If you're a fan of classic Italian horror and thriller flicks of the late '70s through most of the '80s – from the slick and stylish giallos of Mario Bava and Dario Argento to the splatter epics of Lucio Fulci – then you know the distinctive musical style that is often inseparable from those shocking and seductive visuals. Progressive rock bands like Goblin and composers like Fabio Frizzi and Riz Ortolani not only delight the hearts of Euro-horror fans who grew up watching films like Suspiria, The Beyond and Cannibal Holocaust, but their musical creations have also inspired dozens of composers and bands (myself included) seeking to capture that same groove. I've come across several artists who not only manage to do that very thing, but they've also managed to expand on the essentials and shape the music into something unique. I've picked my five current favorites to share with you, so read on, listen to some sample tracks, and hopefully find some new additions to your playlist!
1. Anima Morte
If you're a fan of Fabio Frizzi's wildly entertaining scores to Fulci's The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, or Goblin's contributions to Argento's Deep Red and George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, get ready to experience the best kind of deja vu ever. I've reviewed the first two full-length albums from this incredible Swedish quartet – Face the Sea of Darkness and The Nightmare Becomes Reality – and even now, when I listen to them it's easy to pretend that some intrepid film historian has unearthed pristine masters for the soundtracks to a dozen "lost" Italian horror films. Spin one of my favorite Anima cuts, "Corridor of Blood," and you'll see those movies in your mind too...
When it comes to retro-cool Italian grooves, you can't get much closer to the source than Venetian artist William Bottin – whose name calls to mind another genre icon, makeup FX wizard Rob Bottin (but they're not related, as far as I know). In addition to all the progressive rock and funk elements that I tend to associate with the giallo greats, there's also a generous dollop of Euro dance cheee in Bottin's recipe, and he's not afraid to toss in a bit of '70s polyester campiness to remind you he's having as much fun as you are. Below is the official video (well, sort of) for the title track from his appropriately-titled 2009 album Horror Disco...
3. The Giallos Flame
This UK-based outfit founded by multi-instrumentalist Ron Graham is another long-time staple of my library, and I've sung their praises on these pages before (check out this review of House at the Edge of the Dark). Graham's work draws from a deep well of cinematic goodness, from the gamut of giallos to Italy's equally popular poliziotteschi (police thriller) genre of the '70s. Over the past few years, his vintage vibe has crossed over into modern horror and exploitation flicks like Hobo with a Shotgun, and the band's back catalog reads like a glorious non-stop marathon of horror and exploitation movie titles (including some imaginary ones). Here's a funky number dedicated to the 1972 giallo classic What Have You Done to Solange?
Another modern aritist whose creative heart beats somewhere around the year 1981, Umberto (a.k.a. Matt Hill, also known for his work with cosmic-rock unit Expo 70) draws inspiration just as heavily from the music of John Carpenter as from Italian horror soundtracks. Also worth noting: his debut full-length album From the Grave has the distinction of being the first album ever inspired by Juan Piquer Simon's splatter classic Pieces (or at least the first artist willing to admit it), so now you know exactly where this cat's coming from. Check out this slick and wicked cut from his sophomore album, Prophecy of the Black Widow:
The highest-profile band on this list, this Pittsburgh-based duo has been on the scene for a decade, amassing a strong fan following and getting the attention of a major label, Relapse Records. Their latest album Escape Velocity (the one with the naked asses on the cover) is a thick slab of day-glo '80s electronica in the mode of Tangerine Dream, but their earliest recordings came straight from the heart of Italian synthesizer prog-rock – the beat that drove so many of my favorite horror films from the late '70s and early '80s. Here's one of their earliest, the Goblin-esque "Orion" from their first full-length release Cosmos (this version comes from the original demo of that album).