It’s the end of October and the ghosts are marching two by two. Faces are appearing in trees. Black cats are eating dead rats in the alleys. Halloween is almost here and no one can be safe from a sudden heart-stopping scare. Proceed with caution. Be prepared. Have at the ready something loud to frighten off possible intruders. Discarding any black metal, Norwegian death metal and most of Marilyn Manson’s albums, these are the top five albums to scare your neighbors with. If you can’t hear them, they’re not there.
Metal Machine Music
by Lou Reed
Invite over the buddies and pals, serve them pumpkin-flavored booze, feed them candy corn and watch them choke on their own tongue and run screaming through the house when you put on Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Reed went all Edwardo Scissorhands on the tapes for his fifth “solo” album. Put out by RCA Records in 1975 merely as a contractual obligation, MMM is four sides and over an hour of screeching, grating, mind-numbing guitar noise. Different tracks of mutilated feedback run together at different speeds like tapeworms through a distended organism. Hilarious to think of someone hoping for another “Perfect Day,” getting prepped and comfortable for a night of tunes, then getting this. It’s not nice. It’s not friendly. But, it laid the groundwork for eventual acts to claim “noise” as a legitimate musical genre. If you want the trick-or-treaters dressed as Dora the Explorer and the red M&M to stay away from your house, look no further. You’ll probably want your own pair of earplugs, though.
by Wolf Eyes
Oh, it starts off slow. It starts off quiet. Don’t turn it up more. It’s fine. Burned Mind, by Wolf Eyes, was released in 2004 and sort of broke open further the idea of pure chaotic noise as something to be listened to. The three members in Wolf Eyes wholeheartedly picked up where Metal Machine Music left off. Burned Eyes seeks to destroy not only the speakers, but the wiring, the padding, the outer casings and then drill into your ear drums. It’s all sputtering tape squalls, feedback, bouts of pain, desperation, paranoia and outright fear. Jabba the Hutt and Chewbacca try to swallow each other whole in the background. It is complete sonic torment and it is not safe. It’ll sound like your radio is broken, but is also transforming into some unexplainable extraterrestrial tape demon. It’s not the police that’ll be called, it’ll be the SWAT Team.
by Xiu Xiu
Xiu Xiu’s debut album, Knife Play, opens with the song “Don Diasco.” Many degrees of clattering, intimating percussion swirl around singer Jamie Stewart’s frenetic sad-fuck wail. The devastation is toxic. The listener’s ears become short circuiting electrical sockets. My friends, it doesn’t get any better from there. “I Broke Up (SJ)” is a shackled trance-march into Stewart’s manic head-space — a place that becomes shudderingly familiar throughout Xiu Xiu’s discography — and by the third song, “Luber,” you’ll be wondering if some brown acid made it into your evening soup. The remainder of the album continues in that same vein. The ghosts of sexual repression and workday shifts are summoned and vaunt across the room. You’ll be hiding behind couches and peaking through blinds.
by Scott Walker
The long music career of Scott Walker fuels an interesting backstory going into his thirteenth album, The Drift, released in 2006. Walker’s been making music since the Sixties when he started working with pop song structures in the United Kingdom and released fairly successful albums there. God knows what happened along the way. His later albums are anything but pop. The Drift‘s opening song, “Cossacks Are,” is the soundtrack to a murder spree; the moment our heroine leaps from a two-story bush to run through the darkened street from her eventual captor. Walker bellows and moans like the Addams Family’s Lurch. His wails are metered, contextual and carefully fit into the mix. He stands in the shadows, only the white of his eyes visible. “That’s a nice suit,” he comments. “That’s a swanky suit.” Walker’s operatic voice rises and falls in a sea of mutilated instrumentation. The strings of a violin provide the only calm as a constant beat steps down hard on the ground. Each song is like a new scene in a slow-evolving horror film.
It’s not just their masks, but goddamn does it help. When Slipknot cut through the ceiling of that atrocious nu-metal scene of the late ’90’s, they did it in grand carnival clown style by creating not only one of the greatest metal albums made, but also one of the eeriest. With their nine-member team Slipknot employed every sound in the freak database. Craig Jones and Sid Wilson added hypnotic effects and digressions. Chris Fehn and Shawn Crahan played gigantic beer kegs, busted drums and whatever was lying around. Guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson brought the ax evil necessary for any metal album, but brought a new style to the genre. On songs, “Eyeless” and “Surfacing,” they get a high-pitched guitar tone that sounds ripped from Satan’s personal choir.
“The whole thing I think is sick,” a warped recording repeats on the opening track, surrounded by what sound like sirens of warning. The chills are crawling up your back before you even realize it. Then “(sic)” cracks your skull with drummer Jody Jordison’s pummeling double-bass. Corey Taylor not only has the most torching vocal chord of all metal singers, but he’s got this deranged lunacy that comes out in hypersensitive hyperventilating cries and whines. “You can’t kill me / ’cause I’m already inside you,” he sings on the song. That’s just some cold shit to say to a motherfucker. You don’t sleep after someone says that to you. Throughout the album Taylor sounds like he’s dragging behind him a dead body and with every pull it gets heavier and heavier as the adrenaline wears off.