Something that you may have noticed that has been getting a lot more attention on BD Music is vinyl. The analog format has been seeing a rise in popularity, its sales constantly on the rise. In the UK, vinyl sales broke 500,000 copies in 2013 with 4% of purchases not even owning a turntable. In the US, sales of vinyl have increased by 338% over the last seven years. What was once thought to be a dying format, one that was gasping its last breaths, has shown it not only has some life left in it but that it’s actually thriving.
When it comes to horror, several labels have begun focusing their trade on finding and bringing us the very best that the genre has to offer. As I write this, Waxwork Records has just opened up pre-orders for John Harrison‘s Creepshow, Death Waltz has announced that they will be releasing Fabio Frizzi‘s City Of The Living Dead, and One Way Static is gearing up for the upcoming release of Cannibal Ferox, composed by Roberto Donati.
But what is behind this sudden interest? What has spurred these labels to dive into the past when everything about the internet and today’s society seems to be entirely focused on the future? It’s something that’s been on my mind and I wanted to offer some thoughts I had on the topic. So, pop on your favorite horror score and join me below!
My own personal interest in vinyl began when I purchased a first edition copy of King Crimson‘s In The Court Of The Crimson King for a mere $0.25 at a garage sale. It was my first record and I purchased it because I truly loved the album. I figured someday I would be able to hear it as it was meant to be heard but, at the time, it wasn’t a pressing thought. It was only when I purchased Mondo’s re-issue of The Beyond that I got the urge to begin acquiring everything I would need to actually listen to vinyl.
My modest collection now stands at nearly 40 records. It’s nothing huge but it’s mine and I derive such joy from putting on a record, sitting back, and letting the music wash over me. As I write this, I’m listening to Waxwork Records reissue of Krzysztof Komeda‘s gorgeous Rosemary’s Baby score and earlier I was listening to Russian Circles‘ latest album Memorial.
There is something to be said about being held hostage by music. After all, when you put on a record, it’s not something you can take with you. It’s not something you can fit into your pocket, hook up to your car stereo, or anything like that. You put on a record and you are forced to stay nearby, so as to appreciate it the way that it should be appreciated. You’re forced to interact with the music rather than let it be simple background noise.
But my personal feelings towards vinyl don’t answer the questions I posed earlier. Why is horror so big on vinyl these days? Why are we seeing it rise in a way that has never before been seen? Allow me to break it down into some ideas I have on the matter.
1) People Are Craving Originality
When it comes to horror, the fans are always asking, practically begging, for something original, something unique. They bring up titles from the past that were pioneers of a subgenre, much like how Psycho practically invented slashers. This want for originality also leads to a distaste for excessive sequels and potentially unnecessary remakes.
When looking at this from a vinyl perspective, it’s easy to see that people want the originals on wax, not the music of current films. It’s the originals that hold the charm, the thrills, the real terror. We want Harry Manfredini‘s score to Friday The 13th, not Steve Jablonsky‘s. It’s John Carpenter‘s score for The Fog that sends shivers up and down our spines and not the music of Graeme Revell.
It is the past that we remember horror being the best. Once something new has been done there’s very little that can top it because it will never have that sense of originality. Our nostalgia breeds our demand for true horror that we can love as much as the films that moved us in the first place but that they can never hope to match.
Music is the most technologically advanced that it’s ever been. The amount that producers, engineers, even home musicians can do is astonishing. A one-person project can sound like a full band with a complete orchestra backing them up. Look at bands that embrace the future, such as Tesseract and Periphery, using tools that create absolutely fascinating tones and soundscapes. Such bands are on the rise and are ever evolving. It’s a new revolutionary movement within the music world.
However, there are the bands that eschew such technology or, at the least, stick with tried and true methods. Bands like Bloody Hammers and Helms Alee have a very raw, almost unpolished sound. But there is something deeply organic, warm, and personal about such an approach. It feels almost more human. Mistakes aren’t edited out, they are embraced. Little flaws are what give the overall product its character, much like with horror.
See, some of the best horror films are the ones that are technologically timeless. There is nothing in the movie that detracts and causes a scoffed laugh. Think of a movie like Scream 4 that uses real time streaming technology. Yeah, it was clever upon release but that technology was already around and it’s bound to be improved upon. When we see a movie like Alien (which I personally feel is a timeless classic that can never be touched), the green text black background computers are such a thing of the past that it’s immediately noticeable and potentially distracting. Is it necessary? Because of the kind of film that it is, absolutely.
But when we look at a lot of the popular horror that is coming out today, especially in TV, technology is not something utilized. Think of The Walking Dead and its total lack of technology. People are reverting to the basic necessities. Or how about American Horror Story and three seasons taking place in the past where relatable technology isn’t a factor and therefore unable to distract. And yet another example is Hannibal, a beautiful, bleak, horrific show that is far more focused on the wonder and mystery of the human mind, the organic.
It is because of this surge in an almost Luddite approach to horror that I believe horror vinyl is making its comeback. We have super fancy MP3 players and we’re able to stream high quality music through a multitude of services. Moving forward is something that we don’t necessarily need to do.
We, the consumer, have shown that there is interest in a product that many believed was not modern, not “up to date”, and on a crash course path to extinction. Mondo announces the release of a horror vinyl and it sells out within minutes. Labels like One Way Static and SpaceLab 9 are thriving, even with just a few releases. Music On Vinyl, while being a venue for more than just horror vinyl, has some truly astonishing titles that were originally released to a generation whose current living population is in the low single digit percentile, if at all, such as Bride Of Frankenstein.
While there is a portion of horror that will always be looking ahead and trying to bring us the future, there is always going to be an undercurrent of tried and true terrors that time will never touch. Horror vinyl is using the past to help rekindle that joyous fear we used to experience.