Cadabra Records really swings for the fences with the first installment in their “Cadabra Records Presents: Halloween” series, The Hearse Song. Pressed on orange and black vinyl and featuring a die-cut sleeve, The Hearse Song skillfully conjures the kitschy fun of classic Halloween records without compromising the stellar artwork and sound we’ve come to expect from the spoken-arts label.
Immediately drawn to the title track, I was hoping it would be a version of the poem/song from Alvin Schwartz’s classic book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Many credit Schwartz with starting us on our path to modern horror, and I was pleased to find that Anthony D.P. Mann chose to recite the Scary Stories version instead of an earlier iteration. Mann’s reading is very reminiscent of Vincent Price, full of theatrical cadence and sinister laughing, accompanied by the swirling sounds of Slasher Film Festival Strategy. The waltz feel works incredibly well, moving like a funeral march down a dimly lit October street.
“The Velvet Ribbon” is an absolutely batshit tale, but one I’ve always loved. Like the other tracks, this one’s also featured on Scary Stories, as a newly married husband is obsessed with the velvet ribbon wrapped around his wife’s neck, always asking her to remove it and with her response being, “you’ll be sorry if I do, so I won’t.” Mann’s reading is fairly straightforward on this one, rising up and down with the synth brass and pads floating behind.
Side B consists of “Skin and Bones” and “The Teeth.” “Skin and Bones” is a short shock, only lasting a minute, but full of wonderful wailing by Mann and spooky organ in the vein of Verne Langdon’s The Phantom of the Organ. “The Teeth” tells the story of a young boy, dreaming, who keeps running into people with black eyes and razor sharp shark teeth. This is the most outright scary tale on the record, featuring a pulsing synth track to match. The strings on this one accent each scene, adding tension.
The quality on this release is superb nearly all around. Mann’s vocals sound nice and clear, even when effects like reverb are added in for extra spookiness. The music is equally important in the mix, at times accenting the plot points while then backing off to let the words linger out. No cracks and pops were detected, although I did hear a little inner groove distortion.
Cadabra really went all out with the die-cut sleeve, fully embracing the “worms crawl in, worms crawl out” lyrics in “The Hearse Song.” The gravedigger’s eyes and nose are cut out, allowing the orange and black worm covered insert to show through. Since it’s a Halloween release, everything has a festive black and orange motif, working especially well on the front and back cover font. All the art was done by Sam Heimer, skillfully digging into the theme and fleshing the characters out. This is guaranteed to be one of the best looking records in your collection.
The Hearse Song is available on “transparent orange with black swirl” vinyl at Cadabra Records.