My addiction to buying modern horror movie soundtracks started a few years ago when I discovered the magnificent Death Waltz Recording Company and its US based counterpart Mondo.
Their range of artfully curated LPs are often sourced from the original masters and cover everything from John Carpenter‘s entire back catalogue to Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery, the overlooked masterpiece The Visitor and long-lost Italian curios like L Profumo Della Signora In Nero.
With their limited numbers, specially commissioned artwork and elaborately coloured vinyl these have become absolute cat-nip for record and horror movie geeks like me.
Mondo and Death Waltz aren’t the only ones at it, Waxwork Records, Sacred Bones and Milan Records are also doing stellar work in draining nerds’ bank accounts.
Of course the inherent problem to all of this is that the collector mentality easily suppresses my common sense. Often I have bought soundtracks for films I have never heard of, after only hearing the briefest snippet on Soundcloud. Which is why I currently have sat in my collection L Profumo Della Signora In Nero, a classical work full of lushly arranged strings occasionally bordering on the twee that’s not remotely interesting enough to warrant repeated plays.
I also have the Creepshow soundtrack. Why the fuck do I have the Creepshow soundtrack!? When will I ever have the call to play the Creepshow soundtrack? At Halloween??
Well yeah, fair enough, but all too often now when I’ve received my newly purchased soundtrack (after having paid a custom charge at the sorting office and effectively doubled the price of the album), placed it on my record deck, and had my wife come home to find me listening to what it is essentially music fit solely for a fairground haunted house ride and have her assume that I’m a maniac.
She’s right to do so too, The Slumber Party Massacre soundtrack is perfect for watching teenagers be murdered to, but if you’re listening to it while doing some baking or dusting, you’re a fucking weirdo.
So it’s therefore important to remember why I got into enjoying horror movie soundtracks in the first place. Mainly because so many of them clearly influenced a lot of the music I love today, particularly the more 80s, synth-based scores.
Certainly nothing from the Italians Do It Better label would have quite the same atmosphere and neon-tinged dread if it wasn’t for the giallo movies of Dario Argento. The main refrain from Tenebrae recorded by Goblin, was used as the entire backbone of Justice’s hypnotic ‘Phantom Part 1’. Similarly Tobacco, Ariel Pink, John Maus, Tim Hecker have all been strongly influenced by the macabre melodies of John Carpenter. Most of the modern horror movie soundtracks I love today sound not unlike the best work of Giorgio Moroder or Vangelis, like Mads Heldtberg’s superb and as yet unreleased score to You’re Next.
Five best modern horror movie soundtracks
So with all the above in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best contemporary horror soundtracks released by the aforementioned labels, all of which come with the Methods Unsound guarantee that they’re all incredibly captivating scores that won’t make you look like a total psychopath if you’re caught listening to them.
Maniac by Rob [Death Waltz]
A phenomenally stirring, dark-toned piece of eighties nostalgia that is both a loving homage to the electronically scored movies of the early 80s but also a modern guide on how it’s possible to add pathos to even the most shocking and exploitative of horror movies.
It Follows by Disasterpeace [Milan Records]
It Follows features the best horror movie score since John Carpenter first took to his trusty synth in the late 70s. It’s a magnificent work, genuinely terrifying while also managing to create catchy melodies out of some nerve-rattling sounds.
Room 237 by Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson [Death Waltz]
For this fascinating documentary on the various possible and frankly illogical subtexts of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining it would have been very easy to co-opt the original theme’s signatures but Room 237 doesn’t do that. It creates its own world, its own soundscapes, and acts as both a fitting companion to the original film and as a brilliant ambient electronica album in its own right.
Starry Eyes by Jonathan Snipes [Waxwork Records]
If you haven’t seen the film, it’s an absolutely phenomenal, blood-drenched warning about the horrors of fame, and its soundtrack perfectly matches this portentous, intensely over-the-top morality tale, taking its influences from such contrasting genres as rock operas and nursery rhymes.
John Carpenter – Lost Themes [Sacred Bones]
Film director John Carpenter knows his way around an iconic film score, having created such lasting pieces as the Halloween theme and the much sampled Assault on Precinct 13 soundtrack. Lost Themes is an album of brand new material, that although could easily fit into any one of his macabre classics, exists on its own merit as a thoroughly captivating instrumental album.