We’re pleased to bring you the following guest post, penned by Daniel Mitchell, frontman of the Halloween-themed heavy metal band Autumns Eyes. Find links to the band’s album, Ending Life Slowly, which just dropped on October 31st, at the bottom of the article.
Ever since Freddy Krueger slashed his way into a Dokken video for the song Dream Warriors, I have been enthralled with the connection between horror movies and heavy metal. The two pair together so well, its almost as if they share a symbiotic relationship. Well, in my world they most certainly do. That’s why many of the songs I create for my metal band Autumns Eyes are inspired by horror movies. It’s a theme that lends itself perfectly to the intensity of heavy music. While there is no secret spooky formula on how to translate a horror movie into a heavy metal song, I can offer some insight into how I go about translating the macabre madness I see on screen into a song.
A few months back I was making coffee and started humming this random melody that had been stuck in my head. The melody was nothing special and had no origin. It was just one of the many random things I would hum out loud while doing random things around the house. Eventually, the melody got so ingrained into my skull, I had to go downstairs and record it. About thirty minutes later, the rough outline for a song now titled “Death of October” was born. Unfortunately, the song was just as bare as the trees outside my window as I write this surrounded by the Fall injected frost of New England. The song I wrote needed depth, it needed a personality, and it needed atmosphere. That’s where I look to the horror movie for inspiration.
Whenever I begin to work on a song’s production, I reach a crossroad where whatever decision I’m about to make will affect the overall tone of the song. Its probably the most important part of creating music for me. It’s going to build a mood that will communicate to the listener what you want them to feel. So in this case, I knew immediately that the song had to be about Halloween. The chorus of the song was built from the melody I hummed in the kitchen, and it had this silly sounding melodic madness to it. Much like something I’d hear coming out of a corny little Halloween toy I’d see in a store. In order to capitalize on this and inject some true depth to the song, I turned to one of my favorite Halloween horror movies, Trick r’ Treat.
It’s a film that perfectly captures the essence of the holiday, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. These are qualities that I always strive to reflect in my own music, so it was a perfect match. Right off the bat, I was thinking about a scene in Trick r’ Treat where Anna Paquin’s character is walking down a cold leaf covered street, with an overbearing sense of dread seeming to follow her every footstep. From that thought alone I started writing the lyrics “Tremble from the cold air sweeping through the streets, watch your step from the cracking leaves that break beneath your feet. Walk a little faster as day begins to fade, the clouds are turning black with every moment you’re afraid.” This was a statement directly motivated from that very scene.
At this point, I was deeply embedded into the vibe that was building within the song. It was gaining life and building its own atmosphere that represented everything I loved about not only Halloween but the movie Trick r’ Treat. Once the song lyrics were finished and I recorded the vocals, the song was now a song, but it wasn’t an Autumns Eyes song yet. This is where I needed to come in and inject every ounce of atmosphere I could to elevate the song to where it needed to be. Since Trick r’ Treat has plenty of focus on kids actually trick or treating, I wanted to try and represent that mood sonically.
It’s not an easy task trying to come up with a way to tell a listener that they’re hearing people trick or treating, and this was definitely one of the more challenging things I’ve faced during a song’s production. It wasn’t as easy as just tossing in a few crickets and frogs for that extra dash of evil. I had to dig deeper and again looked to the movie for inspiration. Digging through an extensive sound effects library, I was able to find a few that worked. I layered together the sound of cars driving on a neighborhood street, kids playing at a playground, subtle wind blowing in the distance, a raven cawing, an owl hooting, and finally the sound of children shouting “trick or treat!” to further drive the obvious narrative. Individually they sound quite bland, but layered together it sounds like a suburban neighborhood with kids laughing and trick or treating. The wind, crickets, frogs, the raven, and the owl add a subtle creepy feeling over what could be described as a playful scenario.
Its a mix of creepy and campy, something Halloween has been all about for as long as I can remember. Meanwhile, you have a very intensely dark song unfolding from this intro. Without any of these elements, the song would just be your ordinary goth-metal sounding dramatic song. By adding this extra depth, it creates a unique mood that can tell a story before the lyrics even start. It’s a technique that took some time to develop, because for a long while I never cared about setting any kind of sonic stage. I just recorded what was randomly in my head, and released it for whoever wanted to hear it. These days its a bit more methodical, and I try to take the time to dive into how a song feels rather than how it sounds.
The inspiration doesn’t just stop with Trick r’ Treat, as there are plenty of different horror films that can inspire an endless amount of heavy metal songs that have yet to be written. The album I just released (Ending Life Slowly) is very much rooted in goth rock, with more focus on simple riffs and rhythms that you can bang your head to. The next album I release, which I started writing months ago, will be much more intense. With complex guitar work, and more elaborate songwriting. A movie like The Blair Witch Project heavily inspired the production on those songs. Its rough camera work and raw production were the catalysts for creating songs that sound just as distraught as those characters getting stalked by a witch.
I do think it’s important to emphasize the “not taking yourself too seriously” aspect. As I find too many bands try to imply they work for the devil when we live in a society that fears politicians more than they do the dark lord of the underworld. That’s not to say being serious doesn’t have its place. One of my favorite horror movies from the past decade is The Witch, a perfect example of how totally committing to serious tone can produce a deeply disturbing piece of creativity. I often wonder if that’s the result of society becoming desensitized over the years to movies like the Saw series, or bands like Marilyn Manson. After seeing so much of the same schlock year after year, it becomes comical. Much how like many black metal bands are mocked and laughed at for still wearing corpse paint these days. After a while, it becomes silly to see a band spend more time on their makeup than Mariah Carey.
Perhaps that’s why horror fans are flocking in droves to see movies like The Witch, Get Out, and It Follows. These are titles with small budgets but driven by filmmakers whose passion for creativity and storytelling pours into every ounce of the production. Fans love it because they can sense its purity and originality. It’s something we haven’t seen before, and provides a much-needed breath of fresh air into a genre fraught with repetition, much like the heavy metal genre. Which is also why we are starting to see more and more metal bands come out of the woodwork and get recognition through sites like Bandcamp. These artists, much like myself, don’t have the budget from a major label, but in most cases, they have more passion and creative drive than major label bands who are just spitting out songs for a paycheck.
After a sickening bought of depression throughout the early 2000s, heavy metal and horror seem to be experiencing a huge resurgence in quality. Notice how every decade, both horror and metal seem to reflect one another. The 80s were littered with corny slasher movies which got slathered in glam metal. The 90s had metal and horror both trying to be taken more seriously. The new millennium saw a surge of teen-scream horror with plenty of nu-metal bands providing the ear-splitting soundtracks.
Thankfully today, with how connected we are on social media, the horror and metal genres have flourished thanks to their loyal communities filtering out all the crap and supporting what truly moves them. Despite wherever that takes us into the future, whether it be good or bad, you can always count on heavy metal and horror movies being joined at the hip. For better or worse, they are a match made in hell, and their fans are the most loyal, passionate, and devoted fans you could ever find. Its just one of those things forever set in stone. Peanut butter will always go with jelly, Jason will always kill teenagers having sex at camp, Freddy will always slash up people in their sleep, and heavy metal will live forever!
About Autumns Eyes and Ending Life Slowly:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — At the crossroad between a hallowed holiday and the cusp of a dead cold winter is where you’ll find Autumns Eyes mastermind, Daniel Mitchell. After many seasons of seclusion and intermittently hitting the studio, the recording process has finally wrapped up for the new album titled Ending Life Slowly.
Mitchell is no stranger to the darker side of creativity, and crafts music free of constraints or label interference. Ending Life Slowly strikes a balance between somber reflections on mortality and full-force screaming metal, with cover art to reflect the album’s dreary nature crafted by Indonesian artist Sorrow Grips (Gojira).
Due out on October 31st, Ending Life Slowly serves as the first full-length album from Autumns Eyes since the 2012 release of Please Deceive Me. Halloween and the death of Fall is a perfect time to be reminded that sometimes life ends far too slowly. Mitchell had this to say about the impending album release:
“Living in New England has always made it easy to draw from the month of October for creative inspiration, with life breathing its flaming colors into all the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, these themes can only be revisited every so often before it becomes repetitive. That’s why I reached into the month of November for inspiration. A time when Fall is still thriving, but where color has faded and the trees are bare as skeletons.
“While a walk through the woods here in October can be a relaxing activity, doing the same in November carries an overwhelming sense of dread. You’re surrounded by death, and the trees no longer sway and breathe with the air. They’re cold, stiff, bare, and knock together like bones breaking in the sky.
“This atmosphere is what fueled the writing process for Ending Life Slowly, with death and decay surrounding every element of each track. It’s a cliche topic to write about in heavy metal music, but my approach here was focused more on the immense weight death can hold over one’s shoulders. To sit an truly contemplate what it means for all things to come to an end was a sobering experience, to say the least.
“I always look at music as sonic therapy, but this was the one time where music couldn’t offer any kind of solace. It just reminded me that life can either go by too fast, or it can end too slowly.”
Check out the album’s artwork and track listing below, along with a video update from the studio released earlier this summer. Pre-orders are now online at https://autumnseyes.bandcam p.com/album/ending-life-slowly
Death of October
Break the Skin
Your Last Day
Moments Into Memories
The Honest Liars
Couldn’t Hold On
Far Away From Fading
Open Your Eyes, Not Your Wrists
Under the Skin of the Sun