It’s not just the imagery that makes horror movies frightening or memorable. The musical score plays a huge part in evoking emotions from the audience. While certain composers, such as John Carpenter or the members of Goblin, have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the last few years, many horror scores are waiting to be rediscovered and appreciated.
Hopefully, the beginning of that wave of reevaluation will begin with Blood on Black Wax: Horror Soundtracks on Vinyl by Aaron Lupton and Jeff Szpirglas. The authors, both music collectors and journalists, have compiled a listing of important scores from horror movies. Not all the choices are obvious. One expects to read about Bernard Herrmann’s classic soundtrack for Hitchcock’s Psycho, or Carpenter’s iconic score for the original Halloween. But John Scott’s underheard music for 1981’s Inseminoid? It’s not a movie one thinks of often, nor is it a score that easily comes to mind.
Blood on Black Wax doesn’t play it safe by going only for the familiar. It drags obscure horror soundtracks out from the stacks and gives readers every reason to give them a listen. The cases made for the music is compelling.
The book is divided into chapters based on film subgenres. Science fiction films, monster movies, and slashers all get their chance to shine in Lupton and Szpirglas’s spotlight. The chapter, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmares,” does a deep dive into the interesting world of heavy metal horror. Here’s your chance to read about the music for movies like Rocktober Blood and Black Roses. If you haven’t seen those movies, then Blood on Black Wax encourages you to rectify that.
As a long time fan of Italian horror, the chapter devoted to the music from those movies was wonderfully informative for me. From Riz Ortolani’s deceptively beautiful soundtrack for Cannibal Holocaust to the shiver-inducing score from Suspiria by Goblin, this chapter hits both the high and low points of the subgenre. There’s even a short interview with famed Italian composer, Fabio Frizzi.
Small interviews with composers like Frizzi pop up all throughout the book. Blood and Black Wax is lavishly illustrated with full-color reproductions of album art, almost as fascinating to look at as the capsule reviews are to read. There are scores listed from Hollywood’s Golden Age to as recently as the last five years. The range of selections is wide, and the writing is both concise and incisive.
The book manages to avoid being boring, like some encyclopedic film books, thanks to Lupton and Szpirglas’s obvious passion for soundtracks. There’s not a moment where they linger too long on a certain piece of music. Even when read straight through, Blood on Black Wax moves quickly.
Blood on Black Wax lovingly covers a subject matter that is endlessly fascinating to both genre fans and vinyl collectors. Even if soundtracks aren’t your thing, the illustrations will be enough to pique your curiosity. You don’t have to be a hardcore fan to enjoy Blood on Black Wax, but readers with a vested interest in horror movies and the music that makes them work will be terrifically pleased.
Blood on Black Wax: Horror Soundtracks on Vinyl is presented by Rue Morgue and published by 1984 Publishing.