CD Review - Rue Morgue's 'Hymns from the House of Horror'


If you've been an avid reader of that classy, jam-packed horror magazine from the Great White North known as Rue Morgue, you already know they've got a savvy music department – including the intrepid Tomb Dragomir, long-time DJ of the “Rue Morgue Radio” podcast, a weekly tradition in my house (and not just because he's played a couple of my own band's singles – honest). The mag is commemorating their 100th issue this month, so to musically mark the occasion, the Rue Morgue crew have compiled some creeptastic cuts by their favorite fear-friendly artists from many different genres – some of whom supplied rare or exclusive tracks. If you're like me and your musical tastes lean toward dark, weird, and scare-the-neighbors loud, you'll go straight to your blood-drenched happy place with this impressive collection, which serves as a great overview of the Rue Morgue Radio experience... think of it as the ultimate “Mixtape of the Damned.”

Weighing in at seventeen tracks, Hymns from the House of Horror is a mighty beast of a compilation no self-respecting horror music fan should be without... hell, even if you've got no self-respect whatsoever, you can't lose with this one, because it's totally free for the taking. Turn the page for the complete breakdown!

Tomb worked closely with key members of the Rue Morgue staff, including music writer Liisa Ladouceur (who also hosts the “Blood Splattered Guide to Music”) under the guidance of RM President Rodrigo Gudiño and Editor-In-Chief Dave Alexander (both of whom orchestrated the project), with music coordination by Associate Editor Trevor Tuminski to assemble an eclectic list of macabre melodies from the literal thousands of artists who have contributed to the podcast, choosing those they felt summed up the essence of the podcast and the magazine. It’s not all overtly horror-based punk and psychobilly – although those stalwart genres do make a strong showing. But first and foremost, the organizers looked to any bands with an inherent feel for music's sinister side.

There’s also a refreshing lack of mainstream acts in appearance, as the magazine and podcast are known for introducing the public to lesser-known independent artists whose output is worth a listen (something I heartily support myself, being a DIY musician and all). Plus it’s obviously cost-prohibitive to license big-label names like Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson for the CD… but you can still hear all those major players on the podcast on any given week, so no worries there. But those of you familiar with Rue Morgue Radio have probably heard from nearly every name on this lineup at least once… and for the rest of you, let this serve as a little refresher.

After a classic old-school opening from Tomb (in his usual down-tuned undead-DJ voice), we kick off the album, appropriately enough, with the very enthusiastic tribute song Rue Morgue Radio by The Creepshow that is sure to become the show’s new official theme. It’s followed by perennial Halloween faves Midnight Syndicate, who offer up one of their early atmospheric spookhouse tracks, Haunted Nursery. Up next are flamboyant metallers Cauldron with their anthem Into the Cauldron, followed by the lighthearted psychobilly number Black Dream by The Independents.

Popular southern-fried vamp-rockers Ghoultown make a welcome appearance, turning out the twangy old-west zombie ode Return of the Living Dead, which leads nicely into the rollicking fuzzed-out surf tune Banshee Beach from The Ghastly Ones. Tomb Dragomir himself does his own remix of the popular single Redneck Zombies by demon-rockers Psycho Charger – including a spicy sprinkling of cult movie clips. Next up we get the down-homey vibe of It's Only the End of the World, by Harley Poe – sounding very much like the Violent Femmes after an all-night zombie-flick marathon.

Things take a decidedly gloomy turn with the goth-dirge Nightmare World by Those Poor Bastards (I’m not being rude, that’s the band’s name), before slipping into undead romance with the zombie slow-dance ditty My Body's a Zombie for You by Dead Man's Bones. Forbidden Dimension dishes up some solid occult-flavored garage rock in Hand of Glory, after which UK horror unit Zombina and the Skeletones turn out the gleefully twisted party piece Something Weird. Long-time FEARnet faves Creature Feature debut the brand-new track Grave Robber at Large, proving they’re still packing the same manic energy and wicked songwriting skills they demonstrated with their debut record The Greatest Show Unearthed.

The nicely-named Damn Laser Vampires turn up the burn with the rough 'n' ready dark-punk cut Saint of Killers, and Japan’s excellent Misfits-style crew Balzac keep that energy high with Hurt (no, it’s not a Nine Inch Nails cover) before the mood gets even moodier, thanks to folksters The Handsome Family and the hair-raising harmonies of traditional tune The Lost Soul. The vintage eeriness of that track fits well against the nightmarish Oil and Blood by appropriately-named band The Unsettlers – a raspy spoken word piece accompanied by creepy ambient avant-garde folk & jazz and a faint, cryptic lullaby – after which Tomb and the rest of the Rue Morgue Radio team send us out with energetic thank-yous to fans old and new.

As you can probably imagine, there’s something in here for just about everyone of a darker musical persuasion… but even if you’re not particularly inclined toward horror tunes and just appreciate music that wanders freely upon strange and unusual sonic turf, I think you’ll still have a lot of fun with this collection. And like I said, it won’t cost you more than a few minutes’ download time, so it’s a win-win deal. When you download the album from the Rue Morgue Radio website you'll get a zip file that also contains amazing original cover and liner art designed by Justin Erickson (you even get an overlay for the disc itself, which you can import into most label-making printer templates), a little more sweet icing on a very tasty pastry. Bear in mind the album is only available for a short time... so go get it now, fer cryin' out loud!