Recording a Christmas album is famously something every artist signs off on when selling their soul to the Devil, which makes it nothing special. Anyone can hop onto a jingle-bell heavy track and record half-assed vocals to bring in some extra coin at the end of the year; there’s a market for it. The true charisma, uniqueness, talent and nerve comes from those brave artists who dare to tread the waters only few have traversed: Halloween music.
For a holiday adored by so many, there’s a glaring lack of soundtracks for the month of October. “Thriller” comes to mind as the most adored classic, and campy tunes like “Monster Mash” or “Ghostbusters” find themselves on thousands of party playlists around Oct. 31 each year, but it’s not often we’re gifted with a talent so bold to take the leap and record a Halloween album.
As in many other areas of life in general, Kim Petras has risen up as our knight in shining armor. Her latest release, TURN OFF THE LIGHT VOL. 1 is a magnum opus of Halloween music, a concept album as ambitious as they come.
Released last Oct. 1, TOTL was a delectably haunted delight that we didn’t deserve. While many awaited the inevitable drop of volume two, Petras (never one to settle, musically) shocked the world (and by world, I mean the sector of the LGBT+ community that even knows who she is) by announcing that volume two would be combined with volume one into the previously afformentioned magnum opus.
With an instrumental preceding each track, TOTL practically begs to be listened to from cover to cover. Each song transitions seamlessly into the next; opener “Purgatory” chugs to a halt only to take off again at the start of “There Will Be Blood,” which thumps right into “Bloody Valentine.,” while the finale sets the scene that kicks off “Wrong Turn.”
“Massacre” is a highlight and one of the most in-your-face Halloween-y songs on the album. A rare moment of minimalist production (or, as minimalist as a Kim Petras song can get) allows Petras’ vocals to take center stage as she belts the bone-chilling chorus, backed by a haunted chorus of her own voice.
Much like on volume one, the instrumentals add to the narrative of the album without making it feel clunky. They come in the form of bass-heavy club tracks (“Bloody Valentine”), stirring intros (“Purgatory”) and more literal pieces (“Knives”). While they may take up space that could have been given to Petras-classics-to-be, their presence isn’t resented.
While the nine new tracks (as well as the one tacked onto the end like one of those Marvel post-credit scenes) are welcome, the familiar songs from volume one still go undeniably harder. Nothing tops “Close Your Eyes,” the over-the-top banger that quickly became a fan-favorite. Plus, it would be naive to assume that anything, ever, could top the Elvira feature on “Turn Off The Light.” It’s a moment most pleasing to me, as the immaculate Queen of Halloween knights Petras as her Princess.
The new material tends to be slightly more tongue-in-cheek, the influence of Clarity (Petras’ debut LP released earlier this year) is unmistakably present on tracks like “Death By Sex.” You know that GIF of Rihanna saying that she sometimes had to stop recording because the lyrics were too deep and would leave her in tears? That’s how I imagine Kim Petras felt after recording the line “Oh, death by sex / Yeah, sex sex sex.” She has such a way with words, and is honestly the lyricist we need in 2019.
There are some genuinely striking moments on the record, though. Closer “Everybody Dies” is strangely reflective on the human condition. It plays like a wedding march, or something like a distorted doo-wop ballad, Petras singing “Not everybody feels, but everybody cries / Not everybody lives, but everybody dies,” really drawing out that last word. And though it’s the least surface-level spooky, it very well may just be the scariest.
Givin the trajectory, it looks like Kim Petras may be on course to becoming a Halloween staple, and that is something that no one should complain about. Sure, “Death By Sex” isn’t as universal as something like, say, “This Is Halloween,” but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have rights!