I subscribe to the school of thought that the Halloween season should be as widely appreciated as the Christmas season. Every October 1, I immediately bust out all my creepy clown decorations, pour over my horror movie collection, and start saving up for my Halloween costume.
By Thanksgiving, my mantelpiece is littered with jack-o’-lanterns, witch paraphernalia, and a tasteful rhinestone-encrusted skeleton head. It seems that the only thing missing from this otherwise robust holiday season, at least vis-à-vis Christmas, is the music.
Halloween music is a genre that proves frightfully sparse. Aside from a few classics, there’s not much to pick from — and there are only so many times you can play “Monster Mash” before you start doubting whether it would really be a “smash” in any graveyard.
Enter the musical genius of Danny Elfman. Perhaps the greatest Halloween CD of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas never fails to get me in the Halloween spirit. But with only one 1993 CD in my Halloween music arsenal, I, much like Jack in “Jack’s Lament,” “have grown so tired of the same old thing.”
From this need for even more Nightmare music, the brilliant cover CD Nightmare Revisited emerges. It offers a second album for your Halloween playlist, as well as a much-needed intersection between emo culture and the world of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The album’s standout is Marilyn Manson’s glorious heavy metal rendition of “This is Halloween.” Other tracks seem less intuitive, yet offer the same vitality; Rodrigo y Gabriela perform an enchanting instrumental cover of the iconic “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” featuring an ensemble of intricate acoustic guitars in which even the throaty percussion is provided by drumming on guitar bodies.
The beauty of this cover is that it doesn’t try to compete with the wildly entertaining original — unlike Tiger Army’s slightly off-putting attempt at remaking Oogie Boogie’s anthem — instead offering something entirely new. In contrast, Amy Lee’s rendition of “Sally’s Song” is indisputably better than Catherine O’Hara’s weak original, and her sultry vocals make this track perhaps the most worthwhile one on the album.
The standout on the 1993 CD is arguably the Christmas classic “What’s This.” Though nothing can beat Danny Elfman’s version, alternative metal band Flyleaf delivers a dream-like rendition, heaviness dripping from each note. The song begins with a panoply of instrumentation, featuring slow guitars and crashing drums blending with languid, fluid vocals. Tying it all together to make pure rock-and-roll psychedelia, Flyleaf’s “What’s This” ends in a surprising minor key, offering the song a haunting tone that makes it perfect for when you’ve been listening to the original on repeat for several hours and need something slightly new — but only slightly.
Alternatively, Fall Out Boy offers another take on “What’s This,” overlaying tinkling piano with electric guitar and drawing listeners in with a breathtaking opening note loaded with melisma and melody.
Other tracks that shouldn’t be missed include Korn’s nu-metal spin on “Kidnap the Sandy Claws,” as well as The All-American Reject’s impressively angsty “Jack’s Lament.” Rise Against lends the already frenetic “Making Christmas” a punk rock sound with fast heavy guitars, distorted instrumentation, and spitting vocals.
The lesser-known “Town Meeting Song” is revamped by The Polyphonic Spree as an epic rock opera reminiscent of Rocky Horror, transforming a three-minute plot-driven song into a goliath nine-minute masterpiece.
So if you’ve been decking the halls with pumpkins and cobwebs, but you can’t seem to find the right Halloween tunes to tie together the spooky ambience, give Nightmare Revisited a try for a twist on your favourite holiday classics.