From Dream Woods (2016) and We Came Back (2017) to Bone Saw (2018) and the serial-killer-dropped-in-a-haunted-town opus Where Stars Won’t Shine (2019), visionary heavy metal horror stylist Patrick Lacey has been on an absolute tear the last few years, bringing a kaleidoscopic brilliance to his thrills, kills, and nightmare landscapes that keeps readers constantly on his toes.
“If you like pirate cults and giant sea serpents,” Lacey tells Decibel, “it was created with you in mind.”
To celebrate the release, Lacey was kind enough to send along a playlist to accompany the long-simmering harrowing oceanic tribulations he’s summoned.
“My love for horror and metal is a chicken-or-the-egg scenario,” he says. “The first movie I recall watching is A Nightmare on Elm Street, thanks to a very groovy pair of parents. And I can’t remember not listening to metal, whether it was watching Metallica and Megadeth videos on Headbangers Ball or gravitating toward Cannibal Corpse albums in the record store and thinking: One day, I will own all of these…whatever these are.
1. Exodus — “Piranha”
Let’s take a trip, shall we? A trip to the Bay Area. It’s 1985 and there’s this thing called thrash metal and it’s blowing up and you see this album entitled Bonded by Blood at your local Tower Records, the first studio effort from some band called Exodus. There’s a monstrous illustration of conjoined twins on the cover and you purchase it for however much a record cost in 1985 — I’m still not born yet — and you bring it home and head bang until your nose bleeds. Or maybe it’s 2019 and you’re watching your seventh straight YouTube video of Gary Holt assaulting his fretboard, trying desperately to interpret more than three notes of any given song. I’ve always found Exodus to be tighter than many of their peers. Their arrangements feel more varied, the riffs often technical yet never just for the sake of it. Of their full-length studio records, Bonded by Blood is the only album to feature vocalist Paul Baloff and there’s something so distinct about his growls here. The (over)use of reverb on his vocals adds a certain aquatic element, and my favorite track of the bunch, “Piranha,” benefits quite nicely because of it. Exodus may not be counted in the Big Four, but they’re certainly in mine.
2. 1349 — “From the Deeps”
1349 is everything I love about black metal. Blast beats? Check. Corpse paint? Check. General sense of hell and despair and blasphemy? Triple check. They are, after all, named after the year the Black Death strolled through their native Norway. I arrived late to the genre — around 2008 or so — and 1349 were one of my gateway drugs. Hellfire was my first and it sure as hell — sorry! — wasn’t my last. There was something about the precision of the drums and the slightly cleaner production that drew me in and sent me down a rabbit hole of the genre’s rougher deep cuts. 1349 aren’t just pure pummeling, though. They’re experts at employing tempo changes, perhaps nowhere more evident than on From the Deeps, the album’s most ferocious track. They’re not afraid slow things down for a bit, take a breather, before bashing your face in. And they somehow achieve this without compromising brutality. I love me some atmospheric black metal, but atmosphere comes in many shapes, and this record is shaped like fire. Lots and lots of fire.
3. Mastodon — “Seabeast”
On the nose? You bet. A shining example of sea-themed metal? You also bet. Mastodon are no strangers to the concept album. In fact, more than half of their entire catalogue can be described as such. I hopped on their sludge train back in freshman year of high school when I first heard Remission. But when Leviathan dropped, they graduated from awesome-metal-band-I-told-my-friends-about to an all-time-favorite-band-I-told-anyone-who-would-listen about. I’ve loved watching their evolution from those grimy early days to the more polished efforts of their present iteration and would have a hard time choosing a favorite record. But it’s difficult to top a Moby Dick-inspired romp through the ocean that adds a healthy dose of prog to the recipe. A hint of things to come from a band that never seems to stop throwing wrenches into the mix.
4. Black Dahlia Murder — “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood”
The Black Dahlia Murder have long occupied my stable of go-to melodic death metal bands. And vocalist Trevor Strnad is also a horror nerd who I’d love to share a beer — or several — with. In their early days, they faced a veritable army of naysayers, often wrongly tossed in with the metalcore scene. And that’s fine by me. I’ve had Norma Jean and Darkest Hour on heavy rotation for almost two decades. But let’s call a spade a spade. These guys are death metal to the core — pun very much intended. I think this pigeonholing had more to do with their willingness to tour with literally any heavy band you could feasibly name, many of which veered more into hardcore territory. And these efforts paid off. Their music has been nothing if not consistent through the years, each record somehow tighter than the last. It seems like Ritual is often forgotten, existing smack dab in the middle of their catalogue, but they take some real risks on this record, adding to the mix several odd time signatures and even a song that borders on — wait for it — hardcore.
5. Judas Priest — “Lochness”
For nearly fifteen years, the world spun on its axis without a single Judas Priest album to feature the almighty Rob Halford. And while Tim Owens filled the void quite nicely, you could sense a sigh of relief when the band released Angel of Retribution in 2005. I’m not sure many long-time fans would rank it near the top of their lists — nor would I — but it produced some memorable songs still used in their set list today. For my money, the most interesting track on Angel is “Lochness,” the thirteen-minute closer that could’ve been an album in and of itself. It stands out as the most varied and epic of the bunch, a drawn-out melodic intro giving way to a borderline-Sabbath riff before finally settling into a mid-tempo groove that’s oh so perfect for the subject matter.