Meet Cemetery Gates, the musical project of Gene Priest and Derek Jones – horror-centric music composers and creators of “synth-driven death ballads.”
The duo’s latest venture was to rescore Häxan, the 1922 biopic silent horror film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen. The film was inspired by Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), a treatise advocating the extermination of witches published in 1487, written by the German inquisitor Heinrich Kramer.
Christensen’s Häxan, finished in 1920, and released two years later, spells out how misapprehension and superstition of mental illness resulted in hysterical witch-hunts. Ostensibly a documentary, Häxan includes dramatized chapters similar to modern horror movies. Banned in the U.S. for nudity, portrayals of brutality, and sexual depravity, the movie was carefully edited prior to showing in other countries.
Cemetery Gates rewrote the film’s musical score, infusing it with original compositions inspired by composers such as John Carpenter, Alan Howarth, Dario Argento, and the rock group Goblin.
Recently released via Lakeshore Records, Cemetery Gates’ soundtrack encompasses 21-tracks, starting off with “Häxan (Main Theme),” which opens on an austere piano riding cavernously deep pulses, followed by ghostlike synths, thus establishing an eerie anticipatory sonic aura.
Although all the tracks reveal nuances of deliciously wicked uneasiness, highlights include: “Hell,” which rides emerging strident colors rife with malevolent textures, oozing and viscous. “The Devil Fulfills Her Wishes” opens on percolating sounds increasing in intensity, as deep groaning tones infuse the tune with dark resolves and black tension.
“The Devil’s Mark” travels on thick almost industrial sound effects expanding into shimmering spine-chilling brocades of potent textures, akin to probing specters. “The Witch Test” features throbbing percussion, tight and horrific, seguing to inchoate syncopated oscillations of bloodcurdling, suffusing vibrations. As the music gathers dynamism unnerving layers of piercing ambiance fill the tune with drifts of metallic overtones.
“Seized by Insanity” pulses with jarring angular projections, followed by the entrance of harsh glaring surface timbres, imbuing the music with frenzied nerve-wracking pressure.
Marvelously wrought, Cemetery Gates invests Häxan with a crouch of timorous reverence coupled with sepulchral gravity taut with foreboding. An ambitious, monumental undertaking, Cemetery Gates pulls it off with superb aplomb.