Sunday, 6 March 2016

SLASHER DAVE - Exorcisms

So, I've had a musical crush on Slasher Dave since he released his album Spookhouse back in 2013. In fact, he was one of the first of the faux horror soundtrack / synthwave artists I discovered. Truthishly, it's entirely inaccurate to call him synthwave at all as he's right up my musical alley located just around the corner from Goblin-avenue and Carpenter lane with little to none of the dance bollocks that characterize much of today's scene. He's a horror soundtrack purist, a metalhead and one hell of a synth artist. His new album Exorcisms was released by Bellyache Records in mid-February. Let's dissect it, shall we?

EXORCISMS - Right off the bat Slasher Dave gets to a nice spooky place. Demented sound. Totally warped. This is exact giallo music. Totally Argento. I get the sense straight away that this is a tone setter for the rest of the album. Different sound from what we've heard on the last two Slasher Dave albums.

INSOMNIA - Cold, wintry tone hear with the bell sounds and dark overtones. Synthwave or Horror Disco or whatever you want to call it is emerging as a popular subgenre of electronic music but it's mostly just dark dance music or even Miami Vice inspired. THIS is what I'm looking for when I dip my stubborn toes into the synthwave waters. No drums of any kind to speak of here, just a frightening or unsettling atmosphere.

DAY DREAMS - Another aspect of this subgenre that I love is picturing the missing film of these soundtracks that never were. The last two songs are all about billowing curtains bathed in light through a darkened room. Shadows move.

TRANCE LIKE STATE - It's been minutes now and we haven't heard bass or snare drums since the opening track. Slasher Dave has really taken his time here to build suspense and hammer home the possession narrative. In a way the music itself is becoming a proxy for the storyline suggested by the title. We'll see if we get delivered from evil by the end of this thing.

STRANGE BEHAVIOR - Creepy piano and a keyboard choir greet us at the front of this composition. This may be my favorite track yet. The thing about Slasher Dave is, he comes from the metal world so he's not approaching things from a spooky-fun dance-off ethic. I think he really gets what horror and the accompanying music is all about. The tragic thing about horror fanatics is that we don't get scared by horror films, we're stuck with spooking our significant others, but the music gets under our skins. Slasher Dave brings that across here better than most, maybe better than anyone I've ever heard do it.

DEVIL'S POSSESSION - Very surrealistic overtones here. Man, there must be some kind of toddler's birthday party going on in my building or the one next to me. As this surrealistic song is playing two girls start high-pitched howling in unison. Weird moment perfectly suited to the music.

THE WINDOW - Here we go. I had a feeling it was coming. The Tubular Bells moment. This is still an interesting song because it's like a what if Goblin had written Tubular Bells. Some fine giallo here especially towards the middle of the song. And wouldn't you know it, this song is called "The Window". Slasher Dave does such a great job of painting a moving picture through music that he pre-suggested that image to me by the second and third tracks in only to deliver the coup de grace here!

CRUCIFIX - One of the few longer songs on the album (nearing 4 minutes) and it's got a real Fulci or I should say Fabio Frizzi feel here with the steady pounding rhythm and choral notes. Sharp piano rides overtop with a haunting melody. This album is turning into a tour de force. A very specific feel that is totally appropriate to the subject matter. Maybe a little on the nose in fact, but that's kind of what you're looking for in something like this. If absolutely everybody was doing it on the other hand, it would be a different story.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL - At 5 and a half minutes this track is nearly twice as long as almost all the others. And as the title suggests we get our first heroic theme of the album. Finally a little relief from all this soul churning evil. This theme represents hope, I assume in the form of a priest. I'm willing to bet this guy fails by the end of it ... spoiler alert! Full disclosure: those darn kids are still making a whole lot of racket outside but not in a spooky way that suits the music anymore, so I think that's undermining my optimism here. Little call back to the opening track here, that haunted, abandoned carnival thing as I assume, the evil spirit fights back. This is more Don't Torture a Duckling than The Beyond, more giallo than pure horror. Actually, those flutey sounds are almost martial in nature which makes me wonder whether or not the heroic character on this track was intended to be a detective, rather than a priest. The hero and evil spirit wrestle for possession.

HEED OUR PRAYERS - Shit just got real dark, son. This is exactly the kind of music you don't want following you into a rain-splashed, steam-soaked, back-lit alley at night. A short track, but another real standout.

THE RITES OF EXORCISM - And now we've come to the darkest moment of all. The moment of truth. The double time melody, pitch shifting bells and Gregoran choir beneath suggest a battle and one that's not going too well. I'm amazed at Slasher Dave's ability to nail it with the stage-setting. Little spoken prayer there as the song dies out.

LEVITATION - Alright, this is cool shit. A dark and epic atmosphere. I was kind of waiting for a fast pace breakout, but we get that stomp going midtempo, which is about double time for this album.

FOREVER'S LULLABY - And a nice serene, peaceful acoustic guitar tune. It appears all is well and all will be well. And a very Goblin-esque la la la chorus. I see the little girl who was possessed lying in bed, tired from her desperate fight, but safe and sound. But I still can't shake the feeling that the parents will leave the room, the door will close behind them and the little girl's head will snap around towards the camera with glowing eyes ... Hey, that's a surprise, that final twist never comes.

And that's that. It says a lot about the current state of storytelling in movies and yes, even in music that when the final twist ending DOESN'T come it's more surprising. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing, I'll let you decide gentle reader, but if you're like me and you likes you the horror music but you don't like the danceable nature of most synthwave music, then you've just found yourself a gem of an album. And that's no twist ending either considering that Slasher Dave's previous two, 'Spookhouse' [2013] and 'Tomb of Horror' [2014] are among my favorites of the genre.

Fans of Goblin, Frizzi and indeed the entire Italian giallo ouevre will also get a great kick out of this one because Slasher Dave really picks up where those composers left off, which is using the synth as a real musical instrument and not as a drone behind a dance beat. Again, if everybody was doing this it might not be all that special, but for the nonce when Slasher Dave releases an album it's a special occasion indeed!

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