Horror soundtracks are more popular than ever. The same applies for music on vinyl, which has seen a major resurgence over the course of the last few years. Tons of specialty labels are either reissuing classic soundtracks, fully remastered with impressive new art and packaging. Some are clearly focusing on capitalizing on new properties or hit TV series. And in some cases, these labels are bold enough to put out vinyl for fictional horror movies that don’t actually exist!
Regardless, as a fan and consumer of physical media, we’ve seen some great Blu-Ray releases this year, and equally, if not more, great vinyl releases. It was tough to narrow them down to 10, so the following are not ranked, but listed in random order. Let’s see how many of these you guys already have!
BLACK CHRISTMAS (Waxwork Records)
For the first time ever, we got Carl Zittrer’s disturbing and slightly off-key score to Bob Clark’s 1974 “slasher” classic. (And by classic, I mean the one that started them all!) What’s interesting is it’s two long tracks, one for Side A as “Silent Night,” and Side B dubbed as “Evil Night.” I heard this played and discussed on an episode of The Damn Fine Cast earlier this year and they theorized that perhaps the reason it sounds so “off” is because we’re hearing these bits of music from the perspective of Billy, the film’s killer. With that in mind, it adds an extra sense of creepiness every time you spin this bad boy! While Waxwork Records did an amazing job with reissues of things like SALEM’S LOT, THE HOWLING and even their non-genre releases such as THE WARRIORS and TAXI DRIVER, BLACK CHRISTMAS is the one that stands out to me as their most special release of 2016.
FROZEN EXISTENCE (Lunaris Records)
This was one of my favorite new discoveries of the year. Repeated Viewing is the created composer on this release, and it’s the moniker of Alan Sinclair, who has been making soundtracks to fictional horror movies for years. This particular one was actually recorded back in 2011 and finally got a vinyl release in 2016 courtesy of the fine folks at Lunaris Records. FROZEN EXISTENCE looks like an old Italian horror movie from the late 70’s, courtesy of the authentic packaging and cover art by Adam Burke. The music itself is awesome! Have a listen below:
COVEN (Forever Midnight)
Here’s a soundtrack I didn’t know I needed in my life until I heard it and now I feel like I can’t live without it. I freakin’ love the documentary AMERICAN MOVIE, which follows Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt as he struggles to complete his short horror film COVEN. When the DVD of the doc came out, it included the final short film as a bonus feature. All these years later, the fine fiends over at Forever Midnight (which is a podcast!) have put out the epic soundtrack on vinyl, and filled the package with all sorts of goodies. If you want to hear a little sample of it, I played it before the interview section on episode 4 of Shock Waves! Begins at the 34:55 mark! (Embedded below!)
SYNCHRONICITY (Death Waltz Recordings/Lakeshore Records)
SYNCHRONICITY was the 2015 release of director Jacob Gentry’s super ambitious time-traveling epic. One of the standouts that truly makes this film feel much bigger than it’s budget is the score by Ben Lovett. Part John Carpenter, part Tangerine Dream, the lush melodies of this film’s music will wash over you and teleport you to another time and place. I find myself impulsively throwing on this record regularly. Have a listen below and hear what I mean.
THE MIND’S EYE (Relapse Records)
THE MIND’S EYE, the latest film from Joe Begoes plays like a long lost sequel to David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, and considering I’m a huge fan of those movies, in particular SCANNERS III: THE TAKE OVER, I had a blast with this one. The first title card that pops up on the screen instructs you to “play this movie loud.” And rightfully so! On top of the killer sound design, Steve Moore’s soundtrack has quickly become one of my favorite scores of the year. While most people know Steve from his band ZOMBI, I actually became familiar with his work when he did the main theme for the 2006 documentary HORROR BUSINESS! Between THE GUEST and this, it’s amazing to hear how prolific he’s become as a composer. Hear a sample for yourself below.
THE MONSTER SQUAD (Death Waltz Recordings/Mondo)
Not only have I always loved THE MONSTER SQUAD, but it’s impossible not to get excited anytime you hear tracks like the epic pop montage “Rock Until You Drop” or the closing credit Monster Squad rap. But, the score by Bruce Broughton is pretty terrific too! And thanks to Mondo and Death Waltz Recordings, we got a full vinyl release, sprawled out over 2 LP’s and in packaging that will pull on the heart strings of every one that grew up as a monster kid. Seriously, the recreation of the old monster magazine ads is perfect and as one of the many, many horror fans out there that have always loved this movie, this release was long overdue. Happy that the Mondo gang did it justice!
TWIN PEAKS (Death Waltz Recordings/Mondo)
People can argue if David Lynch’s work can be considered “horror” all they want. I think some of the craziest images and scenes I’ve ever seen have come from his work, and in particular from TWIN PEAKS. So, I’m counting Death Waltz long-in-the-works TWIN PEAKS soundtrack release as one of my favorite picks this year. This is one of those albums I love just putting on repeat in the background while I work and write, and drink coffee, of course. And pictures of the actual packaging don’t do it justice. It’s gorgeous. Best of all, it comes in coffee colored vinyl. Damn fine indeed.
THE MUSIC OF DAVID LYNCH (Communion Records)
Since we’re talking about David Lynch, why not mention another album inspired by the man and his work that immediately became an instant favorite? THE MUSIC OF DAVID LYNCH is a double LP set of a live performance conducted with various musicians, all performing various songs and music from all his films and held with the goal of raising money and awareness to the David Lynch Foundation. Composer Angelo Badalamenti performs some of his TWIN PEAKS themes, and musicians such as Duran Duran, Lykke Li, Sky Ferreira, Moby and Zola Jesus do impressive covers of songs from his various soundtracks. The highlight for me is Lykke Li’s cover of “Wicked Game,” which I’d argue is better than the original! This was a vinyl only release, and the initial batch reported had skips in it, but I was lucky enough to snag one with no issues. It’s still readily available on places like Amazon or Discogs and gets my highest recommendation.
STRANGER THINGS (Lakeshore Records)
The world was not prepared for the juggernaut that was the Netflix original series STRANGER THINGS, but for a spell there, it was all anyone could talk about. It was amazing to see just how quickly The Duffer Brothers creation managed to infiltrate pop culture as strongly and impressionably as it did, and that’s because the show harnessed the best of the Amblin movies by way of a classic Stephen King novel and delivered something pretty darned cool and unique in it’s own right. Adding a groovy pulse to the whole thing was that terrific score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, which was released first digitally, and then as part of an epic two volume collection of double LP’s from Lakeshore Records. It literally feels very 80’s, very John Carpenter-esque, but you know what? That’s just fine! Easily one of the best releases this year and something everyone can enjoy.
JOHN CARPENTER: LOST THEMES II (Sacred Bones Records)
One of the great joys of this year was getting the opportunity to watch John Carpenter and his band go on their first tour to perform John’s classic movie themes live. Part of his set-list included tracks from last year’s LOST THEMES, but the thing that kicked this whole tour off was the release of LOST THEMES II. While I love the first album, I think this one is actually a stronger, more concise record. This project started as a cross country collaboration between Carpenter, his son Cody and his godson Daniel Davies. What’s apparent on LOST THEMES II is the three of them wrote and performed these songs in a room together. Basically, it sounds more organically like a full on band. And the fact that this has led to John’s new-found career as a rock star is just so awesome. I love this album! Below is the official live music video for the opening track “Distant Dream.” And for fun, their second narrative video “Utopian Facade” is below that!