This is my favorite time of year. I love the flamboyance and performance art of Halloween, and I love the macabre and joyful celebration of Dia de los Muertos. What I love best about it, though, about this entire season, is that it’s the easiest time of year to embrace the dark. The days are short, the nights are long, the leaves are dying, skeletons are suddenly decorations or candy. Things we like to pretend doesn’t exist – death, cold, fear – are suddenly closer than ever. And there’s relief in that. For New Music Monday this week I chose two artists that aren’t afraid of their dark sides.
Diamanda Galás has leaned in to many of life’s dark sides. Her avant-garde voice and performance style (think opera plus cabaret plus coven) have been called “unnerving vocal terror,” and she has spent her career staring down death and illness in her activism to destigmatize AIDS, mental illness, poverty, and genocide. Estimates put her vocal range anywhere between 3.5 and a full 8 octaves. She can hold a single low note for 4 minutes. Her music has been taken to Catholic priests for exorcism. In other words: When you’re Diamanda Galás, every day is Halloween.
Vocifera is a death metal band from Pernambuco, Brazil that I discovered while putting together last week’s Precious Metal playlist. (The name Vocifera comes from the verb vociferate – to scream or exclaim.) Their sound is visceral, and “joyful” is not the first word that comes to mind when listening, but in reality the band loves what they do deeply, and revel in making an unholy racket. I love every second of it. Their debut album, Evil Thoughts, is available to stream in full now.