Centralia, Audio Zombie Sound 2014
Penumbra, Audio Zombie Sound 2015
Audio Zombie has made a huge impression on the haunted attraction industry since its debut in 2010. If you go to any forum devoted to haunted attractions and look up discussions about the best audio for use in haunts, Audio Zombie will be definitely mentioned. Their work has appeared in numerous haunted attractions and amusement parks, which would still be impressive even if their services weren’t also used by musicians, animatronic designers, museums, escape rooms, radio programs, ghost tours, web masters and filmmakers! Audio Zombie also won the “Best Audio Design” award at the Project Twenty1 Film Festival for their work on the movie Fallow Ground. It’s no wonder they’re one of the top sound designers in the world of horror. But who are the people behind Audio Zombie?
The company’s official Facebook page notes they are “composed of a small group of professional producers, audio engineers and musicians whose work can be found on countless projects ranging from independent films to national touring musical acts.” Jason Ruch is the owner, chief sound engineer and sound designer while co-owner Jonny Croce is the lead composer and studio musician. Kerri Edelman is a clinical psychologist who acts as the company’s director of marketing and public relations, in addition to recording her own music and voice-overs. Each of the three have over a decade of experience in the music industry and their experience
I got in touch with Audio Zombie while researching an article about providers of royalty free audio for haunted attractions. Not only did they confirm they offered several albums which haunts could use without paying royalties, but Mr. Ruch kindly offered to speak with me over the phone! We wound up talking while he was preparing to go record a storm. It wasn’t that Audio Zombie didn’t already have storm sounds, mind you. No two sounds are ever exactly the same and the company knows the value of having a large library of effects to work with. He also told me how all effects are either created in studio or are recorded in the field instead of being made entirely on a computer. One such example was how they had gone to Centralia, Pennsylvania to record hours of live audio. The place has been all but abandoned due to the mine fire that’s been burning since the early 60’s. I mentally filed away that particular album as the first Audio Zombie album to review. We both agreed that sound is one of the most overlooked aspects of haunting despite its ability to enhance scares. He also noted how he likes to use metal parts and other objects one wouldn’t normally associate with music to create disturbing sounds people won’t be able to identify. My favorite anecdote from our conversation demonstrated how Audio Zombie’s services extend beyond just offering albums or being hired to create custom audio. One haunted attraction Jason Ruch had been working with had an empty room and they couldn’t figure out what to do with it. So Audio Zombie crafted a track which, when played on a speaker in the dark room, made people swear the walls and floor were moving!
“Mineshaft” opens Centralia with a rumbling and creepy burst and becomes amazingly moody. Soft metallic chimes are often heard, but they are nothing like the relaxing ones you’re used to! Moaning tones are also a constant presence and sometimes there are noises which sound a lot like bursts of wind. This track flows into “From Above,” which creates a feel of dread and power thanks to its moaning tones and soft unnerving noises you can’t identify. I wound up looking over my shoulder a few times while listening to this despite being in a brightly lit room! You can also use the previous two tracks with “The Ashes.” That track, much like the album it appears on, oozes atmosphere. Metallic chimes and a low backing tone create a sense of menace. This is enhanced by other light (but creepy touches) and occasional appearance of a wailing woman. “Eve” has a great buildup in terms of both volume and scare factor. The backing tone and use of soft noises make this another track to use when you want your guests to feel menaced by something. The backing tone volume actually increases at times and soft plinking tones often join in. In fact, they take the spotlight for the last part of the track, but not before some softly played string work appears. I can easily see this appearing in a haunted playroom or nursery. The disturbing low tones of “The Devil’s Well” conjures up an intense sense of unease. There’s also soft wordless female vocals and plenty of other eerie touches which are sure to remind you of something from a modern horror movie. It’s a versatile track which can be used in several types of scenes, but you can make a Devil’s well of your own by combining a fiery bottomless pit with a prop well. Just be sure to do the carving outdoors! For added chills, you could hide the audio player inside the prop so it sounds like the audio is coming from the depths of the well! Playing it softly so people can only hear it once they get close to the well further adds to the effect. “Devoid” marks the album’s first use of crackling fire sounds, but the low backing tones and various creepy touches make this more than a fire effects track. This makes me imagine spirits flying around a burning pit, so why not combine fake flames with projected ghosts when you play this at your haunt?