Album Review: Spine Chillers by Sam Haynes

The horror-driven rave of independent electronic artist, Sam Haynes, returns from the grave once more! And what better time than the Halloween season? Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s always Halloween in Necrotic’s wonderful and weird world. Just because October has come and gone doesn’t mean I’m not up for anything horror related! And that’s where this album comes in. As you remember, I was quite the fan of the previous album called, “Ghost Stories.” But this begs the question, does Spine Chillers live up to it or maybe even surpass it? Don’t touch that dial now, we’re just getting started!

While the previous album had a larger focus on electronic music, this album shifts to a more diverse mixture of darker sounding dance and heavily atmospheric music. To me, this makes the music feel more unique, resulting in tracks that stand out from each other, but not in a way that takes the listener out of the gloomy synth music experience. Each piece is its own grindhouse cinema trailer wrapped into an infectious groove. Some of the pieces almost put the listener right into a frightening film experience, as if they’re the horror character themselves. Some tracks make you wanna rave with the living dead, while others make you grip your seat in fear and excitement. It’s a nice balance that makes for a killer album. Let’s take a look deeper into the dark depths, shall we?

This album kicks off with “Death comes Creeping In”, which focuses on the dark ambient side of Haynes’ music. The thick atmosphere of this track provides a great start with suspense building rhythms and eerie sounds spliced with sinister synth keys. What follows is “HeXed”; a mesh of many styles found in the previous album. Here, we have a mix of harpsichord-esque sound and sinister electronic drone. The slower tempo makes way for a John Carpenter’s Halloween homage with a funky twist; an eclectic mix that showcases the spooky fun to be had with this album.
This album has packed with a demonic electronic vibe that will appeal to any rave from beyond the grave! “Grim Reaper” picks up with a soft music box with distorted pinging leading into a synthy dance beat with a heavy new wave vibe. The vintage keyboard is pumped up with some DnB/Dub style tunes to make one want to ‘pump up the volume.’ (It’s still cool to say that, right?) That said, I’m not getting a major Reaper vibe from this, but no biggie. “Halloween Twilight” starts as what seems like a continuation of Reaper. All in all, not a bad thing. It takes the aspects of the previous songs and gives them a deeper and slower sound. Through use of repetition in musical sound, it creates a pretty suspenseful environment! One of my favorite pieces comes next, “Night Caller.” This one unashamably feels like something out of a slasher movie! You feel like a character being relentlessly stalked by a mad killer, as the track builds up more and more thanks to haunting choral like keys and a ghoulish synth that heightens nightmarish atmosphere. My top pick for this style is “Haunted House Party.” Not only do we have a genuinely threatening style track, but this one has a sick sound that sticks in your head and makes you wanna rock out as well. Plus, a mix of theremin soundscape and Vincent Price can only result in something wonderful. A close runner up is “The Other Side (Remix)” for its heavily charged up dark wave sound combined with an ethereal background. This energetic track reminds me of both later Depeche Mode and early NIN, which works for me either way!

For fans of deeply ambient and atmospheric, this album aims to please as well! The title track, “Spine Chillers”, rocks a demented circus theme-like introduction before a hypnotic harp sound lifts the piece into something truly frightening! To me, this is the artist improving and evolving! With the high intensity of the Night stalker track before it, “Sinister Lullaby” is more so an cool down track with plenty of unease to keep the listener engaged and unnerved. This track distorts typically soothing sounds into an uncanny hellscape akin to the Reaper intro segment. “Masks” jumps back to a Silent Film inspired soundtrack somewhere between Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu! Plus, it’s not too much of a stretch to compare it to the retro sounds of 1990s survival horror a la Resident Evil and Silent Hill. If a dreamy, surreal atmosphere is more to your liking, tracks like “Spirit of Halloween” bring this wonderful nightmare world right to your head. Surreal horror is the most unexplainable and inherently terrifying horror, so what’s not to like? When you combine this with my fear of the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey, you get a track that’s even more fun for the post-nuclear mutant family! I’m talking about “Halloween Night (Extended)”; with its warped banjo, unsettling country-like atmosphere, and twisted, dreary backwoodsy sounds. It makes me think of a haunted farm… or all those terrifying urban legends throughout the barrens themselves!

As usual, Sam Haynes delivers a hell of a solid release once more. In a couple ways, it’s an improvement on his last release. More variety, more energy, and general improvements on the sound; all around I have to say positive things. Spine Chillers gets a 9.0 out of 10!

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