It had to be in the farmhouse she drove away from. How'd I miss it? After crashing his head into her side window the dinky car won't start. Sure, that makes sense.

She's on foot again and walking around (no budget for gas?). And walking around a lot (before the next beat kicks in.) Wait, now she's running. Waiting for that damn beat!

A twig snaps, she pulls out her gun, a woman comes stumbling towards her, arms outstretched in front. The woman is blind. Seems okay and not infected. Lucie (Mirella Rancelot) has been going around and around since the morning. Elizabeth and Lucie now stroll toward the village, chatting, arm in arm. They take the long way around.

(Finally, the next beat kicks in. This movie screams "edit me!")

They come across a dead guy, then a lot of dead guys. Lots of time spent walking through the carnage of dead guys. Lucie keeps insisting on knowing what's happened. Elizabeth doesn't tell her. Not sure why. Lucie starts screaming "Luca," looking for him, but then they're walking again.

(Note: I don't think there was this much walking in the Lord of the Rings movies, combined.)

Both women hugging each other now as they walk. Finally, they find Lucie's house. Where's Lucas (Paul Bisciglia)?  If Lucie pores a glass of wine for Elizabeth I'm going to–wait, Lucas shows up, not looking too good. More infected people show up. They're not looking so good, either. Whole village must be wine drinkers. Lucie stumbles off on her own, Elizabeth pulls out her gun and loads it. (Wait. Where'd she get more bullets? Crap! I thought I was paying attention.)

Lucie, now walking, with villagers descending on her. Pretty creepy scene. She keeps calling for Lucas. More close-ups of zombiefied faces. Lucie tells them to go away, thinking they're there to make fun of her. They don't (go away or make fun of her). She starts walking again, through them.

Let's see how long this takes before the next beat kicks in. Rollin's going for a record here, I know it.

Lucas finds her. He's all weird, starts drooling and laughing. And promptly strangles her with a rope as the villagers watch. Lucie's screams don't prompt much urgency from Elizabeth. She does manage to shoot one villager, though, then finds Lucie nailed, topless of course, to a farmhouse door.

Lucas brandishes axe. Really bad special effect of Lucie's fake head being chopped off her blatantly obvious dummy body ensues–in close-ups, and Lucas carries the head around by its long hair. (Note: Wait a mo, when did Romero do The Crazies? Right, 1973. Rollin must have seen it. This whole rabid village thing is a lot like The Crazies in spirit.)

Lucas chases Elizabeth, head in hand. Villagers stagger after them. She runs away. Again. Then she's pulled into a house by a blond bombshell. (Note: It's Brigitte Lahaie the porn actress!) They sit on a couch and chat away. Lahaie pores Elizabeth a drink, too. Can't beat that country hospitality.

And they chat some more.

We are told the house's owners are dead, but she had the key, so the house is hers now. Good foreshadowing as to who may have killed them. Really subtle. Hint, hint. Lahaie says the villagers try to get in every night but they can't (that scenario sounds familiar? –yes, Vincent' Price's The Last Man on Earth). Then she changes clothes so they can go out to find safety. Say what? If the villagers can't get in, they were safe inside weren't they?

And Lahaie's acting pretty weird; enough to connect the dots for us, but Elizabeth remains clueless. I sense more running in her future.

Lahaie tricks Elizabeth and the villagers come around. Wow, didn't see that coming. More close-ups of badly made up infected faces. Lots of prolonged hysterics. Lots of villagers-mingling-around shots to fill time between beats.

La grande femme blonde (as Brigitte "Lahaye" is noted in the credits) soon carries a large torch and holds onto two mean-looking dogs (so what's Rollin implying here?). More annoying closeups fill time until two guys can drive up in their truck with rifles and dynamite. 

Yes! –I mean, of course Rollin has her disrobe to show the two guys she's not infected. How could Rollin not let Lahaye (nee Lahaie) showcase her assets to the fullest?

More running ensues as Elizabeth escapes while the two guys get an eyeful. And more close-ups of faces ogling through their infections wastes camera time. Elizabeth returns with the torch, but not the dogs, gets too close to Lahaye, and they start fighting. The two guys almost shoot her, but realize she's not infected and Lahaye is the crazy one. Lahaye grabs the torch and blows up the truck and herself.

Which leaves us with the two guys and Elizabeth walking. Again.

(Note: mention the really annoyingly inappropriate score to this movie while they walk. A monkey with a zither could do better.)

Daylight. They pause for a long chatty rest. Continue walking, do some climbing, then chat some more about needing a pint of beer, realize they just missed the New Wine Festival (could definitely use the Song of the New Wine from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man to liven this turkey up), argue over military bases and nuke plants, and politics (I swear to god this is torture to listen to), and who should carry the lone rifle they have. Obviously Elizabeth should, since she can shoot well and produce bullets when needed. And she looked like such a dainty little thing, too. Go figure.

They finally arrive at a farmhouse. One guy makes a phone call while the other plunders the larder and pulls out the food. Ah, French movies. The two guys drink wine (guess they missed the memo about the tainted wine?) and argue a lot, then agree to disagree. She leaves to stagger around outside. She staggers into the barn. Staggers up the barn stairs. Conveniently finds her friend, Lucien (Serge Marquand), hanging out in the barn. Seems a bit abrupt to have him just appear.

He's infected. They talk about it. He created the pesticide that's killing everybody. They talk about that. He's feeling equally guilty and homicidal. She gets closer to her boyfriend and hugs him, infected warts and all. Ah, the French and true love.

The two guys stop arguing and realize Elizabeth had left. They go looking for her. One of them shoots Lucien dead. She then shoots the two guys dead. One last, long, closeup of blood dripping onto her face as the credits roll. My guess is she became infected, too. The end.

Like I said, just open a bottle and have at it. Forget this one, unless you like smelly cheese with your wine.

This article originally appeared at From Zombos’ Closet.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

Oct 31 2016

6’+ Episode 195 (The 2016 Halloween Special) is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“Happy Halloween! Strange Jason and the Intern go costume shopping, but only find something horrible is happening to all those buying a certain type of outfit. Throw in MONSTERMATT PATTERSON, IGOR, EK THE GHOUL (from PHANTOM CREEP RADIO) and KRAIG KHAOS (of Uncommon Interests) and things get downright frightening! There’s plenty of Halloween music to get you into the spirit of things so tune in and celebrate!”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Oct 31 2016

Howie’s Haunted Halloween Nightmare

Remember that cartoon from a few years back that parts of the internet were raving about? The one with animation which payed homage to the style popularized in the 30’s? No, not Over the Garden Wall. The title of this article should have been a dead giveaway to what I’m talking about. All kidding aside, I completely missed out on showing you all Howie’s Haunted Halloween Nightmare and it’s high time I made things right. So here it is, direct from Ethan Black:

Mr. Black created this as part of a school project and took him eight months to complete! But he didn’t just copy the animation style of classic cartoons and call it a day. The setup, gags and ending will please any animation aficionado familiar with the cartoons of the period. It even went the extra mile of being based around a (then) popular song. In this case, it’s “Bogey Wail” by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra.

Happy Halloween!

Oct 30 2016

It Came From Wikipedia IX

Blood Bath has the most convoluted production history I have ever seen.

I had no idea “twilight zone” is an actual scientific term. If you think that’s interesting, wait until you see the sheer amount of authorized fiction associated with Twilight Zone and the 1994 TV movie Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics.

Speaking of American horror television series, the movie House of Dark Shadows was originally going to be a feature length edit of several episodes from the series with some new footage thrown in for good measure!

A movie called Zadar! Cow From Hell actually exists. Need I say more?

This is probably going to be old news to some of you, but it’s worth repeating: There’s a movie pitting the ghost from The Ring against the spirit from The Grudge. Oh, and it also turns out Spike Lee did a remake of Ganja & Hess.

How have I gone so long without paying tribute to the legendary “Grave Digger” monster truck?

After you’re done reading up on all the video games based on Jaws, you can learn all about the Jaws board game.

There is a Wikipedia entry for the classic ThrillerVideo line of VHS releases. Awesome!

The story behind the creation of Varan the Unbelievable is truly fascinating. If you ever wondered by Varan is referred to as “Obaki” in it, you have to real this! Speaking of daikaiju, “Snapper” from Transformers: Beast Wars has a Gamera connection!

Wikipedia has lots of lists to browse through. In addition to the list of horror films, there’s also a category devoted to American horror films, a list of horror films by year, a list of films considered the worst and all the movies made by Full Moon.

Oct 29 2016

Tricks and Treats VII

lampshade

Wondering what this article’s illustration is supposed to represent? It’s a “Jack-o’-Lantern Lamp Shade” and it’s very easy to make if you want one for yourself.

Other fun vintage projects include the “Witch Wheel” (just be sure to use a light source that’s safer than candles) and little decorative pumpkins made from dough. “Cornstarch Play Dough,” to be specific.

For more modern Halloween projects, why not try making “Duct Tape Candy Corn Cuties,” or a black cat lawn decoration? These “Gory Hand Salad Tongs” make for a great way to serve candy and can be easily made with stuff found at your local dollar store.

Those craving more realistic fare will appreciate the tombstone templates available from Hedstorm Productions. Adding fake lichen to your tombstones will also add to the effect. If you want to use your finished project in a homemade horror movie, head over to wikiHow for some handy hints.

A “Spooky Floating Cheesecloth Ghost” can be as realistic or as cute as you want it to be. I have even seen people make life size and sitting versions of them! No matter what style you choose, I think we can agree it would go great coupled with a séance table.

Looking for fun paper projects? Dribbble is offering the “Wilbur the Worm and his Skull” puppet and Man Made DIY shows us how to fold an origami skeleton hand.

Amazon’s preview for Halloween Party Ghost Effects by Charlie Henley has instructions on how to turn your bathroom into a small haunted attraction!

Facebook has a printable The Black Scorpion mask and a Halloween bottle opener complete with a magnetic lid catcher!

YouTube and eBay both offer ways to get free foam for your prop projects and Scare Season has some great freebies available in addition to their haunted attraction reviews.

Finally, I want to point out how Head Injury Theater had a “Horror Alphabet” long before The ABCs of Death films ever got made.

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on those sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 28 2016

Quick Makeup Tips and Costume Ideas II

paperbagmasks

I want to discuss a few things before I get to the main subject of this article. It turns out my first article on this subject had a lot of broken links. I have since fixed everything and threw in some new material to make up for it. Also, the “Quick” in the title is a reference to this being a short collection of links and not a reference to being exclusively easy last minute ideas. Some of this stuff is going to take a long time, but the results will be worth it.

If you need some inspiration or instructions for last minute costumes, Pinterest and Instructables have the perfect guides for you. I’ve got plenty of good last minute ideas too. You can wear a cooking pot on your head and go out as a pothead! Put two bandages on your neck to transform yourself into a vampire’s victim! Do you want to dress as Michael Myers but don’t have the time or money to get the necessary accessories? Turn an old white bed sheet into the classic ghost costume, throw on some glasses and you’ll be instantly recognizable as the costume he wore during one of the classic kills from the original Halloween. You can even carry around a prop butcher knife if you want to make sure everyone will get the reference. Next year you can cut a bunch of holes in it, remove the glasses and go as Charlie Brown! A bag with a rock in it is optional. When in doubt, there’s always the handy newspaper hat.

Paper bag masks are a quick and easy costume idea and one of the benefits is how you can easily customize the size of the eye holes. If you want to make one like the masks in the above photograph, you can use some of the silhouettes I recently shared.

The Home Haunters Facebook page has plenty of costume tutorials and gory makeup effects. HauntProject also has some great stuff about makeup and distressing clothing.

If that last subject is of interest to you, then you should check out Screaming Scarecrow’s “A Few New Tricks For Ye Ol’ Top Hat.”

Ghoul Skool lives up to its name with its tips on spooky makeup and easily made costumes. The same can be said for Monster Tutorials, which includes tutorials on making fake maggots for wounds and holes in human flesh (among many other tips). Kinkx has another method of making maggots, along with tons of makeup tips.

Curiomira shows use how you can make something impressive without spending a lot of money with their deamon costume. Similarly, Field & Stream shows how to make a great ghille suit on the cheap. Can you say “swamp monster?” I can! Speaking of Halloween costumes which would also work in a haunted attraction, check out the “Jar Head” costume from Thirty Handmade Days.

Let’s get gross with the next collection of links. Jonathan Quijano’s Make Your Own Horror Movie shows how to become a gruesome zombie, 100% Pure Fake by Lyn Thomas shows how to make a fake blister and rotting skin, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crafts with Kids by Georgene Lockwood demonstrates how to make easy scars and wounds while Haunting on a Halloween: Frightful Activities for Kids by Linda White and Fran Lee covers warts and scabs.

I Love Halloween has lots of great makeup and costume tutorials, like the on their fingernail art ideas on their main site and the cupcake costume on their official Facebook page. LittleThings.com also has some great Halloween makeup ideas.

Finally, here are some old articles with more information about easy costume accessories:

Make A Mask
How To Make A Freddy Krueger Glove
Printable Halloween Décor III

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on those sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 27 2016

Free Printable Halloween Window Silhouettes II

witchsilhouette

Has it really been three years since I last shared a collection of spooky silhouettes with you all? Time sure does fly!

Let’s start off with the image illustrating this post. You get your choice of the more cleaned up version above and the larger (but less than pristine) original version. You can get several more silhouettes from the same source, albeit in a much smaller size. You can consult with your local copy shop about just how large you can get those blown up to. Searching through vintage sources has also lead to me find a Halloween brownie stencil and some other images which could be converted into window decor with a little work. The same can be said for the silhouettes intended for a Halloween lantern project. Jinxed-Deviantart’s “Flying Bat Tutorial” can also be used to create window silhouettes.

Better Homes and Gardens also has some lantern silhouettes while Homedit has stuff intended for windows, walls and other interesting locations. Instructables has two silhouette projects, one for a garage door and the other has a creepy following eyes effect! So far RavensBlight only has a “Vampire Shadow Caster” which can either be converted into window decor or be projected onto a white sheet hung over a window, but I suspect we’ll be seeing more at the “Haunted Paper Toys” or “Halloween Treats” sections of the site in the future.

Pinterest is a great source for traditional window silhouettes, as are Wondermom Wannabe, the Contemplative Creative and the Graphics Fairy.

On a final (and green) note, both Inhabitat and Megan Cooley Peterson’s How to Build Hair-Raising Haunted Houses show just how easy it is to make reusable silhouettes to display year after year.

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting or downloading from any links on those sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 26 2016

Music to Haunt By: Cellblock

Atrium Carceri
Official Site
Cellblock, Cryo Chamber 2016 (Original release date: 2003)

atriumcellblock

Although my review of Atrium Carceri’s Kapnobatai was positive, I now realize my trying to review an album in order to use it to discuss a haunt theme I had came up with ahead of time was not the best course of action. It would have been wiser if I had let the album itself give me ideas. With that in mind, I started listening to the earlier entries in the Atrium Carceri discography. Choosing a single album to review was very hard but I ultimately decided on the very first album: Cellblock. The following review should make the reasons for this decision very clear.

“Entrance” utilizes an effective synth buildup with some neat distortions, static and echoes. There’s plenty of other unnerving noises to be found in this, like breathing. It’s perfect if the entrance of your haunted attraction uses a dark hallway which leads further inside. Be sure to have a scare ready halfway through so customers waiting in line can hear the screams of those who went in before them without being able to see what caused all the screaming. Ambient outdoor sounds and crickets can briefly be heard in the opening of “Black Lace,” but can be easy to miss if you don’t pay close attention. It’s much easier to hear the sounds of wind and someone walking. Heavy synth tones are joined by a soft heartbeat and orchestration. The heart sounds increase later on and the sounds of locks being tested come in later. The overall effect is quite disturbing. The track “Machine Elves” takes its name from a type of hallucination often seen by users of DMT. This explains its unearthly tone. In addition to the sound of locks being checked, there’s chirping, bizarre electrical noises, rattling, and heavy synth tones. Bursts of steam come in later, along with a rock-like beat. You can use this in scenes like a haunted factory or alien room, but I suggest playing it in your mad scientist’s laboratory after adding a “Flesheater Tank” prop. The static sounds in the buildup of “Corridor” lead to a distant scream and distorted breathing. The ethereal vocals add to backing musical dark tones while the snippets of half-heard voices and laughter are most unnerving.

The heavy tones and beat of “Blue Moon” reminds me of a heartbeat but its other parts remind me of steam and machinery. Between the sounds of things breaking and manipulated audio, you could use this in a haunted factory or industrial maze. Insect-like chirping and some briefly heard wildlife noises are mixed with beeping, bursts of steam and strange electronic noises in “Stir of Thoughts.” The orchestral touches in this are great too. Low, heavy beats open “Depth,” along with spacey noises. There are plenty of sounds the listener won’t be able to place, which should creep them out. There’s a masterful use of repetition along with the occasional burst of energy. I love what he did with the sound of someone gasping at the end. The opening of “Crusted Neon” features moody pulsing tones, metal percussive beat and echoing samples of people speaking in another language. There’s plenty of whispers, heartbeats and soft bursts of steam too! I think you can guess which sound effect appears in “Halls of Steam.” But it’s not the only effect on display. There’s also clanking chains, machinery and disturbing musical tones mixed in with the occasional wordless vocals. In addition to steampunk haunts and Hellraiser scenes, this would be perfect for a room filled with dangling chains and other surprises. “Reborn” starts off soft and with a sample of someone saying “he’s been strangled.” There’s plenty of moody backing tones and eerie music. In addition to the gust of wind heard at one point, there’s also the sound of a heavy door being unlocked and footsteps. Static and electrical crackles form the beat of “Red Stains” and are later joined by steam exhaust. There are lots of other sinister little touches as well. This has so much scene potential! “Inner Carceri” closes things out and its sense of desolation is downright overwhelming. The sounds of metal being struck are peppered throughout and other sound effects reminded me of something scrabbling or squirming about. These are definitely not what you want to hear in a supposedly abandoned building.

First released on the Cold Meat Industry label back in 2003, the original Cellblock CD is long out of print. Thankfully Cryo Chamber has recently made it available again and is planning on doing the same for other entries from the Atrium Carceri back catalog. The only differences are how the reissued version comes in a 6 panel cardboard digipack rather than a jewel case and the cover art seems to have a slightly different use of contrast. In other words, nothing worth getting worked up about. Cellblock is oozing with atmosphere and I urge anyone reading this to grab a copy. As the title suggests, it can work in a haunted asylum or prison (especially one made to look like it’s in such a state of disrepair that nature has started to reclaim it) in addition to any haunt scene where you want people to feel darkness and isolation. Every one of its tracks is well-suited for individual looping and you can also loop the entire album on Halloween. Although you might want to play it softly to disguise the occasional samples if you chose the latter. If you choose to do the former in your haunted house, then I have one last scare tip for you. In a section designed to look like there’s a crack or gap in the wall, place a mirror behind it. This creates the illusion of something moving inside whenever people pass by it. This is sure to creep out anyone who notices and is a great way to add an additional scare when performers are in short supply. It’s also handy on a low budget, since old mirrors can be obtained cheaply. Sometimes you can even get them from craigslist’s free section. Either way is great since you can now use the money you saved to buy more Atrium Carceri albums!

Special thanks to Atrium Carceri for use of the image!

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). This also applies to the suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 25 2016

Music to Haunt By: Ghost Stories

Sam Haynes
Official Site
Ghost Stories, Haunt Music 2014

samhaynesghoststories

Sam Haynes is busy as usual this year. In addition to the release of his new album Something Wicked and its sequel Something Wicked II, he has also launched a new side project called Scaretrax. Scaretrax is designed to provide people with royalty free music for their projects at an affordable price. He also offers to write custom music on demand through this service. The only problem is how scheduling issues prevented me from reviewing any of these! Thankfully I was able to cover one of his favorite albums instead.

“HAunTS” starts things off with gong strikes and an intentionally distorted buildup. Soft, distant wordless female vocals and speedy piano work usher in more distortions and a great beat. Sadly I’m unable to place the origin of the sample where a man asks someone if they believe the dead can come back to haunt the living. You could try dancing to it, but it just works so much better at scaring people. “GhoST stoRiES” has a soft, creepy opening despite some lighter touches. I love the dark drum machine beat and the synth work makes this an excellent mood builder. Speaking of which, the ethereal synth segment is a great touch which makes you think of the unknown and fear at the same time. Other aspects of the music remind me of something floating around, so why not use this with an object that’s seemingly suspended in midair? “ThE ChILLS” reminds me of light strumming music at first. But the dark synth tones constantly lurking underneath prove everything is not so innocent. The piano work and other great background touches, like its sneaking feel at times, help this track give the listener its namesake. It’s not as intense as the previous tracks, but I think this makes it all the more effective. You will believe chimes can make you nervous! The lengthy “LoST HeARTs” is another track with a wonderfully slow and moody opening buildup. The almost futuristic electro touches go nicely with the piano work and there’s a creeping feel to the lighter tones and music box-like parts. However things get much darker in feel when vaguely orchestral version of the music takes over. There’s so many layers to Sam’s work that I can’t possibly cover everything in this track. After the long period of silence which starts “The MiDNiGHT SHow,” the listener can make out the faintest of music, which soon builds in both volume and variation. There’s an underlying sneaking feel, which soon transitions to dance beat with tambourine-like touches. The drum machine adds to the dance feel while the wordless female vocals keep things spooky. It’s great for Halloween parties, entertaining haunt patrons in line and in haunted club scenes. I’ll be listening to this all year ’round! The chilling opening of “spELLboUND” is quickly overtaken by a dance beat. There’s some light music box-like chiming at times in addition to the ghostly vocals. I love the other little electro touches Mr. Haynes threw in for good measure. The majority of “The OTher SiDe (Prelude)” is made up of a lengthy period of near silence. Thankfully this track is on the short side, so it doesn’t take too long for the otherworldly space noises to be fully audible. If you time things just right (or if you use this with a motion sensor), this could also let you add an extra surprise to your haunt’s alien room.

“The OTher SiDe” has a much shorter silent period, then steady synth tones form the backbone of track. Said backbone is soon overshadowed by a more dance-like drum machine beat and mild electro touches. Careful listeners will notice how this references material used in earlier tracks. I’ve actually danced to this and feel zero shame. There’s good sized period of near silence at end too, which admittedly leads nicely into the next track. Said track is “MidNight Gets CloSER,” where soft piano work gradually builds up to a most interesting use of bells. They might remind you of jingle bells, but they’re anything but jolly. The heartbeat-like touches make this soft ‘n slow track especially eerie. Said touches also make this perfect to play in a room where a ghost with a visible beating heart can be seen. The heart is actually one of those inexpensive flashing red lights used by joggers for night runs. Depending on the strength of the light and type of fabric you use for the ghost, you might have to mute the light somewhat. This can be accomplished by placing the light (with string attached so you can hang it) in the middle of a wax paper circle and gluing another circle over it. You only want to glue the edges while leaving a space for the string to go through. You might have to repeat this process until you get the level of visibility you want. But you can skip this if you want the light to be strong enough to illuminate a rib cage hidden in your ghost. “tHe RetuRN” starts off with a sample I actually recognize. It’s Dr. Sangre speech about having returned to the land of the living from King of the Zombies. There’s lots of amazing synth work on display and it even reuses this album’s most popular tune. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. This track is not too scary and not too dance-y. It’s the best of both worlds. Especially the piano! “FeAr Of clOWns” uses the same sample from One Step Beyond he went on to use in the opening track of The Incredible Dark Carnival. The bouncy faux calliope is aided by dark synth touches (and even an incredibly effective solo). “CaRNiVal featuring Ghoulshow” continues the carnival theme with a sample from Carnival of Souls. The carousel feel is fairly restrained, which compliments the sense of danger skulking around in the background and wordless vocals. There are some fantastic theremin-like eerie notes and some nifty distortion as well. Soft drum beats and an extra funky dance beat suddenly take over for final leg of the track. Track 13 is appropriately called “13,” where musical distortions abound. The use of a gradual buildup is quite appropriate seeing as how this is the album’s longest track. It’s dripping with dread and despair, along with numerous synth variations. It gets more lively halfway through, but still retains a certain sense of menace. Then it cranks up the speed (and evil) and adopts an intense chase-like feel. After the echoing sample about ghosts, a slow fade of lighter music flows into the final track. Soft, light synth tones back the occasional stab of heavy darkness in “GrAVE SeCReTS.” Something like “soft and light music” might not seem scary just from reading those words, but you’ll understand once you hear this.

Ghost Stories manages to be more intense than his other albums and yet still retains all the elements Sam Haynes fans have come to expect from his work. Don’t let the title fool you, the material on this release can be used with more than just ghost scenes. The lengths of the tracks are all long enough to support individual looping. This is especially true for the 6 and 8 minute tracks! You could easily score an entire garage haunt with one of those. You could play the album on repeat this year, but it might be confusing for trick-or-treaters if the circus stuff plays and you don’t have any killer clown props on display. But that’s an easy fix since you can either add some or program your audio player of choice to skip those tracks. My only complaint is the lack of bonus tracks for those who prefer not to use samples in their setups. Which is a pretty minor complaint, all things considered.

Special thanks to Sam Haynes for use of the image!

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). This also applies to the suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 24 2016

Music to Haunt By: Prelude to the Afterlife

Verse 13
Official Site
Prelude to the Afterlife, Dark Owl Records 2010

verse13prelude

Musician Mike Fox has been very busy since the last time I reviewed his work. In addition to the recent digital release of the first part of the Grim Reaper-themed Shadows and Dusk album (with part two and the complete physical release planned for next October), he’s also going to reissue his first two albums with new cover artwork! So how could I possibly resist going back to look at his first album with news like that on my mind?

A door opens and a music box is heard in the beginning of “Skeletons in the Closet.” Bursts of percussion soon follow and chanting vocals also heard, with the music box occasionally getting a solo. There’s a sneaking feel at times and the wordless female vocals are an excellent touch. In “Web Spinner,” gong strikes and dark piano work meet bells. The chiming clock and male vocals both add to the overall sense of danger while the steady piano might remind you of crawling things. This goes perfectly with a clock room or any spider scene. I recommend covering a dimly lit room or hallway with fake webs and plastic spiders. Hanging spider egg sacs from the ceiling will also add to the effect, especially if you can use a hidden motor to make them jiggle slightly. A giant spider and webbed victim are definite musts. “Run!” gets the blood pumping with its speedy piano and gong strikes. It also vaguely reminds me to opening of Beetlejuice at some points. The wordless vocals, synth tones and chiming all enhance the overall mood. The gong strikes again in “Hexed.” The heavy string work and the female vocals make things especially chilling. The sounds of a heartbeat, ethereal moaning, distant booming, breathing and female screams almost make you forget about the incredibly soft music bed in “Tunnel of Nightmares.” You could just play it in a dark hallway, but I have an even better idea. Set up the exit to a room to look like the mouth of a massive monster. If you don’t want to deal with covering a chicken wire frame with papier-mâché, adapting the classic “make your house look alive for Halloween” method also works. Two costumed performers armed with fake weapons can sneak up on guests and herd them inside while shrieking about it being feeding time. The next room is very dark and decorated with red walls to represent the monster’s insides. Playing this track will add to the effect thanks to the heartbeat and breathing, while the screams and moans represent other victims. Said victims can be portrayed by props skeletons, a variation of the living wall effect or people wearing gory makeup suggesting they’re being digested. I recommend putting actors into a modified version of the “partial body on a table” effect to explain why they can’t escape with the guests.

“Monster Under your Bed” features another music box tune, but it’s different from one heard in opening track. Ominous string work conveys lurking danger. The brief bursts of wordless unisex vocals and a ticking clock are also present. If your haunt has a room people walk by rather than enter, then play this in a room decorated to look like a child’s bedroom. Part of the bedspread near the floor is lifted up and some glowing eyes can be seen peering out from the darkness. You can even have a fake monster hand reaching out as well, along with a shivering prop under a blanket on top of the bed to represent a frightened child hiding under a blanket. I’ll live it up to you whether or not you want to have a helper hidden off to the side of the door to scare viewers when they least expect it. “Chiroptera” is a reference to the classification order of mammals in which bats belong to. Its distorted tones and speedy piano work are very impressive. There’s a brief pause which soon bursts into louder volume with wordless vocals and there are some gongs and chimes as well. This creates the sense of a swarm of flying things surrounding you. In other words, it’s a must for a haunted cave or vampire’s domain. The start (and end) of “Her Epitaph” features the sound of crackling to simulate an old record playing slow, steady piano work. It’s very mournful in tone, despite the occasional use of chimes and ghostly little girl laughing. Similarly, “The Netherworld Circus” begins with merry-go-round music and an announcer telling us of a haunted circus. Things really kick up once he says title. There’s a mix of wordless vocals, wacky sound effects, creepy calliope and even a great use of drums towards the middle. “The Asylum Speaks” features a slow buildup in volume as scary strings and militaristic drumrolls play. There’s some eerie piano work, faint chimes and bursts of wordless vocals during the extra intense parts. This track offers plenty of sneaky menace and the woman laughing at the end adds to the extremely moody closing. “Massacre 1985” is so wonderfully 80’s. I love those synth stings and heavy tones coupled with the great drum work. It goes from slow and ominous to speedy and terrifying. The somewhat static-like backing at times also adds to the effect. If you plan on having a slasher room or any setup based on an slasher room or any setup based on 80’s horror movie, you absolutely have to play this!

“Crossing Over” has a slow, soft and heavy buildup where ghostly male vocals fade in and out. The piano, bells and occasional female vocals add so much to the effect. It also nicely leads into “The Empty Coffin.” Only this time, the vocals and bells are coupled with heavy touches and string work. The sheer amount of musical variations in the bell solo have to be heard in order to be truly appreciated. In “Lycanthropy,” a gong strike leads to a beat which will remind you of Jaws. Following this are wordless vocals, tolling bells, howling wolves and even an organ solo! Piano, guitars and outstanding drum work kick in for surprise appearance as well. This all combines to create the sense of something sneaking and stalking. Even if you don’t have a werewolf scene in your haunted attraction, you can still use this in a haunted forest scene. Gongs and dreamy music that might remind you of a fairy tale open “Masquerade of Malice.” Despite the light piano work, the track takes on a much darker quality thanks to use of tolling bells and snippets of wordless female vocals. “Buried Alive” starts off with the sounds of rain and a cawing crow, along with dirt being shoveled. After the sudden appearance of a piano, we hear a scary musical buildup and more frantic piano work to represent someone waking up and panicking while trapped in a coffin. The ending vocals are a great touch. Synths lead up to slow and spooky piano work in “Escape from Cauldron Castle.” Gongs, chimes and very unique use of vocals join menacing strings to further set the mood. The doom-heavy opening of “Within the Wax” slowly builds up to some minor appearances by a music box before the frantic chase music starts. There’s some extremely interesting piano work on display, along with bells and female vocals. It’s a fantastic close to an equally fantastic album.

Prelude to the Afterlife offers both haunt owners and Halloween enthusiasts with a wide variety of music. All tracks are long enough to allow for individual looping and this is one of those rare albums which can be played on a loop while passing out candy to trick-or-treaters without clashing with your chosen decorations. You might have to add a spooky doll and evil clown into the mix, but just about anything else can be paired with the other tracks. I’ve noticed how severed clown head props have become very popular in recent years, so you wouldn’t even have to commit to including a full clown dummy. Setting up a small haunted forest in your yard can be fun too. Just collect dead branches and stuck them into the ground along either side of the path to your front door. Make sure to drive them in deeply so there’s little risk of them toppling over. Stretching fake spider webs across said branches and mixing in dead leaves with the fake spiders makes things even more eerie. Having a haunted forest also allows you to imply that any sound effects which don’t match up with your décor are happening somewhere behind the trees. So if you’re tired of using the same scary ambience album year after year, do yourself a favor and look into the work of Verse 13.

Special thanks to Verse 13 for use of the image!

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). This also applies to the suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 24 2016

6’+ Episode 194 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“It wouldn’t be Halloween without our terrifying tradition of traversing the eerie atmospheric ambient music of this frightful season. Psychos and horrorpunks beware, as the sinister soundscape is filled with sinister songs from PRELUDE TO A NIGHTMARE, SAM HAYNES, WORLD OF FRIGHT, ATRIUM CARCERI and more. Monstermatt Patterson howls like a madman possessed in another gripping MONSTERMATT MINUTE.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Oct 23 2016

Music to Haunt By: Horror, I’m Afraid

Dulcet Jones
Official Site
Horror, I’m Afraid, Green Cottage Music 2016

dulcethorror

It’s been awhile since I last reviewed the work of Dulcet Jones and I’m thrilled to announce his return to the world of spooky atmospheric music. Also returning is his daughter Natalie, who has once again provided the cover art. But there is one thing which isn’t returning: the relaxing tracks that aren’t scary. This year marks his first album that’s spooky from start to finish!

The title track “Horror, I’m Afraid” is comprised of unearthly electric effects and harpsichord-like notes with touches of guitars. Said effects reminds me of theremin work at some times and chirping at others. The fluting dirge and light touches of “Electric Requiem” do little to cut down on the overall mournful feel of the guitar work. One brief segment has a self-reflective nature to it, but it’s mostly odd and foreboding. It’s a good way to throw people visiting your haunt off guard, either in a funeral parlor scene or any scary setting. “Gunslingers Ghost” is like the opening theme to a western, only with a somewhat macabre surf twist. Despite its minor surf influence, it’s fairly slow in terms of pacing. Not that I’m complaining. I love the tolling bells and drum beats in this. Some portions even remind me of galloping hooves. Be sure to play this at the entrance if you have a ghost town theme for your haunt. “Evil Robot Army” brings us steam-like touches and clanking metal over a creepy backing guitar. There’s plenty of interesting musical variations thanks to the “steam” parts. It’s a perfect fit for a steampunk haunted house, haunted boiler room or factory scene. The presence of the harpsichord in “Blood Ritual” provides an ancient, regal feel. This in turn makes for an interesting combination with the guitar work and other unusual touches. For example, having the guitar play us out was an interesting touch. This seems better for throne rooms rather than cult scene despite what the name implies.

“Hurriquake” is named for an imaginary disaster. That’s why you can hear so many alarms and rain. There’s also rumbling thunder, banging shutters and electrical effects with a loud, steady percussive beat acting as the foundation. Not only that, but the wind even takes on ghostly feel at end! The inclusion of sirens could also allow for its use in an industrial or chain maze and you could even make a room based on the track’s title. Cutting different lengths of fishing line and hanging them against black fabric in a window can create the illusion of rain (adding some glass beads will add extra realism) and a strobe light or lightning machine will bring in the lightning. The old shaking floor trick will act as the earthquake, which can be further enhanced by banging shutters and props that fall or tilt over during the “quake” You can even have a hidden fan turn on when the shaking starts to simulate wind blowing in through the damage created by the hurriquake. “Lurker” just screams “sneaking medieval eeriness.” I think you can guess what was used here based on what I’ve written above. Some parts remind me of falling or descending down stairs, so can be used on stairs or with a bottomless pit effect as well. According to the artist, his plan was to write a classical guitar composition to base the track around. But once he started to fiddle around with a computer program which lets you pick what instrument to play the song back with, the guitar gradually got pushed out of the track! “Cadaver Dance” is much slower and lower key than the album’s other tracks. I love how the creepy notes linger and the wailing wind is a fantastically eerie touch. There’s snippets of “steam,” guitars and some lighter music too. The ending bells are a great spooky touch. If you want to use this in a haunted ballroom despite not having the space or resources to pull of this classic Pepper’s Ghost effect, then I have some good news for you. You can create a much simpler version of the effect in your own backyard. Just use chicken wire to make ghostly shapes and cover them with luminous paint. Then position them to look like dancers and have guests look at them through a window or from a distance outside. If you have them positioned far away enough and use paint which looks white when it’s not glowing, you could even try using a strobe light to make the ghosts appear to move.

Horror, I’m Afraid is further proof the work of Dulcet Jones is truly unique in the world of haunt music. All of the tracks can be easily looped and I personally recommend picking individual tracks for use in your haunts and Halloween displays rather than playing the entire album on a loop. Unless you’re actually using props and scenes which go with the tracks. I was surprised to see how he didn’t include his 2015 single “Psychotica Fraidicus” or the SoundCloud exclusive “The Howling” (which is actually a reworking of the track “Vignette Five” from his 2002 release Dulcet Tones). I suspect this was because he wanted to offer all new material rather than recycle tracks and throwing those two into the mix would have made this album longer than the others. With that in mind, his decision makes perfect sense. Especially since both tracks are already out there and are easy to obtain for very little money. I’m already looking forward to More Horror, I’m Afraid and I’m sure anyone who listens to this will feel the same way.

Special thanks to Dulcet Jones for the review copy!

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). This also applies to the suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 22 2016

Music to Haunt By: When Time Ends

Darkmood
Official Site
When Time Ends, Notic Reign Records 2016

whentimeends

The man behind Darkmood and Notic Reign Records, Steve D. Montgomery, has always wanted to compose music for films. He didn’t want to abandon Darkmood and at the same time wanted to create a demo recording with a more cinematic style of music. Although music from his previous albums could be used in a movie and nobody would complain, he wanted something grand and sweeping. This lead to the creation of When Time Ends. Rather than use the traditional supernatural sources of horror, he looked to a dark future and created the soundtrack for a nonexistent film.

“Blood Moon” will remind you of the opening to a modern day movie. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it. The pounding beats are vaguely tribal at times and I was most intrigued by the use of fluting touches, distortion effects and power tool noises as well. Occasionally there are some wet noises which remind me of eating and allow for use with zombie scenes. Or, given the album’s post apocalypse theme, mutated cannibals. You can have visitors pass through an area where a corpse is being roasted over fake flames, surrounded by cannibals feasting on prop body parts. Most of said cannibals are just inanimate dummies, but at least one of them should be someone in costume waiting to spring to life at the right moment. Or they can sneak up from behind while people are distracted by the gruesome sight in front of them. It’s your choice. The intense and brooding “After The Fire” uses plenty of wordless female vocals, but they’re not the kind you usually hear in spooky ambient albums. I love the great use of percussion effects and how the heavy tones flow in and out. The pounding static in the middle brings in lots of other interesting musical touches as well. The opening of “City Black” reminds me of something being transmitted or broadcast. This is further enhanced by the static effects that interrupt an amazingly catchy beat. Then rockin’ guitars take over for a segment which should please fans of Blade Runner. Eerie string work, the sound of a door being opened, wind chimes and vaguely wailing sounds also help add to the tension. Wordless male vocals usher in “The New Dawn.” This has a mystic and tribal in feel thanks to its exotic string work and percussion. The static backing and female vocal solos are nice touches. It’s somewhat relaxing, but not completely peaceful. “Dystopian Transmission” begins with some wind chimes and low, heavy backing tones. Drums and high tech sound effects soon arrive on the scene. Wordless female vocals and chirping tones soon following, along with a static break which is soon intruded upon by heavy doom. I can definitely see this working in an alien room. The speedy opening of “Survivors” reminds me of a video game. Male chant-groans appear and disappear throughout track and there’s a surprise appearance by piano work among the drums. Wordless vocals also put in an appearance.

Similar vocals are also heard in “Road To Peril,” along with synth tones and dark, pounding music. It’s very creepy and effective. Even the lighter touches have an edge to them. This could work in a variety of haunt scenes, but let’s stick with the dark future theme and use this with a toxic waster dump! In addition to the standard toxic barrels, some could have pop-up monsters and you might be able to adapt the beloved falling crates scare to use barrels instead. “Wake Up” starts with high pitched, vaguely siren-like tones. There’s a smattering of sci-fi sounds before the pounding beat and distorted static pulses join in. Half-audible comments are occasionally heard, along with soft wordless vocals and orchestral touches. This disturbing little number would presumably score a nightmare scene if the film actually existed. Especially since it ends with a ghostly woman talking about dreams and then an evil voice says the track’s title. The use of static and other such effects in “Lost Souls” creates the sense of something evil breathing in background. There are lots of other unnerving effects and low, heavy backing tones. This is further proof that lighter musical touches don’t always hurt a scary track. Even the somewhat “Middle Eastern” dance break quickly gets scary thanks to the use of wordless vocals. “Ghostly Chatter” is not what you might expect from a spooky ambient album. While there are ghostly whispers, they frequently overlap amid the sounds of crackling static and transmission snippets. Once you factor in the interesting percussion and exotic musical touches layered over it, you have one very unique track. Try playing this in a room with a prop television in it. Said prop has a white spandex screen with static projected onto it. This creates the illusion of faces and hands forming in the static when the person hiding behind the TV presses against the false screen. “Midnight” offers pounding tones and a creepy backing which should please many horror fans. What may be distant screaming can be heard at times and I love both the synth and orchestral work. “Rise From Ashes” is low, pulsing darkness in audio form. The beat and backing touches (such as female vocal solos) can and will give listeners the shivers. But there is a tiny bit of hope in this otherwise dark track, presumably to foreshadow the final track. That track is appropriately called “Hope” and while the introduction is a little creepy, everything else lives up to its name. The synth work is louder and more upbeat than it is in the other tracks. I recommend using it at the start of your haunt if you have a part where everything seems normal…at first. This will let you get away with some of the minor dark touches. Said touches make sense in the context of a track about a new start in a dystopian future. There may be the potential for a new world, but they still have to do a lot of work to do on the old one.

When Time Ends proves Steve Montgomery has what it takes to score a motion picture. It can be enjoyed on its own all year long despite its dark themes and explores virtually uncharted territory in the world of spooky atmosphere music. I say “virtually uncharted” because Gore Galore’s Sounds of Gore line does feature a release called Dark Apocalypse. But it’s a massive soundscape rather than a collection of music, so the subject of this review truly stands alone. It also offers haunters a diverse selection of music to pick from. Looping the tracks individually is recommended over looping the entire album. Although he plans on doing more albums with a cinematic feel, this does not mean he’s abandoned his original style. He’s currently at work on some new material and is planning the release of The Haunting in the very near future.

Special thanks to Notic Reign Records for the review copy!

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). This also applies to the suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.

Oct 21 2016

Music to Haunt By: Psych Ward Psymphony

Psych Ward Psymphony
Official Site
Psych Ward Psymphony, self-release 2012
Psych Ward Psymphony 2013, self-release 2013

pwp

Psych Ward Psymphony is shrouded in mystery. All that can be said for certain is how it was founded by musician Jamie James. No, not the guy from Steppenwolf! This Jamie James is also a haunt industry insider and has been working in the business since 1995. The full list of members is as follows:

Jamie James
Dan Gilman
Randy Raatz
Andy Ussery
Lloyd Mitchell
Sean Reed
Nick Rogers
Josh Sumley
Slain

The seeds of the group were planted when one attraction he was working at was in need of a short original composition. After seeing the high cost estimates from the musicians, Mr. James told the haunt owners he could do it for nothing. With the help of a friend, they created what could be considered PWP’s first song. He still felt the need to create dark music even after October ended and soon called up some other musically inclined friends. They decided to just have fun with it and not to have any set goals other than keeping the tracks around 5 minutes and making sure they were doing something different. The end result was the band’s 2012 self-titled debut album.

Despite the obvious Halloween connection, Psych Ward Psymphony starts off with a pair of creepified Christmas carols! “Jingle Bells PWP” has dark, foreboding jingling bells lead into a very dark piano rendition of this Christmas classic…then the guitars kick in to rock your face off! The scary, growling vocals are a great touch! “Holly & the Ivy” starts with a mix of jingling and tolling bells. But soon an eerie little girl sings “la la la” and blasting guitars usher in an adult woman (Jacquie Shifflette Darbro) singing the lyrics of this lesser-known Christmas song. The creative use of feedback and haunting organ work keep this from simply being a standard cover song. There’s even some season’s beatings thrown in for good measure! Those without any winter plans for their haunt should skip right to “Turn Back.” A scary organ and traditional Halloween sound effects like a wolf howling and wailing wind join a voice whispering for the listener to turn back while it’s still not too late. But when you hear a vampire welcoming you in with dark piano accompaniment, you know it’s far too late to escape. Just like the poor sap you hear trying to laugh it off as ghostly wails are heard. Having a sepulchral voice mocking him during the guitar segment is an excellent touch, as is the evil laughter which takes us out. The sound of a crackling record brings in “Death Waltz.” But the static and feedback soon turn into headbanging rock greatness and chilling sound effects. This contrasts nicely with the light (but intense) piano and percussion. In addition to the end portion being reminiscent of a certain John Carpenter horror favorite, this could also be used in the ballroom of a “Haunted House of Rock.” Another song with potential use inside of a haunt is “The Morrigan.” Named for a type of spirit, it appropriately features Jacquie Shifflette Darbro providing beautiful, but unnerving vocals. She’s presumably the one doing the crying later in the track. There are plenty of interesting touches in this, such as the sound effects, dreamy harps and how parts of the track sound like a radio tuning into two stations at once. There’s also some amazing stereo channel effects which make it seem like the audio is traveling across channels. Since there’s an evil voice which pops in from time to time to explain what the subject of this track is, why not use it for a display in your haunt’s spooky museum? The Morrigan can either be represented by a flying crank ghost or a puppet operated by a performer to trick patrons into thinking they’re watching an animated prop. Their reactions when the “prop” lunges at them are always worth it!

The sounds of birds and someone walking outdoors take us into “Corpses,” where Robbie Rothzchild provides the sinister vocals about watching people die from disease. The spooky piano work, percussion, guitars and (of course) feedback provide the perfect backing. “Bad Place” is my favorite track of the album and has already gotten played several times over the course of the year. What starts off as a moody outdoor soundscape leads to a rockin’ musical conversation between a little kid and their grandfather about an old house. The child’s humorous commentary throughout the track was an excellent touch. I had to get up to answer my front door when I first listened to this track and noticed how the further away I got, the creepier it sounded. I could barely make out the music and sound effects, but the lyrics became nearly impossible to understand and sometimes sounded like screeching. So if you really want to freak people out, play this at a low volume as they wander through a dark maze or hallway. Cymbals are added to the rock mix in “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” along with a distorted recording of a man moaning. His moaning soon becomes rambling about his mother and people meeting gruesome fates in a house. The zapping sound effects are just one of the many effective touches, which also include the doctor’s notes at the end. This album revels in static and feedback, but “Hell’s Hell” stands out with its creative mixing. There’s plenty of slow, moody rock with some soft organ work and evil laughter thrown in for good measure. “The Death Lord” opens with a wide selection of disturbing sounds and horror movie stingers. It’s mostly wailing guitars, screaming and drilling after that, but the titular character does provide some commentary from time to time. Syncing this with an animatronic display of a torturer and some victims would be incredible. A motor starts up the carousel music in “12 Clowns,” which is soon followed by a man singing about 12 silly clowns. What a shame he gets choked to death before he can finish! His killer takes over the hosting duties and dumps us into a world of unnerving music (both of the rock and circus varieties), crying, laughter and other sound effects. You might want to use a motion detector to have this start playing as soon as people enter your haunted circus room. Things come to a close with “The Survivors?” Sirens blare and the wind howls as a whispering voice telling us to follow her. Such whispers occur many times under the moody guitar work and organ work. There are so many other creative audio effects to enjoy as well!

With its (to quote the band) “live vibe” and being designed for haunted attractions to play in order to entertain their guests, Psych Ward Psymphony decided to adopt a more traditional approach for their next album in order to obtain wider appeal. Something including dark ambient tracks which could be used inside a haunt. Several guest performers were called in as well. The end result? Let’s take a look…

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