When it comes to horror music, you have a lot to choose from — provided you have a strong stomach. If you have a high tolerance for extremely dark and wholly nihilistic death metal, than you have hundreds and hundreds of bands — most of them from Norway — who eagerly sing about ripping apart human infants, cannibalism, and the gleeful details of necrosis. You may even have read the Blumhouse article detailing the 13 Scariest Heavy Metal Album Covers.
Indeed, you may have heard the story of how the lead singer of the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem killed himself via shotgun, left a suicide note merely apologizing for the mess. You may have also heard the part of the story where his band-mate found his body, left the apartment where it was, brought back a camera, took pictures, and ended up putting it on an album cover. You may also have heard that the band wears pieces of that guy’s skull on necklaces. That’s all true.
But for those who are bored by the likes of Cradle of Filth, Cattle Decapitation, Deicide, and Cannibal Corpse (and if you’re bored of those, maybe seek some help beyond these pages) then there is yet another frontier of evil, dark, horrific, terrifying aural experience awaiting you… for you have yet to open the puzzle box and summon the terrors of :STALAGGH:.
:STALAGGH: began their life in 2000 under the name of :GULAGGH:, and was made up of a collective of super-depressive Dutch and Belgian experimental musicians-cum-nihilists who sought a plane beyond the usual grimy guitars and growling vocals of your typical death metal album.
It should be stated up front that the members of :STALAGGH: were proper nihilists; they weren’t mere teen-pop nihilists who wore black t-shirts, smoked weed, and talked about how much they hated their teachers. These were nihilists in the philosophical sense. They believed that the very concept of nothingness dictated our lives, that nothingness was the underlying principle of all life. No emotions, no humanity, no hope, no life… nothing.
They were also motivated to share their inner abyss of despair with the world. As such, they gathered together with the express goal of making the world’s most depressing record. They wanted to make something that could tap into a universal feeling of utter despair. Having listened to some of their “music,” I can only say they succeeded.
One of the members of :STALAGGH:, you see, worked in a mental institution, and had immediate access to the patients that lived therein. Using the excuse that they were engaging the patients in primal scream therapy, :STALAGGH: recorded the actual anguished cries of actual insane people, and layered their screams over a dark, loud, grinding, ERASERHEAD-like mechanical ambient noise. If that sounds horrible and depressing… well, it is.
Note: This may sound like a form of illegal exploitation, and one can easily assume — just from listening — that the members of the band were somehow torturing the patients to get the screams. As it turns out, permission was given for all of this, and the patients were treated humanely. Indeed, in an interview the members of :STALAGGH: claimed that some of the patients found this participation to be therapeutic. If those thoughts can carry you through an actual listen of their records, more power to you.
Nonetheless, the members of the band have all kept their identities a secret.
From 2002 to 2007, they completed a triptych of albums that are all of a piece, all sound the same, and all culminate in a level of bleak, futile blackness that hasn’t been matched by any other band.
The first chapter in their series was called PROJEKT NIHIL. The second was PROJEKT TERROR. The third, and most horrifying, was PROJEKT MISANTHROPIA. You can listen to the whole of PROJEKT MISANTHROPIA on YouTube… if you’re brave enough.
In 2008, :STALLAGH: wanted to expand their bleak horrors, and reformed as :GULAGGH: with the intention of starting a new trilogy of records just as nihilistic as the last, but this time with a dark political message.
:GULAGGH:’s announced project was a triptych of records all named after Russian gulags, and was to incorporate the speeches of Stalin and other Soviet leaders. The comment was, of course, upon the horrors perpetrated by any totalitarian state. The screams of the insane were cleared this time around — only this time, the screams were provided by “damaged women and children.” Speficically, rape victims and the like.
The first record in this new series has also been completed; it’s called VORKUTA, and is also available on YouTube. Or you can listen to it here. Again, if you’re brave enough.
:GULAGGH: has every intention of continuing their dark vision into the future, and have announced that their next record will be called KOLYMA. It too is named after a gulag, and this time will not feature the howls of the damaged or the mentally ill; this time, it will feature the howls of deaf people. Their stated goal was to take their existing sound and make it — get this — more chaotic.
Sometimes a little wallow in the pits of despair can be good for the soul; it can be healthy to test your emotional limits, look into the face of nihilism, and build up your immunity. Or even to challenge your own philosophical extremes.
A philosopher once said that one should “philosophize with a hammer.” Here is a dark art that has a giant, two-handed sledgehammer to that effect. They want to smash. To tear down. To rip hope away. To force oily shade into your soul.
Stare into the abyss, friends. Because :STALAGGH: and :GULAGGH: are sure as heck going to make sure the abyss is staring into you.