“There was something vampiric about rock music. It must have sounded supernatural even to those who don’t believe in the supernatural. I mean the way the electricity could stretch a single note forever; the way harmony could be layered upon harmony until you felt yourself dissolving in the sound. So eloquent of dread it was, this music…”
― Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
If you are, like me, particularity drawn to vampire fiction, you might have noticed an interesting connection between vampires and music. Frequently this takes the form of Vampire Rock Music.
Music, of all the arts, seems to have the fullest potential to express emotions and states of mind, to create an atmosphere. It also to be a powerful medium for the supernatural and the otherworldly.
Present in the human religious and magic rituals since the time immemorial, music was also a theme in myths and legends as a source of enchantment, visions or death. From Odysseus and the sirens, to the urban legend surrounding Rezső Seress’ Gloomy Sunday, the suicide song, music causes both awe and fear. Just like vampires…
The Undead Twist: Vampire Rock Music
Lestat’s impressions of rock music provide some very insightful notions. The sense of notes stretching forever, the feeling of dissolving, the dread. In the film Queen of The Damned, Lestat says “In the end, we are alone, and there is nothing but the cold, dark wasteland of eternity“. This sensation of being suspended in cold emptiness and utterly alone is the leading motive in his music, the most important thing he tries to express. No matter how we feel about the film itself, or the film as a books adaptation, let’s focus on how Lestat was portrayed as a musician, with an emphasis on the music his band, The Vampire Lestat, played.
It was rock music that woke Lestat from his slumber, and he found it worthy to be awake for. Finding a band of jamming kids, he introduces himself openly as a vampire, and promises all their dreams will come true. The band becomes immensely famous, with all it’s hype built around the idea that its frontman is a vampire. After all, that is something to be expected from an eccentric rock musician. No one wonders whether it might be real (well, almost no one) and so the double meaning of their lyrics goes unnoticed by mortals, and Lestat can sing his soul out and enjoy his masquerade to his heart’s content.
The songs, so cleverly passing for both your typical rock themed compositions, and philosophical statements about the vampiric existence, were written by music composers Richard Gibbs and Jonathan Davis, of Korn, and performed by Wayne Static (Static-X), David Draiman (Disturbed), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) and Marilyn Manson.
All the songs are wonderfully saturated in an oneiric, eerie atmosphere, never crossing the line between creepy and grotesque, never trying too hard. As for the ‘secret messages’, as an example, Slept So Long, while appearing to be a love song about a broken heart, is in fact a bitter rant directed at Marius, Lestat’s maker, who deprived him of human existence and left him to fend for himself:
Alone without a care
Hoping, and hating
Things that I can’t bear
Did you think it’s cool to walk right up
To take my life and f**k it up
Well did you
Well did you
Lestat did indeed sleep so long…
Another example, Not Meant For Me, was dedicated to those vampires who, provoked by Lestat’s risky openness about his true nature, come after him. At the first glance it’s another depressing heartbreak song, but the whole ‘cold, dark wasteland of eternity’ concept comes together very clearly. Feeling alienated from the world of the living, the vampire is so indifferent towards his own unlife that he provokes other vampires to hunt him down and end his misery:
I’m trapped in this world, lonely and fading
Heart broke and waiting for you to come
We are stuck in this world
That’s not meant for me, for me
There’s much more to discover from the whole soundtrack out. This is great music and so much fun to play a hidden meanings detective!
Enter the Tragic Musician
For the character of Adam (Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive), music is something different. Adam seeks to find some connection between his nature and the world. Or rather, what’s left of it. The film adopts the quasi post-apocalyptic perspective of a centuries old vampire, in a time when humanity has degraded itself, and is neither capable of creating true art and beauty, nor inclined to preserve it. Adam, working with and inspiring musicians through centuries, withdraws into his somewhat run down Victorian villa, in a deserted district of Detroit, to mourn the collapse of civilisation.
He records his own compositions in a home studio filled with outdated technology.
His music, though very sombre and brooding, is not angry like Lestat’s. It’s full of nostalgia and the melancholy that haunts Adam: remorse, bitterness, feeling robbed and cheated out of the meaning of life, are all reflected in its trans-like whirling. The whole film’s soundtrack has a certain mystical, tiny bit oriental, metallic touch, which brings about a sense of uneasiness and sophisticated darkness.
This seems to be a result of Jim Jarmusch taking care of the aural aspect of the film himself, recording most of the soundtrack with his rock band SQÜRL. On a lot of the tracks he collaborated with a lute player, Jozef van Wissem. In the film, the lute is a very important symbol of rebellion against the modern world and it’s many unnecessary technological trinkets; a symbol that connects Adam with all the eras of the world he has experienced, the lost civilisation. Actually, the film’s soundtrack makes me think a lot of ambiance music in OST to Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines.
Music as a Dark Gift of Power
“Why Do We Sing? Because we must. The noisome undercurrent that passes through each of us must be let to the surface, or it will boil us from within. Let it never be said that an undead heart feels no passion.”
– Daughter of Cacophony
Another very interesting case of vampiric music is to be found in World of Darkness. This time, for a change, in the form of females. Daughters of Cacophony, also known as Sirens, are an all-women bloodline (offshoot) of an unknown clan. Their whole history is very mysterious; some say they emerged only recently, yet some trace their origins back to the Middle Ages. Among all the clans they could have possibly evolved from, Toreadors and Malkavians seem to be the most probable. Toreadors, because it’s them that value beauty and art the most of all the clans and who especially prize the Daughters’ music. Malkavians, because the Daughters constantly hear the inner music, which would point to the Malkavian susceptibility to hallucinations. The inner music makes it impossible for them not to sing, and lends voices an otherworldly allure, but also grants them the ability to shatter the minds of those who listen, thanks to the Melpomenee discipline. There are rumours circling about the Daughters’ powers increasing in the Final Nights, letting them shatter whole objects and creatures with their singing.
A Vampire Rock Musical Attempt
And finally, a few words about a musical Suck. Well, it’s not really a musical, just a music-themed film. It was supposed to be a rock-and-roll vampire black comedy horror film. The ‘film’ part is the only bit they got right. The premise is how vampirism helps a struggling rock band to gain attention, though sadly not through an improved quality of their music. Actually their rock music is one of the poorest, lamest attempts I’ve ever heard, and this is coming from someone who listens mainly to rock/metal. I don’t know how did Rob Stefaniuk manage to lure Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop to play in the film, really I don’t.
As for the portrayal of vampires, I understand it was meant to be partly comical, but it turned out rather ho-hum.
On the brighter side, the whole thing has an Indie feel to it, and a Flight of the Conchords sense of humour. Still Suck is an example of epic failure in the vampire music department.
The film has a certain following, a lot of people seem to be quite enraptured with it, so do check it out – you might like it more than I do!
A geek and gamer with a background in Cultural Anthropology, Lena loves all things that go bump in the night; apprentice of vampire lore, fan of cyberpunk, enthusiast of dark fantasy. Lena is blending in with the mortals working for an interior designer.