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Because everyone's favourite kind of Santa is an axe-wielding Santa, right? Death Waltz continue to find new, shocking ways to say "Boo!", and contributing to the cause is this vinyl issue of Silent Night, Deadly Night, one of those festively confused films about Christmas and death. Perry Botkin and Morgan Ames scored the 1984 film's soundtrack, with crushing distorted works offered by the former and traditional Christmas numbers by the latter, which are given an ironic gravity considering the film's stocking full of gore.
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- Silent Night, Deadly Night by Perry Botkin / Morgan Ames
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Can you imagine spending the Christmas holidays with the people at Death Waltz? They’d be all, “pass the cranberry sauce, Robin”, and when I ask, quite fairly, if that’s a euphemism for blood, they’d chop my head off with a turkey-knife-slash-axe and stick it to the top of the tree. Or so I imagine. I know they run a record label and that their intentions are more or less pure, but their version of Santa Baby is definitely called Satan Baby.
‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ is another cut in their resourceful vault of evil film music, a stocking full of sonic gore taken from the 1984 slasher pic which involves death by fairy lights and a lack of mine pie related mercy. It’s split down the middle in terms of aesthetic, the original soundtrack offering gruesomely cold synth innovations from Perry Botkin, while Morgan Aimes belts out some contextually ironic pop songs and conventional carols about good ol’ Christmas. Hearing it alongside Botkin’s abstracted work, and with the film’s bloody content in mind, Aimes’ side might actually be the more chilling of the two -- imagine Santa hacking the entire neighbourhood to pieces alongside “Christmas Fever”, which sounds like it’s being sung by the most wholesome of carollers. Or take Aimes’ more soulful cuts -- on “I Wanna Sing You A Love Song” he croons “Loving you is so easy” over the softest of rock ‘n’ roll arrangements -- and pair it with Santa’s dead-eyed stare. It feels distressingly fucked up.
Let’s talk about Botkin, though, because he has a difficult task at hand: making Christmas sound like Halloween. The chimes are a festive touch, but the gruelling percussion is distorted to take all the warmth we feel in the cold of Christmas away and leave us with frostbite. The piano feels dissonant and estranged, taking the image of a happy family around the fire and creating a dark shadow behind it. And then there are the synths, which oscillate in and out at a terrifying pace, creeping in unnoticed like the best horror film. There’s no melody underpinning Botkin’s work -- he evokes feeling through rushes of noise and motifs that never conclude, but instead spiral out of control. As far as juxtapositions go, the space between his work and Aimes’ is shocking -- one pines for Christmas, and the other beats it into a pulp.
It’s silly, it’s slasher, and it doesn’t really matter. But ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ is pretty good for those of us who want to go into a snowstorm and take on the devil with a white beard. Those vampires at Death Waltz? They’re alright, really.
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