Music. It has always shared a close relationship with visual imagery, even long before the era of film began. Painters and sculptors, poets and playwrights … throughout the ages these artists have culled ideas and taken inspiration from the composers they admired. Music has the ability to imprint itself upon us and become the soundtrack to our lives.
I have music I like to read to, music I like to write to, music I like to drink to, and music I like to fu…well…um, you get the idea! Since I read a lot of horror, since I write mainly about horror, and since I drink blood (actually I don’t drink blood…at least not recently), I am more often than not listening to the darker side of the musical spectrum, enhancing the bleaker corners of my mind with haunting melodies, both hard and soft.
So, after wishing I was seeing some of the bands and musical projects that are, as I said, the soundtrack to my life here at Dread Central, bands and musical projects that I thought our readers would most likely dig, that reflected our aesthetics and cultural tastes and that showed artistic integrity and deserved our support, it actually took our own lovely Woman In Black to state the obvious. She basically said, “If you want to see it, Butcher, write it!” and got me off my ass. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I can be pretty dumb at times, but hey! I love music, and that’s what counts here and now.
And that’s what I want to help you readers be introduced to. Stuff that isn’t promoted by a publicist, stuff that isn’t on the radio, stuff that you have to dig a little to find and maybe even spend a bit of time with to appreciate. Hence, this new ongoing column: SCARE-RIFF-EYEING. I’m picking up the shovel and digging into hallowed ground to unearth what I think are the best in terrifying tunes.
Now don’t worry. SCARE-RIFF-EYEING (get it? get it?) isn’t going to be a cop out, relying on the fact there are ten zillion metal bands, all singing about whatever art graces the cover of whichever 80’s gore flick they just scored on VHS off of eBay.
Nope. That’s just too easy. That’s just too done to death.
Outside the box is where some of the stuff in this column is going to come from. Yes, there will indeed be metal (and, eventually, all its inherent sub-genres I’m sure), but there will also be ambient, folk, electronic, blues, jazz, experimental, punk, and any other style as long as it exhibits some kind of lovely atrocity. I’ll be looking to the future, and at times to the past, in an attempt to chart the invisible art of what I see as true horror music and drag it kicking and screaming into the light.
So on that note, here is the first installment of SCARE-RIFF-EYEING! Musical Abominations Horror Fans Should Be Killing For and Dying Over:
Bohren & der Club of Gore
Bohren & der Club of Gore are an atmospheric, deliberate, and above all, patient type of musical experience. A mood is set, then methodically developed, building slowly, and creating an instrumental narrative that doesn’t need words to tell a story. Listening to B&DCOG, you can easily conjure up morbid images that swirl ’round ghost-like out of their very special witches’ brew of music. Images of razor-wielding killers, quietly lurking in the shadowed walkways, hidden off of lonely rain-drenched cobblestone streets. Visions of fanged and fur-covered beasts, creeping through the midnight mists of the Lowland moors. A fever dream of crypts, of caskets, and of the darkened void. This is seriously stirring stuff, folks, especially if you appreciate the ambiance of hushed terrors and have a predilection for slow-burning horrors.
The members of B&DCOG cut their teeth in grind, extreme metal, and hardcore bands. Their first two albums, Gore Motel and Midnight Radio, made use of the standard ensemble of electric guitar, drums, and bass, harnessing the power of the almighty riff and applying it over more ambient and jazzy sounds that the members were unable to experiment with, and utilize, in their previous projects.
As B&DCOG honed their style, the mellower side of things became the centerpiece, and their original guitar-centric way of thinking mattered less and less in their compositions. Then, with their third album, Sunset Missions, they moved forward into spacier landscapes, abandoning guitars altogether and evolving into a more straightforward dark-jazz ensemble, rather than a post-hardcore experimentation. B&DCOG’s music whispers quietly, like a spectre in your ear, rather than cleaving your head in two with the audial equivalent of an axe swung by a screaming madman.
This, from their MySpace page, further explains their history:
Founding members Thorsten Benning (Drums), Robin Rodenberg (Bass), Reiner Henseleit (Guitar), Morten Gass (Guitar/Piano) started playing music together in 1988. They were friends from school and they shared a common taste for all kinds of extreme music like Grindcore, Hardcore, Death or Doom Metal.
Driven by the idea of a more unique style of music, they formed BOHREN (german word for drilling) in 1992 to play, as they called it, “doom ridden jazz music”.
1993 – The band released a 7″ ep for Suggestion Records. 1993 also saw the band expand their name to BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE, as a link to the Dutch instrumental band GORE, which inspired Bohren to play instrumental music.
1994 – Followed the longplayers GORE MOTEL and the double set MIDNIGHT RADIO (1995), both on Epistrophy Records, where Bohren introduces its musical vision between slow jazz ballads and doom-guitars.
1996 – Reiner Henseleit left the band and the guitar disappeared out of the Bohren Music.
1997 – Christoph Clöser, a Cologne-based composer and musician (saxophone, piano) joined the band and in the cast were T. Benning (Drums), C. Clöser (Saxophone), M. Gass (Fender Rhodes), and R. Rodenberg (Bass), which still exist till today. The band released SUNSET MISSION (2000), a slow but nonetheless melodious blend of Saxophone, Fender Rhodes, Bass, and Drums on the Hamburg-based label WONDER.
2002 – Bohren released BLACK EARTH, where the band tried to expand the possibilities of new avenues explored in SUNSET MISSION, followed by the subsequent conceptual CD GEISTERFAUST (2005). GEISTERFAUST carries the principles of reduction and compression to extremes, and at the same time it is a band experiment in new “tone colours” (Tuba, Bass-Trombone, Vibraphone, Choir). Both CDs are released on WONDER.
In autumn 2008 the new Bohren CD DOLORES appears on the Belgian label PIAS.
“With DOLORES Bohren’s habit of making music which often makes the listener feel like he or she is stuck in some dark room in which the oxygen is slowly and mercilessly being extracted has changed. When listening to DOLORES, listeners are sure to get feeling that – after all these years – the shutters are being raised, the windows thrown open, fresh air and sunlight are flooding into the room. Quite by chance, the most natural thing in the world – cool, crisp and brazen.”
B&DCOG bring to the sub-genre of dark-jazz the energy and intensity inherent in their previous and more extreme projects and then create a quiet kind of sonic power that is easy to lose yourself in. Theirs is a smoky sound that would fit perfectly in a world populated by characters like Steve Niles’ Cal McDonald and Harry Angel from the film Angel Heart. With titles such as “Midnight Walker”, “Constant Fear”, “Grave Wisdom”, “On Demon Wings”, and “Dandys Lungen Durch Die Nacht”, B&DCOG play the pre-dawn songs that echo through deserted alleys in the wee hours, when the bodies are cooling and the cats are prowling. Great stuff for the reading room or playing as background music for a clandestine midnight feast.
Discography: Gore Motel, Midnight Radio, Sunset Mission, Black Earth, Geisterfaust, Dolores
See also: John Zorn, Portishead, Morphine, Ennio Morriconne, Angelo Badalamenti, Brian Eno, noir films, atmospheric, experimental, jazz.
Recommended enhancers: A good Cabernet, Sugar Hawaiian, Lemon 714, Jim Thompson’s “After Dark, My Sweet”, Tom Piccirilli’s “Headstone City”.
Learn more at the official Bohren & der Club of Gore website.
Bohren & der Club of Gore await you. All you need to do is step through their shrouded doors. The darkness within is beautiful, and it is beckoning.
Bohren & der Club of Gore – Midnight Black Earth Video
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