Halloween is a time when the unique and strange becomes mainstream, and it doesn’t get a whole lot more unique and strange than Ak’chamel. Clad in tribal gear and some pretty terrifying masks, this trio has been dropping tracks like wild over the past couple of years. That includes, most notably, “The Man Who Drank God,” which is about as haunting a track as you’ll hear in 2016. Plus, at times, it kinda sounds like the theme music from Breaking Bad. Ak’chamel’s lyrics are often impossible to decipher, and the music is tribal and experimental, so this ain’t exactly a Halloween party singalong. That said, the band ranks among the most distinct Houston has to offer.
This is not to say Blackgrass Gospel is the most “evil” or “immoral” band in town, but they did host a show this time last year called “Hellbilly Halloween,” which tried mightily to live up to its name. They rub elbows with the sinister bluegrass outfit The Goddamn Gallows. Their songs feature zombies, sinners swinging from ropes and the not-too-friendly inhabitants of “the upside down.” And when they’re not doing it onstage, they’re in the crowd at shows raisin’ Cain. Having said all of that, they’re a bunch of nice guys that’ll tip a beer or two with you at their favorite haunts, places like Bub’s in Alvin or Union Tavern in Webster. They’re hard-working, oft-performing pros who are going to give you every cent’s worth of the guarantee you pay them. Just be sure the show rider includes pentagram candles and a guest list vacancy for Cthulhu.
Named for an ancient bird of prey, Black Kite is Vicky Lynn and James Templeton, one of the most unique duos in Houston. The Houston Press, in a recent review, cited the duo’s music as “shadowy,” which is about as fitting a way to describe the music as any. Coupled with Lynn’s harmonies, Black Kite pulls from an array of genres, including industrial, rock and even indie-pop, in producing haunting music that is tailor-made for a low-key, intimate Halloween-night gathering.
BLACK LEATHER JESUS
The background story behind this band’s name is pretty horrific, one the Press has previously covered in graphic detail. But any band whose name is derived from some pretty intense sadomasochism is one tailor-made for the darkest holiday of them all. Founded by Richard Ramirez more than 25 years ago, Black Leather Jesus is a staple on the Houston metal scene. Be warned – their live show is not one for the squeamish or weak at heart.
DIRTY ROTTEN IMBECILES (D.R.I.)
Considering they’ve been in the game for nearly 35 years, it’s no surprise Houston’s own D.R.I. are considered among the pioneers of “crossover thrash metal.” Spike Cassidy and Kurt Brecht, the two founding members still active in the band, have crafted a sound that pulls from a variety of genres, including punk, thrash and more traditional heavy metal. The result is a sound perfectly suited to an up-tempo Halloween party. The music is loud, the content is dark and the energy is high. It’s basically Halloween come to life in musical form.
FIDDLE WITCH AND THE DEMONS OF DOOM
The best house-party music straddles the line between entertaining those in attendance and not taking them away from why they came in the first place — namely, mingling with friends, family and assorted well-wishers. Houston-based power trio Fiddle Witch and the Demons of Doom walk that line perfectly. They do so by employing some of the hardest rock, metal and classical hooks in the city; yes, the band features a viola, aptly named the Witch Stick. However, as an instrumental-only outfit, Fiddle Witch is almost a more gothic Explosions in the Sky, a band whose lyric-free catalog is amenable to any number of locales, including Halloween bashes.
Fifth Ward’s own Geto Boys are rightly regarded as Southern rap pioneers. But where they often get slighted is for their contributions to the horrorcore arena. This is a group that has routinely rapped about depraved violence and necrophilia. Hell, on “Assassins,” from the band’s 1988 debut, Making Trouble, the group recounted, “I dug between the chair and whipped out the machete/ She screamed, I sliced her up until her guts were like spaghetti.” Okay, then.
KISS is basically a Halloween party in band form, a silly, makeup-infused, bedazzled group of musicians belting out catchy, entertaining, mindless tunes. It’s an act just begging to be mimicked, which is exactly what a number of Houston-area tribute bands — KISS ALIKE among them — have done. And even if they won’t play your Halloween party (these guys are busy), KISS ALIKE is playing Proof Rooftop Lounge on October 29, two days before Halloween. Close enough.
POOR DUMB BASTARDS
This one was submitted by a Press staffer, one who would only invite Poor Dumb Bastards to play his Halloween party “given that it's not at my house and I didn't have to put down a large deposit on the venue." So this is what we’re working with. Founded in the early '90s by local rockers Byron Dean and Mike Porterfield, Poor Dumb Bastards revel in the depths of depravity. They bill themselves as “Texas drunk rock,” and some of the band’s more noteworthy tracks boast titles like “My Dad, Two Whores and a Crack Pipe,” while others aren’t exactly fit for print. Halloween is about celebrating absurdity, and no local band does so better than Poor Dumb Bastards.
What Halloween party wouldn't want an act called Worst Nightmare on its bill? Bonus points if your house is located on Elm Street. The party flyer could then prominently feature Freddy Krueger and, like the dream lurker with the sharp blades, Worst Nightmare would arrive to rip things up. Jesse Cardoso's rap alter ego is influenced by the darkest elements of the underground punk rock and hip-hop music he loved growing up in Mexico City. Think of it as a blend of Misfits and Gravediggaz. The backing tracks are ominous as a gang of black cats and the rhymes laid over them are horrifying tales of monsters (mostly the corporate ones) and lost soul (and how it needs to possess the best of music genres). Worst Nightmare's biggest influence may be Salem, a leading act of haunted house music. If you don't want that vibe in your party mix, just go back to bobbing for apples and pinning tails on donkeys, kids.
Jesse Sendejas Jr. contributed to this report.