“Don’t you like a rather foggy day in a wood in autumn? You’ll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car.”
Jane said she’d never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn’t mind trying.” ~ C.S. Lewis ‘That Hideous Strength’
For those of us for whom music is a passion, our lives have a soundtrack. Perhaps a physical one, or simply an internal list of albums, or songs to go with different moments in our lives. Music for unwinding after work, a summer drive, sleeping, love, loss; chances are you have an album for whatever is going on. And weather, and seasons are no different. You don’t want to listen to the same thing on a bright sunny July day that you do in the middle of February snowstorm. And next month is October, the true beginning of autumn. When (at least in the northern hemisphere) the days turn colder, the leaves peek in their colors beforinstre turning to brown, rain becomes a bedfellow, and wood smoke and fog rest low among corncobs and ripening pumpkins.
It is the time for Ray Bradbury books, and Tim Burton films, capped off by Halloween, The Day of the Dead. October is for remembering loved ones lost, and the abundance of nature before the cold winter. And so it needs its own particular soundtrack. And when my wife requested I make one for her, and write it up I decided to oblige her. Below is my suggested soundtrack for October; 31 albums, one for each day of the month. Consider it a musical conversation, drawn from my shelves (and available online) and one which one would get to know the author a bit better. Not all are metal albums; many are dark folk, and Gothic Country. Indeed most focus much more on mood and atmosphere, than heaviness. Nor are many explicit in mentioning October, or autumn. But they all encompass the nature of an Autumn Person, and are the albums that I reach for during this, my favorite season of the year. There is a vague order, brighter, warmer albums in the beginning, with the darker, or explicitly Halloween related albums later in the month leading up to All Hallows Eve, but otherwise they fall in an order that I think makes internal sense. To keep this month long playlist manageable, I’ll limit each album to just a few sentences. Happy listening.
Auld Lang Syne ~ ‘Midnight Folly’: I’ll admit to a personal bias in favor of this band, as it is lead by Timothy and Kathy Dick, two good friends of mine from college. The music is a blend of bluesy rock and folk rock elements with poetic, insightful lyrics. “Where My Fortune Lies” alone is enough to convince most anyone with taste of the band’s considerable merit. Bright, yet melancholic in nature, a perfect way to start the month.
Mostly Autumn ~ ‘The Spirit Of Autumn Past’: The band and album name alone make this mandatory for this list. This, their second album, continues their masterful blend of progressive rock with Celtic music themes and melodies. The sound is very British and the perfect start to fall.
Tom Waits ~ ‘Mule Variations’: One of my favorite lyricists and writers, Tom Waits should need very little introduction. Winner of a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, Tom’s gravelly, bourbon-soaked voice carries the album through a dim and dusty western town. One of his best.
Primordial ~ ‘Spirit The Earth Aflame’: The final truly black metal release by Ireland’s Primordial, and my personal favorite. With its ancient themes and pervading Irish melancholy, it oozes an autumn atmosphere while never mentioning the season directly.
Black Sabbath ~ (self titled): Rain and a tolling bell begin this masterpiece, arguably the single most important hard rock/metal album ever recorded. You already know it, and if you need it explained to you why it’s perfect for October, then you’re beyond all help.
Jethro Tull ~ ‘Songs From the Wood’: The first of Jethro Tull’s folk album trilogy, this album leads us deep into the greenwoods of merrie England. Through fall glades and campfires we find ancient fairy folk and the joy and magic of the countryside. Not as moody as its follow up ‘Heavy Horses’ it is nonetheless ideal for a sunny October day.
Negură Bunget ~ ‘OM’ : In my opinion, one of the finest and most interesting progressive black metal albums ever recorded, Romania’s Negură Bunget have a deep, often spiritual connection to their homeland and their traditions. Often dark and mysterious, and utilizing traditional instruments, this is a perfect soundtrack for driving through mountains in the fall.
Comus ~ ‘First Utterance’: Acid folk legends Comus are now known by little outside the fandom of progressive rock. An acoustic album that is as brutal, violent, and ugly as most any metal album you’ll find, and far more daring. They celebrate England’s long distant pre-Christian past in one of the most unusual and mind bending albums from the 70s.
Evoken ~ ‘Atra Mors’: Latin for “black death,” Evoken is a pioneer in funeral doom, and this, their most recent release is as perfect an example of crushing, sorrowful doom as you can find. In other words, ideal for grey days and dismal nights.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor! ~ ‘f#a#∞’: The debut album of these post rock legends. This album is best known for the track “East Hastings” and its use in 28 Days Later. Beautiful and intense, it’s the sound of an empty highway in the dead of night.
Helloween ~ ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 &2’: With a name like that, how could Helloween NOT be on this October soundtrack? Classic 80s power metal, with a touch of prog flair, these two albums deal with the battles of good and evil and are as cheesy and fun as metal gets. And the penultimate track of ‘Part 1’ is “Halloween,” so that works too. I’d call them a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel any guilt.
Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks ~ ‘Sabella’: The first of several albums that fall into the “gothic country” genre, Lonesome Wyatt has crafted a dark, twisting album of dead loves, ghostly haunting, and resurrecting dead horses. Steeped in old time western music, this has about as much to do with the sterilized modern contemporary country abomination as Bach does.
October Falls ~ ‘A Collapse of Faith’: Combining blackened death metal with dark folk music, Finland’s October Falls reminds me a great deal of early Opeth. With their long sprawling songs and nighttime atmosphere, this album quite literally has October written all over it. Nurse With Wound ~ ‘Salt Marie Celeste’: A single track hour plus work of dark ambient music. Based on the 19th century ghost ship The Mary Celeste, this is a salt-tinged, fog-filled journey to the dark sea, tossed about on an empty ship. An immersive and beautiful work, and a must listen for any coastal resident or lover of the sea.
Philip Glass ~ ‘Dracula Soundtrack’: The classic 1930s Universal film ‘Dracula’ starring Bella Lugosi has no original soundtrack. So in 1998 Glass was commissioned to compose a score which is performed by the Kronos Quartet. Arguably scarier than the film itself, it is perfect for this time of year.
Bill Frisell ~ ‘Ghost Town’: Bill Frisell is one of jazz’s best known and instantly recognizable guitarists, and one of my favorites as well. He is also well known for his blending of jazz with country western music. And this is my personal favorite, performed entirely by Bill; it is a lonely, dark walk through a deserted ghost town at night. A moody masterpiece equally suited for a rainy day as it is the chill of October.
Dordeduh ~ ‘dar de duh’: When the original trio of Negură Bunget split, members Hupogrammos and Sol Faur went off to form this band. And it is easily the best thing that either group has done since the split. Even more steeped in traditional Romanian music and spirit, it is a beautiful example of the national pride and love of nature that black metal can evoke.
Drudkh ~ ‘Autumn Aurora’: The second release by this reclusive Ukrainian black metal band, it is an atmospheric black metal representation of autumn, and it does an admirable job bringing this bright, yet dark time of year to musical life. Upon starting this soundtrack, including this album was a foregone conclusion.
Those Poor Bastards ~ ‘The Plague’: Led by the above mentioned Lonesome Wyatt, this was my first introduction to the wonderful world of gothic country music. Upon first hearing this album my wife commented “it makes me feel like I should be burying a body somewhere.” That, in addition to several songs combining black metal type screams with roots music, what more recommendation do you need?
Panopticon ~ ‘Autumn Eternal’: The one man black metal outfit from the US, Panopticon was originally based out of Kentucky. Later A. Lunn relocated to northern Minnesota, but his unique combination of black metal with traditional American and bluegrass music has remained. The love of nature and autumn permeates every part of this album, and is one of the most original modern black metal acts you’ll ever find.
Sixteen Horsepower ~ ‘Folklore’: Another detour to the American west, this time led by mastermind David Eugene Edwards, 16 HP have rightly been called the fathers of the gothic country/dark roots movement. This, their final album, combines original songs with reworking traditional songs. One of my favorite bands ever, this is a perfect transition into later fall.
Worm Ouroboros (self titled): Rooted in doom metal, there are few bands that create a more dreamlike and often soothing mood than Worm Ouroboros. Led by the bass/guitar duo of Lorraine Rath and Jessica Way, these two women have created three albums of ethereal voices and music, supplemented by slow, crushing doom. Take a walk in a foggy forest with this album, and you’ll lose yourself within minutes.
Opeth ~ ‘Orchid’: The debut of my favorite band, for metal fans Opeth needs no introduction. Of all their albums, this is the closes to black metal they ever got, both in sound and in tone. And with classics such as “Forests of October,” including it on the list was a no brainer.
Mostly Autumn ~ ‘For All We Shared…’: Another album from Mostly Autumn. This is perhaps a bit more sorrowful than the other, and includes the band’s masterpiece “Heroes Never Die” written for guitarist/lead vocalist Bryan Josh’s deceased father. Nowhere is the spirit of autumn better captured than right here.
The Hare And The Moon ~ ‘Wood Witch’: I stumbled upon this album and band when reading an article on dark folk music. They list among their primary inspirations Victorian literature, the works of Arthur Machen, and films such as The Wickerman. Indeed, this strange and haunting folk album would be the ideal soundtrack for a 70s horror film about said wood witch terrorizing the local peasantry. The full album is only available on their bandcamp page. https://thehareandthemoon.bandcamp.com/album/wood-witch
Winterfylleth ~ ‘The Threnody of Triumph’: My wife stumbled upon this band several years ago. One of England’s best black metal outfits, they play with a passion for the history of their home, and augment the fierce metal with frequent passages of heart stopping acoustic beauty. Their name is the Old English word for the month of October. Any of their albums would work here, but I chose this as it is (at the moment) my favorite. Katatonia ~ ‘Brave Murder Day’: Though now a distant memory, Katatonia started their careers as a slow, plodding doom metal band, and this is their final and, I believe, finest example of that style. Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt contributes all the growled vocals on the album, and it’s one of his finest performances. This is hands down my favorite album for a rainy day. As October is full of those, I had to include it.
Storm Corrosion (self titled): A side project between good friends and frequent collaborators Mikael Åkerfeldt and prog legend Steven Wilson. Storm Corrosion is a dark, often minimal soundscape of experimental rock and psychedelic tendencies. Drawing inspirations from the above mentioned Comus and Scott Walker, they created a unique musical vision that’s really quite unlike anything else. Its creeping, moody ambiance is ideal for late October listening.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds~ ‘Murder Ballads’: Nick Cave has been my favorite lyricist ever since I first heard one of his albums; which just so happens to be this one. And he’s at his best with what is, as the name suggests, a collection of murder ballads. Murder ballads have of course been around for centuries, but no collection of them has the feel and tone of dread and final judgment that Nick fills these tales with. By this date October is close to dying. Let Nick finish it off.
Wovenhand ~ ‘Consider The Birds’: The current project of 16 HP leader David Eugene Edwards, this was my introduction to his music. And when I think of the fall months, the cooling weather, and the like, it is this album that first comes to mind, and what I reach for. Rich in Edward’s Christian faith, and dark and brooding enough to make the leaders of Marduk and TOOL fans, this is a desert island album for me. Whether you listen to it in the hollers of Appalachia, or downtown Denver where David resides, wherever this album plays it will always bring October with it.
Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks ~ ‘Halloween Is Here’: The month is over, and All Hallows Eve is upon us! And so there is no more ideal album than this tribute to Halloweens past. Based on the campy Halloween albums of the 50s and 60s it contains “12 tracks of spooky stories, and monstrous sing-a-longs” and is a fun homage to a simpler time. A perfect little album for this year’s Halloween party, or to play for your guests as they trick-or-treat.
And so the month of October has come to a close. I hope you found this musical conversation of interest and discovered some gems that you never heard of along the way. Listen well, and try to make it through the rest of the year.