Classics Album Review
Fall Festivals and the Satanic Panic by: Vacation Bible School
Written By: GBana s92
Published On: October 28th, 2021
Ahh, fall. The best time of the year. Autumn foliage, spooky movies, and the…looming threat of Satan taking over the world? That’s right, back in the ‘80s (hell, even today in some parts) there was a growing fear that Satan would engender himself into every house throughout the world thanks to horrifying rituals and depraved sexual acts. Which begs a much more important question: what would the music of a real satanic panic sound like? Well, thanks to Vacation Bible School, we have an answer.
Vacation Bible School is an artist with a definite religious focus –just about single-handedly carving out their own niche of “churchwave” – so who better to use music as an avenue to talk of the temptations of Satan? The opening track, “t h e _ s a t a n i c _ p a n i c” fittingly begins sampling John Carpenter’s classic melody from Halloween mixed underneath a “definition” of Satanism. The provided definition is a rather skewed outlook on the whole movement, which is masterfully demonstrated by the Carpenter sample being horribly scrambled. As the speech carries on, the piano melody begins to reverberate with such ferocity that it loops in upon itself, eventually degrading to such an extent that it destroys the core of the melody. A fitting metaphor for Satanism then? Or perhaps a warning about what permitting Satan into your home could do to your mind?
If the opening track was the thesis, the subsequent tracks provide the supporting evidence. One thing that will get progressively more noticeable as you listen is the reverb. Sure, reverb is present in a lot of vaporwave, but it serves an interesting purpose here. While in most instances, the goal is to distort or mask something hidden below the surface, the echoing actually brings forth added clarity to the whole affair. There’s something inherently ominous about reverberation, especially through a large, abandoned space. But what if that’s it? What if your goal is to disturb? This album affords the opportunity to be ill at ease for fifty glorious minutes.
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But perhaps the most interesting thing with Fall Festivals and the Satanic Panic is that there’s not really much to talk about musically. Now that’s not to say there isn’t music. There are tons of samples and vapor influences present. For example, “p a g a n _ i n v a s i o n” has some slushwave underpinnings, and “z o m b i e _ m a l l” unsurprisingly incorporates mallsoft elements (and a sample from Halloween III: Season of the Witch, as it shall henceforth be known, the best Halloween.) There are a number of other vapor subgenres that make cameo appearances along the way too. On a traditional album, this scattered approach might ordinarily make everything feel a little unfocused. But it works for two reasons.
The first is that the album evokes the feeling of channel surfing one late Halloween night in the ‘90s. Everything should feel different as you jump around. Movies give way to commercials, which give way to more movies, including a fun little moment where the 1990 and 2017 It’s get sampled one after the other. There’s even room for the channels at the end of the cycle that solely play music, as shown off on “St. James Infirmary (mallsoft version).” The signal doesn’t seem to be coming in too great though, so make sure you mess around with the antennas if you’re dissatisfied with the sound quality. Many of the track titles are written in such a way where it should be pretty easy to jump around too. A track with a name like “g o o s e b u m p s” makes it fairly obvious what you’re in store for should you flip over to that tune.
The other driving force behind the album’s success is the degree with which it captures a mood. While the musical melodies remain present, they never really drive the ship. The biggest factors are, rather oddly, the sound effects. The ethereal whisperings, the wind rustling through the trees, the screams, these are the elements that really drive home the frightful visage of what this album wants to be. Dropping a plethora of musical tracks over top of that, and the end result is a thematically focused release as well as a personal seasonal favorite, even if it’d be a reach to call ourselves big fans of Satan.
Vacation Bible School
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