October 23, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #23: Chamber of Horrors "NEW"



Title: Chamber of Horrors "NEW"
Manufacturer: Tony (U.S.A.) Inc.
Year: 1990
Total Runtime: 25 Min
Repeats on both sides: Not exactly, but a loop repeats multiple times on both sides
Stories: No
Music: Ongoing synth music
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Attempted jump scare using a yell
Review: I've established that the 1988 release of Chamber of Horrors is insane. I like to imagine that sometime in 1989 one of the higher-ups at Tony Incorporated finally heard the tape and shouted, "THIS IS WHAT WE'VE BEEN SELLING?!!"

He immediately discovered that nobody else in the office had ever listened to it either. A recall was ruled out after a quick cost analysis. With no other options, the decision to produce a new tape was finalized.
Once an emergency assembly had gathered, the board demanded to meet with the the man responsible for the 1988 edition. The product development manager stood before his colleagues, shouting on the phone,
"What do you mean he's not here?! When will he be back?
...
Defeated, he announced to the room,
"They said he was fired last year because he failed his drug test."
______

The 1990 version of Chamber of Horrors is a commendable effort that effectively paves over the past sins of the company. The effects sound fresh, the production value is good, and there's decent aural variety. A lot of attention was given to the music. What I assume to be an original score, gives Chamber of Horrors (1990) a distinctive voice in the Halloween tape pantheon. Most importantly, its existence demonstrates a message that we need to hear today: rational thinking, truth and love can triumph over chaos, and the mistakes of the past.

Rating: 4 of 5

October 22, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE #22: Sounds of Halloween



Title: Sounds of Halloween
Manufacturer: Madacy Entertainment
Year: 1994
Total Runtime: 1 Hour
Repeats on both sides: Yes
Stories: No
Music: Opening theme (the same library music from the 1950s that appears on Night in a Graveyard) and some other ambient music throughout
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Backward music and effects
Review: All this reviewing makes me think about music critics. The blight of their job is all the unoriginal material they have to sift through. But imagine if they had to review albums that are literally two or three existing records spliced together. Okay, you could argue that this happens all the time with so much sampling going on, and mashup artists like Avalanches, Danger Mouse, and Girl Talk. Then imagine reviewing five different albums with five different titles that are all exactly the same recording. Sounds of Halloween is a mix of two or three records slapped together, and it's been released under at least five different titles.

About half of the effects can be heard on Night in a Graveyard, and the rest sounds like Scary Sounds of Halloween.  Who knows if Sounds of Halloween stole the material straight off of those records, or if they stole from the same records that those stole from.

The audio has been repackaged numerous times according to the Scary Sounds of Halloween blog.
These are all the same album...



Speaking of unoriginal content, I've yet to talk about the "Lonesome Ghosts" scream sequence that shows up on about forty percent of all my Halloween albums. The ghostly yawn can be heard at the beginning of Disney's 1937 animated short, and it was featured on the track Screams and Groans from Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House preceded by some shrieks. Knowing Disney's reputation for legally protecting their content, it's surprising that the sound has been used so much. Further proof that nobody pays attention to what's actually on Halloween records.

Sounds of Halloween is still making Halloween memories thanks to a YouTube video (see below) that's received nearly a million views since 2011. It's unavoidable. It's like the standard government issue of Halloween records.

It obviously gets the job done year after year, but in my eyes Sounds of Halloween has no honor.

Rating: 2 of 5

October 21, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #21: Horror & Terror



Title: Horror & Terror: Frightening Sounds Part I
Manufacturer: K-Tel
Year: 1995
Total Runtime: About 50 Min 
Repeats on both sides: No 
Stories: No
Music: A few musical bits with names like "Warped Chords" and "Melted Melancholy"
Narration: No 
Distinct Audio: The opening track (see below) 
Review: Coincidentally, right before I sat down to review this tape I saw this bit of trivia: "Terror is usually described as the feeling of dread and anticipation that precedes the horrifying experience. By contrast, horror is the feeling of revulsion that usually occurs after something frightening is seen, heard, or otherwise experienced." via Wikipedia. Thing is, I would have probably made fun of the name for being redundant. I was also going to assume that there was no 'Part II," and it turns out that it does exist. I have grossly underestimated this tape.

The first effect, 'Demon Drill,' is interesting because the sound of the drill has been remixed and put to a beat. It actually sounds like a segment of a Nine Inch Nails track. Unfortunately, this unexpected burst of creativity is gone by track two. The rest of the album is a collection of unrelated sounds that makes it seem like a production FX library. Maybe half of the content qualifies as spooky. It's very generic with the exception of a few pieces of music, a couple soundscapes, and a brief assortment of farts.

My favorite thing about it is the simple, yet artful cover. I hope you enjoy looking at it because I can't find the audio online.

Rating: 2 of 5

October 20, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #20: Horrible Sounds of Halloween (Green text version)


Title: Horrible Sounds of Halloween (Green text version)
Manufacturer: Tony (U.S.A.) Inc.
Year: Unknown
Total Runtime: 45 Min

Repeats on both sides: Yes (Plus it repeats multiple times on each side.)
Stories: No
Music: No
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: See below
Review: The school bell's going to ring in ten minutes, and where's Sid? Here he comes! Oh, yes, he finally remembered to bring his Horrible Sounds of Halloween tape for the big trade. It's different from the one you already have, even though it has the same name. This one has green letters and Sid guarantees that it's not the same effects as the one you bought last Halloween; the one that has the guy who yells "Boo!" at the meowing cat.

You didn't entirely believe that the tape was real until he pulled it out of his backpack. (What a terrible way to transport a cassette. You're lucky the tape didn't get tangled in his notebooks!) But the tape is now yours—at a hefty price. You're already missing your copy of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" #171, but the promise of a new Halloween record in your modest personal library outweighs the sacrifice.

Your obsession with the new tape turns the day into a marathon. In third period you nearly get it confiscated for having it out during a lecture. Lunchtime is wasted as you wander the school parking lot trying to work up the courage to ask one of the high school students to play it in their car stereo. It doesn't happen.

During fifth hour you write out a list of sound effects that you'd put on the perfect Halloween tape. Yours would include a haunted video arcade and authentic sounds from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon." Your decision to reexamine the tape on the bus ride home turns out to be a mistake. You let down your guard for a moment and that lug Jarred snatches it in his filthy hands. You can thank the all-seeing eye of Bonnie the bus driver for intervening.

But now you're in the safety of your bedroom and nothing stands between you and your 'jam box.' You press play....
...
...
Oh, thank goodness, Sid was right! You can already tell that this isn't like the black lettered one.
...
Wait. This does sound a bit familiar.
...
That heartbeat, and that music. This is the heartbeat tape that you already have! It looks different but it's the same thing!  As your eyes begin to water you notice that it's not exactly the same— it's worse! They doubled up the audio and now the heartbeats are all out of sync, just a constant budda budda budda. They added some other junk to it too, but it's just awful.

You press the stop button.
...
You wonder if Sid will do a trade-back.

Rating: 1 of 5

October 19, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #19: Horror Sounds of the Night



Title: Horror Sounds of the Night
Manufacturer: Topstone Industries
Year: 1986
Total Runtime: 30 Min
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: Has an opening theme, and various background music throughout
Includes a piece from Georges Bizet's “L’Arlesienne Suite"
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: An infamous masochistic segment (see below)
Review: Horror Sounds of the Night is notable for so many reasons. First, it came from Topstone, a beloved Halloween corporation best known for making rubber masks since the 1950s. Their advertising artwork alone has left a permanent mark on horror culture.



The cassette was ubiquitous. It was produced for many years, and sold through many outlets. Its 1986 release date put it slightly ahead of the Halloween tape glut in the late '80s. Horror Sounds, along with Thriller/Chiller and the other Thriller Chiller, usually gets a big reaction online, prompting commenters to type up a cavalcade of memories.

 

Horror Sounds was the subject of a lawsuit. Surprisingly, it wasn't due to the content being stolen (which it was). It arose because Topstone terminated a contract with the guy who presented them with the idea, and then made their own tape independently. From the case file...

"Plaintiff had conceived the idea of an audio-cassette tape of sounds appropriate for Halloween. After producing and copyrighting his recording, titled "Haunted Horror," he entered into an agreement designating defendant Topstone Industries as the exclusive distributor. Topstone later terminated the contract and began marketing a similar Halloween cassette titled "Horror Sounds of the Night." After purchasing copies of the plaintiff's tape from Topstone, defendant D. Robbins & Co. sold those copies, as well as Topstone's "Horror Sounds" tape, to retail customers."

The tape's legendary status is elevated by a segment that features an infamous exchange between a sinister man and his female victim. The sexual undertones are hard to ignore. A shorter version of this is actually the album opener for a popular Children's Record called Sounds to Make You Shiver. (The moaning portion appears on side two as "Count Dracula and His Victim")

This brings us to the last reason why Horror Sounds in the Night is notorious: everything on it is stolen.Well, I can't confirm that it was all illegally used. The fact that the aforementioned scene appears without the layers of chain and footstep effects may indicate that they had access to a source tape. But this is common practice in the Halloween tape biz, and it's hard to believe they would take the time to get legal clearance from three different companies for three different sources, especially considering the other lawsuit.

So what were the sources? On the evening of November 8, 2013 a comment was posted on a site called Blood-Curdling Blog of Monster Masks by a user calling themselves barneyrubble. This comment stands as the most thorough and well-researched dissertation of the digital age regarding the source material behind Horror Sounds of the Night. I'm posting it here in its unaltered form, because changing even one word would be a disservice to the internet.

"At the price for which copies of this cassette are selling, it's good to know that one can get all the recordings on this tape just by buying three old Hallowe'en LP's:

- BBC Records & Tapes's Volume 13: Sound Effects DEATH & HORROR (1977) (The first track on the cassette is taken from this album, listed here as "Phantom of the Opera ('Organ' Sounds)")

- Power Records, "Ghostly Sounds" (presumed early '70s)
(The second track on the cassette is taken from this LP, identified here as "The Phantom of the Cathedral". Two versions of this LP exist, with near identical album covers: the first edition has pink record labels, is reputed to have narration and lists "The Phantom of the Cathedral" as the second track on Side 2, after "The Mad Harpist". The second edition, with yellow labels, moves "The Mad Harpist" to the end of Side 1, and begins Side 2 with "The Phantom of the Cathedral", exactly as it is included on the "Horror Sounds of the Night" cassette.)

- Pickwick International, "Sounds to Make You Shiver" (presumed mid-'70s)
(Believe it or not, the entire remainder of the "Horror Sounds of the Night" cassette is taken directly from Side 2 of this album, in the same running order. It seems like the compiler of "Horror Sounds of the Night" found two favored pieces on the first two albums, then either got bored or distracted and just let the third album play until the tape ran out. On the original album, they are listed in order as "Witch Laugh", "Count Dracula and His Victim" (occasionally noted for its somewhat X-rated overtones), "Screams & Groans" (actually two separate tracks of screams, apparently made by the same lady who appears in "Count Dracula and his Victim"), "Moans & Groans", "Cats", "Dogs", "Banging Shutter", "Phantom Piano", "Creaky Door", and part of "Breaking Windows".)

If you shop around, you can get all three of these albums for less than $50 (with the BBC LP most likely being the most expensive one). I now have all three. Happy hunting! :)"

Sentimentality Rating: 5 of 5
Morality Rating: 1 of 5



Better quality, but embedding is disabled, so I can't stick it here...
https://youtu.be/aVBQWR14RIQ


October 18, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #18: Scary Sounds of Halloween



Title: Scary Sounds of Halloween
Manufacturer: K-Tel
Year: 1991
Total Runtime: 30 Min
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: Some dissonant music on side two
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: The grunting monster
Review: I'll make a pros and cons list for this one...

Pro: It's from K-Tel. Maybe I've been brainwashed from seeing at least one K-Tel record ad during every commercial break of my childhood, but I think K-Tel is a cool company. If they would have put out some AS SEEN ON TV Halloween records, I would have melted on the couch.

Con: Cat noises that sound ridiculously human. About as effective as just saying the word "meow."

Pro: Classic sound effects. It opens with the familiar wolf howl that we associate with all our favorite scary shows. Then the underused, yet universal "OooOOOooeeeEEEoooo!" ghost noise appears too. 

Con: The grunting monster won't shut up. This guy seems to be the star of the tape, but he quickly loses his appeal. He's pervasive,  high in the mix, and sounds way too much like Jabba the Hutt.

Pro: It includes a crying effect (at 17:54 in the video below) that was used in the video game "Left 4 Dead" to indicate the presence of a witch. This sound has conditioned players to go to on high alert and turn off their flashlights, lest they agitate the insanely powerful witch.

Con: It's very repetitive. That is, until the end of side two when it sounds like a completely different album.

Pro or Con: There's a Sci-Fi theremin type sound that brings to mind the noise that Greg Brady makes when he stages a phony UFO encounter.

The recording is a lot like the cover. There are some classic elements, there's one beast that dominates it, and overall it's a bit generic.

Rating: 3 of 5



October 17, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #17: Night in a Graveyard

 

Title: Night in a Graveyard
Manufacturer: Haunted House Music Co. (Golden Circle Inc.)
Year: 1985
Total Runtime: About 25 Min 
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: A segment called "Midnight Music" that sounds like it's from "Night of the Living Dead."
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Gremlin laughter
Review: Night in a Graveyard is one of the three Halloween albums released by the "Haunted House Music Co." in 1985. I like to think of it as a non-musical option to its companion, Haunted House, for those times when you feel that music will diminish the experience.

If you've ever read "The Family Circus" you may recall that Bil Keane would turn to his son Billy for cartoons. In that same spirit I invited my eleven-year-old son to help review this tape. As we listened, I jotted down some of his thoughts...

As side one began he was skeptical.
"They really overuse the wind. Pretty sure trees don't do... whatever that is, very much"

Then confusion set in.
"Is that crying, or maniacal laughter?"
"I've never heard a cat make that sound."

As his mind struggled to make sense of the soundscape, he formed a scene.
"Makes me think I'm hiking up a stone staircase, going up a mountain to a cave. Bats are flying out, and witches are inside."

He gave purpose to some random cries.
"Sounds like someone's lost, scared."
Other associations were made.
"Sounds like the ghost host from Disney."

Side two is full of random, individual sound clips that seemed to stoke his imagination.
"Sounds like if dogs were at a play, and they were really not liking it."
"Sound like if a giant were trying to sew, and kept poking his thumb with a needle."
"Sounds like Donald Duck on laughing gas."

Though he's never seen a horror show he understood what the "Midnight Music" is about.
"Sounds like the part in a horror movie where the murderer is in the house creeping around with a knife. Everyone's like, 'Where is he?'"

His final verdict?
"I liked it. it was kind of cool. It had a lot if different things in it... variety."
Rating: "3 or 4 out of 5"


Seeing how these tapes have been playing constantly in our house for weeks on end, I didn't expect him to get spooked. So I was surprised when he was too uneasy to take the recycling bin to the garage (one of his weekly chores) after our listening session. I offered him a flashlight and encouragement, but his solution was to invite our dog along on his dark journey.

Then a few minutes ago he asked me to investigate a face he saw in the ceiling vent. Tonight may be a long night.

October 16, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #16: Haunted House

 

Title: Haunted House 
Manufacturer: Haunted House Music Co. (Golden Circle Inc.) 
Year: 1985 
Total Runtime: 1 Hour 
Repeats on both sides: No 
Stories: No 
Music: Familiar spooky sounding instrumental on side one
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Definitely the music 
Review: Haunted House is chintzy and samey, and I love it. What puts it high above the rest is the music. There is a constant ethereal droning that keeps the listener in a state of unease. Rather than the jarring storms and explosions commonly found on Halloween tapes, the eerie tones on Haunted House create a trance-like mood, carrying you helplessly through a nightmare.

The music feels so ridiculously familiar, but I can't confirm its source. The track is listed as "Music from the Fourth Dimension" and is available on side two independent from any sound effects. It may be Spencer Moore's Capital Hi-Q library music, similar to what is heard in both "Teenagers from Outer Space," and "Night of the Living Dead." Any more info would be appreciated.

EDIT: In a strange coincidence I just heard this music playing in an episode of the Western show "Trackdown"...



I was watching it because it coincidentally features a lying shyster named Trump that talks about building a wall, and suing people before trying to skip town with everyone's money. Snopes article here.

Haunted House is one of a series of three Halloween records that also includes Night in a Graveyard and The Ride of the Headless Horseman. Both were released in 1985 under the corporate pseudonym Haunted House Music Co. The real manufacturer, Golden Circle Inc., put out dozens of cassette compilations, many of them unofficial, and most of them bearing questionable (yet lovable) graphic design. The blurry print jobs did them no favors.

These are low-fidelity to the core, but this project seems wildly ambitious compared to the other Golden Circle releases. We're talking three original, long playing albums all released in the same year, all with original artwork. Maybe it's my imagination, but there's a sincerity surrounding these records that is uncommon. Is it possible that something more than money was motivating this undertaking? Whether that's true or not, Haunted House is a great example of Halloween magic on a budget from an unlikely source.
Rating: 5 of 5



Album art for the vinyl edition

October 15, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #15: Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House (1979 version)



Title: Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House
Manufacturer: Walt Disney Productions
Year: 1979
Total Runtime: 30 Min (roughly) 
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: A few bits of incidental music 
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Everyone seems to have their own favorite part

Review: Disney's impact on the Halloween album industry is immeasurable. By the 1960s Disney had amassed three decades' worth of state-of-the-art sound effects from short subjects, feature films, educational programming, and theme park attractions. Disneyland Records had been adapting Disney fixtures into audio programs since 1956. It was inevitable that the two would meet. That happened in 1964 when Disney released the first edition LP of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. (The second, updated release is the subject of this review.)


Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, 1964

However, it seems that this was not the first Halloween sound effects record to exist. If the dates are correct, that honor would go to Hallowe'en Spooky Sounds from Sounds Records which was released two years earlier in 1962. (Note that I'm not counting spooky music albums. Those date further back.)


Hallowe'en Spooky Sounds, Sounds Records,1962 

There's another release by Sounds Records that also claims a 1962 copyright called Spooky Sound Effects. But that doesn't seem possible considering one of the tracks, "Storm, Wind, Cats, Dogs, Squeaking Door," is actually a recording called "The Haunted House" that was lifted from the 1964 Disney record and played at half speed. The '62 date may reference the inclusion of content from a third Sounds Records release called Music For Monsters.


Spooky Sound Effects, Sounds Records, year unknown (though the internet says 1961 and '62)

The 1979 version of Chilling Thrilling Sounds contains almost all new content. Side one is a series of vignettes called "Frightening Situations" and side two is full of "Eerie sound effects" that let you "create your own tales of terror." The biggest break from it's predecessor is the lack of narration. This gives each recording different functionality. Also different are fans' opinions as to which is superior.

Both albums set the standard for Halloween records and are recommended to anyone who wants to hear Hollywood quality production values, and professional audio artistry that wasn't hindered by any lack of resources. This isn't for everyone because the truth is, much of the appeal of Halloween records lies in their improvised nature. Chilling Thrilling Sounds will also disappoint anyone seeking a direct connection to the Haunted Mansion ride. Those listeners should look for the 1969 album called The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion.

Well, this is what happens when I get all caught up in facts and historic details— I forgot to make a single joke.

Rating: 5 of 5
 



October 14, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #14: Thriller Chiller Sound Effects (Frankenstein label)

 
Title: Thriller Chiller Sound Effects (Frankenstein label) 
Not to be confused with Fun World's first release of Thriller/Chiller Sound Effects
The CD release is called 55 Minute Horror Sounds
Manufacturer: Fun World
Year: Unknown 
Total Runtime: 45 Minutes 
Repeats on both sides: Yes. Also repeats within each side
Stories: No   
Music: An all too short musical introduction and outro
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: The music. Also an extra loud rooster.
Also the phrase, "You've entered the wrong door...and you're not coming out alive"
Review: You know the song that says "This is Halloween, this is Halloween?" Well, that's how I feel about this tape. The opening theme blew me away the first time I heard it. It has a somber, Dark Ages quality, but it's been filtered through the charm of a Casio. To me, those minor notes capture a sense of mischief and mystery like nothing else. After the forty-nine second melody ended I immediately skimmed through the whole recording wanting more, but it only repeats again at the tail end.  

As far as I can tell, the tune has no name, and there's no known writer or performer. It's as though the essence of the season was mystically forged onto magnetic tape. A couple years after I bought the album I heard the same music coming from a battery-operated jack-o-lantern in a Wal-Mart (back when it still had a dash in the name). It was another Fun World product, leading me to wonder if it originated with the company. As far as I'm concerned, this is the "Jingle Bells" of Halloween. If only I can convince my family to play it at my funeral.
 

No sound effects could live up to that musical intro in my mind, but there's a lot that I appreciate on Thriller Chiller. It opens with crickets, the universal night song that is surprisingly absent on the majority of Halloween tapes. Once a woodland setting is established, a series of terrors are ushered in. While the common practice is to thrust the listener into mayhem, Thriller Chiller rolls out the scares as though you're following a path and encountering each fright one by one. There's a loose "stormy, monster-infested forest" theme (Although that doesn't explain the recurring sound of high heels on a smooth floor.)
 

But that name— why would Fun World give a superior new recording the same name as their previous sound effects album— an album that used stolen audio from Horrible Sounds of Halloween which was stolen from Halloween Horrors. It's possible that they got into legal trouble. It's also possible that they just wanted to be able to use the packaging interchangeably...


My other theory is that Halloween sound effect tapes rank so low on the collective care-o-meter that nobody involved was willing to invest an extra shred of time or creativity. These albums are intended to be as ephemeral as the sticker on a rotten banana, or the cardboard you wrap around a disposable coffee cup to keep from burning your hand. Furthermore, understanding this fact of life is a healthy way of thinking that will prevent one from spending precious money on obsolete relics of yesteryear, or wasting hours listening to people who are now long retired, pretend to be monsters, or typing thousands of words that amount to a guessing game about what happened thirty years ago, with no real evidence to stand on. But that's just a theory.

Rating: 5 of 5





October 13, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #13: Demonic Soundscapes

 

Title: Demonic Soundscapes
Manufacturer: Orchard Lane Music
Year: 1995
Total Runtime: side one 18 min, side two is 23:30
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: Incidental music throughout
Narration: A demon provides an introduction.
Distinct Audio: “If I should die before I wake” x 20
Review: Released in 1995, Demonic Soundscapes is the most recent recording in this series of reviews. Admittedly, I have a strong ‘80s bias, but the timing of this one is intriguing. The album channeled 1970s and ‘80s fright flicks, and a Heavy Metal aesthetic during a time when both were considered passe. In 1995 Metal had long been ousted by "Alternative" rock, but it had yet to evolve into "Nu Metal." In ‘95 Horror was facing an identity crisis. The top horror films that year include the arguably less-than-classics: "The Curse of Michael Myers," a "Candyman" sequel, and "Demon Knight." (For the record, I think "Tales From the Crypt" was the best in early 90s horror.) The genre had yet to experience the "Scream"-inspired sea change in ‘96.  

Demonic Soundscapes didn’t care. It’s headstrong commitment to extremes is the most interesting thing about it. (I suppose they were right on trend when you figure that the X Games debuted the year this came out.) A record so radi-cool demanded more than the standard parental advisory sticker. Instead it proclaims, "WARNING: This album will drive you absolutely insane.” It’s not marketed as a Halloween release because clearly, it’s target audience are not people who need an annual excuse to get evil.

Demonic Soundscapes is a collection of seven tracks (and an intro) that follow a progression through horror movie inspired scenes. Early in the album the listener travels through a werewolf infested forest before taking shelter in a vampire’s castle. Other features include an Exorcist-style possession, some slasher film murders, and a torture chamber. The latter is the weakest track due to heavy repetition and a break in tone. Dr. T. Orcher is a bit of a goof, and, to be honest, I find little entertainment value in the subject of human torture. (Grisly murders are fine though.)

Perhaps their most unorthodox decision was to include a full list of credits. No Halloween albums share more info than this one. Demonic Soundscapes is more calculated, artful, and professional than the rest. It may not be the quintessential Halloween experience, but as the demon says, “You will encounter death at the end of your journey, but not before you encounter pain and horror at it’s finest.”
Rating: 5 of 5

Here's the first track...

October 12, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #12: Halloween Party: The Halloween Party

 

Title: Halloween Party: The Halloween Party
Manufacturer: Eerie Sounds Music Co.
Year: 1987
Total Runtime: 30 Min  
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: Short synth piece at the end of side two called “Ghostly Music on the Wind”
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Fireworks at the end of side one
Review: Under no circumstances should Halloween Party: The Halloween Party be played at a Halloween party. A lengthy series of isolated noises just isn't festive. Nobody on the dance floor will request an encore of “Owls Hooting” or “Glass and Crockery Breaking.” The only party where this album might be welcome is a gathering of nature lovers. All too many of the sound effects are either straight up wildlife recordings, or processed wildlife recordings with spookified names like "Goblins and Gremlins." That's like trying to pass "Ranger Rick" off as "Fangoria."

The best thing about this misnamed record is the packaging art (see below). It served as an effective billboard that could compete with the best CD longboxes. I'm sure it would have charmed me out of my $2.99, though sadly, it was destined for the trash since they skimped on a cassette case. Halloween Party:The Halloween Party was released with a sister album called A Night in a Graveyard/A Night in a Haunted House. I'll bet it sounds more like a night at the zoo.


Rating: 2 of 5
(No audio link available, but that's not a bad thing.)

 

 

October 11, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #11: Haunted Mansion


Title: Haunted Mansion
Manufacturer: Rubies
Year: 1987
Total Runtime: 30 Min
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" fades in and out
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: There are a couple of bird freakouts.
Review: This is the first of two tapes called Haunted Mansion that were released by Rubies. (The follow-up came out in 1992 and sounds similar, though not identical.) This seems to be another attempt at creating a false association with Disney quality. There's definitely no connection to the ride. They didn't even attempt to place the setting indoors.

According to their web site Rubies is “the world’s largest designer, manufacturer and distributor of Halloween costumes” and has been around for 66 years. With those credentials, expectations are high. Did they deliver the goods? More or less, I suppose.

I think the recording meets, but never exceeds expectations. The montage keeps the scary stuff coming at a steady pace. There’s enough agony present to steer it clear of "generic sound effects" territory. It's hard to tell if there's anything original material here. I recognize segments from Haunted Horror for one. It sounds like they may have used the ol' "throw together a stew of lifted effects and call it our own" trick. Though there is something to be said for complete aural chaos. My biggest complaint is the erratic music. It’s like riding in a car with someone who can’t decide on the right volume. Once they finally turn it off and you try to strike up a conversation, they crank it up again.

The best aspect of the product is the artwork, though sadly there is no signature nor credit given. The line work, the composition, the incredible hand lettering— everything works harmoniously to give us a perfect Halloween scene. The shadow is likely inspired by Freddy Krueger, but even if it's just a handsy scarecrow, it's still pretty cool.

Rating: 3 of 5




October 10, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #10: Halloween Sounds of Horror

 

Title: Halloween Sounds of Horror
Manufacturer: Viderex international LTD
Year: 1995
Total Runtime: 60 Min
Repeats on both sides: Maybe. I’m not sure. They sound really similar.
(Side 2 only plays out of the left speaker, at least on my copy)
Stories: No
Music: Scattered brief musical flourishes
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Ba-dum, Ba-dum, Ba-dum, Ba-dum...
Review: Halloween Sounds of Horror was produced by Viderex International LTD, the same company that gave us security killbots, and a leaked zombie virus. Seriously, what a perfect name for a malevolent corporation in a horror movie. If I listen to this on Halloween night I expect my organs will turn into insects.

Your opinion of this record hinges on whether or not you’re up for listening to a solid hour’s worth of pounding heartbeats. This is the heartbeat album. It’s an annoying choice, but it makes sense. Heart rate is a great indicator of fear, and our silly, confused hearts can’t help but match the rhythm when we hear it— even if it’s fake. I once heard this very recording played outside of a haunted event and it did communicate a sense of dread, at least at first. (My favorite part of the tape is when a low, grinding note comes in under the heartbeat, and it sounds like your standing down the street of an industrial dance club.)

My other qualm is the monotony. Processed laughter, alarm bells and thunder are in constant rotation. Granted, I’m sure there are some very specific circumstances where this is useful. If your spookhouse has a small room with a laughing guy holding a haunted alarm clock, then this is the tape for you.

Rating: 3 of 5





October 09, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #9: Horrible Sounds of Halloween

 

Title: Horrible Sounds of Halloween (Black letter variant)
Manufacturer: Tony (U.S.A.) Inc.
Year: 1988
Total Runtime: 30 Min
Repeats on both sides: Yes (and it repeats over four times on each side)
Stories: No
Music: Funeral march
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: See below
Review: Like a recurring nightmare, or an unrelenting stalker, or the monster at the end of the horror movie, this collection of effects keeps coming back. From what I gather, the recording on Horrible Sounds of Halloween was not only sampled on Chamber of Horrors, it was bootlegged for Scary Cassette: Sons Affreux and stolen again for Thriller/Chiller Sound Effects. (Thanks for the info Nostalgiakidd125.)

The redeeming factor is that Horrible Sounds is the source material— the mother lode from which the other cassettes were spawned. (I'm referring to the sequence of effects. The individual sounds date back to the 1974's Halloween Horrors, review to come.)

Having listened to this sequence about four dozen times this month, it is now obvious to me what’s going on. It’s a story of revenge. Use the audio link at the end of this post to listen along as I explain...

___________________ 

On a dark, dark night the wind grumbled as a storm took over the sparsely populated township. The sounds of the night were momentarily pierced by maniacal laughter coming from a small cabin at the edge of the woods. A man with rain-soaked hair sat by the fireplace, gleefully recounting the atrocity he had just committed.

The wildlife was restless, but it wasn't the storm, or the man's outburst that put the animals on edge— it was the witch. She followed her black cat through the open window at the back of the man's cabin, crushing the tip of her cone-shaped hat in the process. Standing behind the murderer, the witch surprised him with a shrill cackle. He whipped around, but before he could strike, her spell took effect and his innards felt ablaze. His guard dogs, unfortunate for him, were still chained to his shed. The howls of both beast and master meshed indistinguishably in the cold air.

The victorious witch slowly forced open the rotting front door with the aid of an unseen evil. She screeched with emotion as images from earlier that night flashed in her tormented mind: the joyous new litter of black kittens....hours later, the evidence of an intruder in her cave.... a found bucket of rat poison.... and the most ghastly discovery— the furry black stillness that surrounded her whining mama cat.

The funeral procession saw no mourners, only the shell-shocked mortician behind the horse's reins, and his moronic, torch-bearing assistant who guided them through the fog. There was nobody to notice the moaning spirit exit through the walls of the casket and leave the carriage. The ghost found a new home in the nearest available body. The assistant doubled over in pain, dropping his torch as he lost his free will. Nearby wolves echoed his snarls of agony. The ghost, now in full control of his new vessel, turned his attention to the mortician. He laughed at his newfound strength as he put a painful end to the witness.

Back at the witch's cave a cauldron simmered unattended. The possessed man had entered undetected, but as his giddy anticipation grew, so did his breathing. The sound of his fiendish excitement revealed his presence. For the second time that night he felt the ire of the witch. From the shadows she had pierced his body with a tree branch covered in otherworldly thorns. He might have escaped with his life were it not for the empty bucket that tangled his feet, ensuring his second death. As he lay gasping on the stone floor, he heard the impossible sound of a big city ambulance coming to his rescue. Alas, it was an auditory manifestation of the searing, supernatural pain that enveloped him.

As the witch dragged the fresh body back out into the storm the mama cat called out to her, paralyzed by a feeling of unexplained fear. Her master continued out of earshot as the cat called, and called, and called.
"Boo!" said the ghost of the murderer.

___________________

For some reason I feel compelled to list out all of the elements found on this brief, yet seminal recording. (The names are my own as opposed to their official titles on the track listing of Halloween Horrors.) They appear as follows...

Wind
Male laughter

Own
Crickets
Bats
Cackle
Man in agony
Chains
A howl that sounds like “Eeeeeeee!”
Dogs barking
Door creaking
Witch scream
Funeral march
Ghost moan
Low guttural noises with growl

High pitched growls
Thunder and trickling water
Man laughing as someone sounds like they’re in pain
More thunder
Bubbles popping
Heavy Breathing
High pitched sounds of agony mixed with a high howl 
Pained man possibly running
The sounds of an empty bucket
Siren
Thunder crashes
Meowing cat x5
“Boo!” followed by laughter


Rating: 2 of 5





October 08, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #8: Chamber of Horrors

 

Title: Chamber of Horrors
Manufacturer: Tony (U.S.A.) Inc.
Year: 1988
Total Runtime: 45 Min
Repeats on both sides: Yes (but not on the earliest version)
Stories: No
Music: It kicks off with a familiar pop song. Then the jazz fusion takes over.
Narration: No (but there is on the earliest version)
Distinct Audio: A man who sounds like he lacks personal boundaries yells “Happy Halloween!” many times.
Review: Chamber of Horrors leaves behind the gasps and growls of Halloween tradition. Instead it hurls a jumbled audio assault on the listener. It’s impossible to determine whether this approach is an act of apathy, or if it’s a brilliant take on the psychological horror genre. Either way it makes you feel like your brain is dripping from your ear holes.

The bulk of the audio came from other sources. There’s a good chance it was stolen, because I’m going to assume that very few lawyers were involved in the making of this this tape. Other than the “Happy Halloween!” voice over, there are three components repeated on the record. The first is a short, instrumental sound-alike of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Playing on top of that is a sequence from the popular Horrible Sounds of Halloween album. Lastly, and this is the real head-scratcher, they use a huge chunk of the 1973 song ‘Firebird/Birds Of Fire’ by Jazz artist Don Sebesky. This is not just a standard jazz ditty. It’s a bird themed medley that mashes up a clip from Igor Stravinsky’s 1920 ballet ‘Firebird’ with a jazz rock cover of the song 'Birds of Fire,' originally performed by Mahavishnu Orchestra. (That single sentence represents over two hours of research.)
The end result is a flat out freakout.

With such chaotic content it's hard to fathom how they came up with the perfect artwork.  It's simple, if I want some joy, I look at it. If I want more joy, I look at it again.

The continual stream of Ebay listings suggest that this was a very popular tape. Or maybe it wasn’t popular at all considering most of them are still sealed in their original packages thirty years later. There is a variation of this album that’s super rare. The only evidence of its existence that I’ve seen is a seven year old post by a user named SIYS on a Halloween forum. The variant has an alternate "side A" called “The Haunting: A Horror Story.”



The track is a narrated audio tour of different horrible places. It reminds me of side one of Spooky Tales and Scary Sounds, but the musical score gives it a greater sense of urgency. According to a lone comment on a deleted YouTube video, "The Haunting" proved too scary for kids and was removed. (This follows in the great tradition of “too scary” legends like the Hatbox Ghost, and the un-finishable haunted house.) Two years later Tony (U.S.A.) Inc. released a completely different cassette (review to come) with the exact same title because they wanted to make life a baffling ordeal.

My only criticism is that Chamber of Horrors is so incoherent that it doesn't naturally feel like Halloween. So last Halloween I remedied this by blaring it out my window all evening, forcing a Pavlovian association between the tape and the holiday. I suggest you do the same.
Rating: 4 of 5
(For more Chamber of Horrors thoughts and discussion, see the 2014 post on Dinosaur Dracula.)






The most common of the various types of packaging for Chamber of Horrors

October 07, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #7: Horror at the Graveyard

 

Title: Horror at the Graveyard
Manufacturer: Madacy
Year: 1994
Total Runtime: 30 Min
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: One. Any more would be a waste.
Music: It has its own theme that sounds a bit like the "Phantom of the Opera" theme in places, only this one is literally a thousand times better.
Narration: Yes, some of the greatest narrating ever put to tape.
Distinct Audio: It's all unforgettable.
Review: As promised in the title, side one of Horror at the Graveyard is a first person account of a strange graveyard encounter. The uncredited narrator uses the universal low, breathy campfire story voice (with some audio processing) to share his bewildering experience in the cemetery. This twelve minute segment is a wonderful piece of art. I can't think of anything else that's given me the chills and laughter in the same moment, but that's how my body responded the first time I heard the narrator reveal the reason for the entire horrific ordeal (at the 12:33 mark in the video below.)

While side one is the real treasure here, the soundscape on side two is above average. It’s full of savagery and unnerving human noises. But I usually just listen to side one again.

Rating: 5 of 5

Someone has taken the liberty of adding a slide show to the original audio (Warning: gross picture inside)...

October 06, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #6: Spooky Noises of Halloween


Title: Spooky Noises of Halloween
Manufacturer: Downtime Broadcasting 
Year: 1988
Total Runtime: 30 min
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Music: Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" and various organ music. Spacey synths come in during the second half.
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: Not really
Review:  It seems that Downtime Broadcasting (an outfit that released a few Christmas albums) used Haunted Horror:Terror on Tape as a basis for Spooky Noises of Halloween. Then, in order to give it their personal touch (or perhaps mask stolen audio) they piled on more noises and music. It sounds like they were limited to a stock effects library, grabbing anything loosely considered frightful. So it’s heavy on animals and weather as opposed to monsters and ghosts. The album is muddy, and randomly placed effects get overcrowded. The organ music that underscores everything seems out of place, but it's fun to imagine a church sanctuary with all kinds of crazy stuff going down. Near the end there are some flowery melodies that may have been left there by accident.

The real story here is the assortment of corporate logos on the cover. What sort of board meetings, paper trails, and conference calls are behind this thing? Adding to the complexity is the fact that there are two variations of this tape. One gives top billing to Hook’s Dependable Drug Stores, and the other features a logo for Pay ‘N Save, a Northwestern retailer. (Both businesses closed down in the early ‘90s.) Hallmark had several Halloween cassette promotions that likely paved the way for American Greetings sponsorship, but the Pepsi connection is mysterious. This was orchestrated by either the greatest, or worst marketing firm of the 1980s. The awesome Frankenstein cassette on the cover is the perfect metaphor for this whole conglomeration.
Rating: 2 of 5