Mater Suspiria Vision courtesy of artist.
Witch house biggest popularity occurred in the early years of the 2010’s, which saw an outpouring of creativity of the extremely scary style. Witch house is a genre mashup of industrial, rave, shoegaze, hip hop and trap – sometimes all at once. We’ve put together a list of the exemplars that delve into the genre’s darkest pits – all of which are on Spotify – guaranteed to turn up the fright factor this Halloween. But why stop at the end of October? Halloween can be every day…or night.
Salem – “King Night”
Salem became the poster children for the witch house movement during the witch house years. Their only LP, King Night, explores a variety of styles, including slowed raps and incomprehensibly reverberated vocals, but the titular album opener combines distorted rave chords and a sample of “O Holy Night,” a common holiday choir song, becoming demonic and apocalyptic, far from rapture.
White Ring – “Lxc999 (Sinistr0 Remix)”
A raspy sawtooth synth and haunting childish taunts – no doubt nabbed from some horror movie – propel the track. This remix is superior to the original, if only because a cheap gun-cocking sound effect has been minimized.
Okkvlt KΛtt – “Red”
Pitched-down voices, that trademark rave synth, and a downtempo, pulsating trap beat joined with skittering hi-hats make this track a strong and scary witch house candidate. The production is sparse, but each element, like the throbbing sub and the thick synthesizer threading the track brings maximum punch.
oOoOO – “The South”
Though the band’s name is pronounced “oh,” isn’t it so much more fun to sound it out like a wailing ghost? “The South” features a clear hip hop influence, with trebly hi-hat tinkling, bombastic kick drums, and snares that bounce as if by their own accord, all supporting an eerie lead synth line.
∆aimon – “Amen”
“Amen” employs a more gothic-industrial mold with crunching snares and demonic, whispery vocals, yet serves as a better alternative to “The Monster Mash” any day of the week. Near the end of the track, we’re treated to a female’s chanting vocals, exactly the kind of thing I’d expect at a sacrificial ritual.
Mater Suspiria Vision – “Seance Infernale”
The prolific and experimental collective of Mater Suspiria Vision runs Phantasma Disques, responsible for supporting the releases of many witch house artists. “Seance Infernale” borders on psychedelic, utilizing a sample of a girl crying to add to the fright. Check out our detailed interview with MSV for more recommendations and an insight into the genre.
Crim3s – “Lost”
Taking a nod from witch house precursors Crystal Castles, London-based Crim3s takes the fear toward straight intimidation, screaming at us from inside an abandoned warehouse.
powwowW – “Secret Black”
Aided by hip hop-influenced percussion, powwowW’s tracks sink into the thick murk of a downtempo rave sound. The track is featured on the Occult Box compilation which is highly recommended if you’re feeling this track.
Sidewalks and Skeletons – “Disappear”
A ping-ponging synth opening makes way for a thumping kick drum and a destructive low-octave sawtooth synthesizer. The lead becomes more staccato as a chopped female vocal enters for a few bars. The song ends on a hopeful note with a clean, blippy synth in the high register, a concise finish.
Fraunhofer Diffraction – “Asphyxia”
Female vocals are caught between a rock and a hard place: the menacing low synth register and a tense treble line, punctuated by a church bell sound effect every few bars. This track has an epic build that nevertheless sounds like the victim’s slow, inevitable suffocation.
Ritualz – “Goth Bb”
“Goth Bb” takes advantage of a minimal melody and a pitching-bending synth that hints at the wails of a banshee. Listen closely; there’s some sort of incomprehensible sample way down in the mix, no doubt meant to subliminally get you to worship the devil.
Pastel Ghost – “Clouds”
One of the more accessible producers on this list, Pastel Ghost is tangentially associated with witch house with reverb-drenched vocals and shimmering synth-led melodies in the vein of your favorite shoegaze/vaporwave band.
The Church of Synth – “Der Fall Von Leviathan”
A melody evolves over a slow, minimal beat in the lengthiest track of this list. It also features some of the most variation, including a development in the middle that adds sonic variation to the melody with some sort of organ. Just a few minutes from the end, the instrumentation drops away to leave room for an ambient interlude in which the percussion is processed.
If you’ve made it this far, you must not be sufficiently scared yet. Follow my witch house Spotify playlist below, or head over to the Nightmares and 808s Youtube channel for hours more listening.