Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Monster Team-up Reflection #16: Monster Mash/Sounds of Terror

"Sounds of Terror" (Pickwick Records '74) isn't a monster team-up LP in the way of "Story of Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein" (reviewed Feb '14). This one doesn't even offer a full story, and the monsters (except for the King Kong track) don't mingle, but the compilation is certainly a team-up, if only for its unabashed chain of fiendish personalities and fierce, linking styles and ghastly themes.

I was introduced to "Sounds", when my mother bought it for me at Two Guys in Dec '75, from out the discounted Halloween records. I was thrilled that it featured Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" (the greatest of monster team-up tunes, though in this instance, only a surprisingly competent cover version), and the rest I assumed would be simply a slew of gutsy sound-effects and brief references to beloved monsters.

Well, "Sounds" proved much more than that. Though the tracks are but snippets from the characters' varied backgrounds, they are as vivid as any old-time radio show, graced by deftly performed narrative (most of which is accented and enunciated to correspond with any given scenario's selected locale and/or time frame).

"Famous Monsters and Ghouls" comprises the album's first half, with various entries racked by long, intense, tormented groans: "Frankenstein Returns", "The Mummy's Revenge" and "Curse of the Zombies" (actually oddly relegated to the second side). Others are punctuated by swooshing stabs, screams and/or crazed laughter: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "Jack the Ripper" and "The Headless Horseman". As basic as these are, they really do get under one's skin, especially if listened to in the dark. 

Others are slightly more complex, such as "Phantom of the Opera", which offers Erik's maddening chant of "I'll always have your beauty for my own", as organ music and collapsing noises mount. "Count Dracula", on the other hand, is more creepily subdued, permeating of sadistic bat squeaks and sensual moaning. "The Werewolf Attacks" and "Exorcism" are, above all, the most spine-tingling. Sadistically relentless and satisfyingly repugnant, these aren't for the weak of heart, let alone impressionable children. 

There are even a few giant-monster homages, such as the Kong installment, where the narrator explains how the mighty ape rose to fight an Asian sea creature (a Godzilla knock-off, perhaps, or maybe just an aquatic counterpart to Kong's ol' T-Rex adversary? You decide). "The Incredible Giant Crab" invokes both Ebirah (from "Godzilla vs the Sea Monster") and Roger Corman's "Attack of the Crab Monsters". "The Blob" retells the ever-expanding mass' origin from a NASA perspective, and whoa, is it ever unsettling. You can actually sense the gelatinous specimen pulsating toward you as the militia frantically tries to destroy it.

The LP's second side, "Man's Inhumanity To Man", is even more disquieting than the first, including such gut-wrenching tracks as "Buried Alive", "Burned at the Stake", "Keel Hauled" (my personal favorite), "Nightmare of Lost Souls", "Torture Chamber" and "Victims of the Guillotine" (ouch!). Truly, if this stuff doesn't mess with you head, nothing will.

Writer Frank Daniel and producer Wade Denning brewed this twisted concoction, though it seems only a select few know it: a shame, considering they deserve tremendous praise for the tracks' masterful orchestrations. Too bad, too, that the other contributors are dosed in obscurity, but then maybe such simply adds to the album's air of mystery and permeating realism: for as strange as it may be, many of the segments sound as if culled from actual events. 

Alas, finding a quality, vinyl copy of "Sounds" may prove tough, but transferred CD copies are available for reasonable prices, for those bold enough to seek.

Indeed, if you've a hankering for a tension-wrought spree of classic monsters, accompanied by an affluent sum of torturous insanity, "Sounds" will become your perfect cup of gruel: an audio equivalent to the darkest amusement-park ride you'd ever endure. It's loads of fun, but sure to scare!!! Seek it out, if you dare!!!

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