Photo courtesy of Candlelight Records
Las Vegas ghouls Demon Lung’s new record, A Dracula, traffics in dynamic, classic doom that’s unafraid to toss in double-bass-driven sludge or Candlemass-style guitar harmonies for a dense, dark, organic sound that quietly bends genre restrictions. The same cavalier approach towards conformity is evident in the record’s subject matter, too.
A Dracula is inspired by the 1978 Mexican horror movie Alucarda. Horror films are well-trod material for doom bands, but Alucarda is a unique piece of work. It’s a none-too-subtle examination of religious hysteria a la Ken Russell’s The Devils, a story that uses horror signifiers like “demonic possession” to tell a lesbian love story: a relationship obviously verboten in the film’s convent setting. This also aligns Alucarda with Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novel Carmilla, an obliquely lesbian vampire tale that has spawned innumerable film adaptations.
The subversion evident in Alucarda and its inspirations can’t help but make for a fascinating doom record: it feels relevant without being explicitly political. I spoke with Demon Lung vocalist Shanda Fredrick about the new record’s style, the universal appeal of Alucarda, and the titans of Italian horror.
Noisey: What really caught my eye here was your stated inspiration from Alucarda. I know the previous record was inspired by Warlock, so what made Alucarda a good follow-up?
Shanda: There were a few ideas floating around but Alucarda was one that we all felt most inspired by. We like stories with good bones, that we can pick apart and reassemble. Both Warlock and Alucarda as movies aren’t stone cold classics, per se, but when you lay out the plot there is something really special there, at least to us.
Alucarda is basically a forbidden love story. If you strip away all the Satanic possession, it’s about two girls falling in love and the church trying to keep them apart. There are a lot of themes, and I really think anybody can take something away from this story.
The choice of Alucarda—a story that, as you said, is at its core about a lesbian relationship forbidden by the church—lends some subversive weight to the album. A lot of horror touches on similar themes, whether intentionally or not (Fulci is often progressive in spite of himself). What do you think it is about horror that lends itself to subversive messaging?
Horror is a great way to explore these sort of themes without having to have the difficult conversations. Know what I mean? If a man wants to know the fear of the female experience, watch I Spit on your Grave. Or if a woman wants to know the struggles of male sexuality she can watch The Dead Girl. Horror allows us to view different, unsavory perspectives without getting our hands dirty or being in any danger. My secret wish is to do a Jane Austen concept album, though…Sense and Sensibility IN HELL.
Do you have any specific angle on the story's religious and sexual implications that you wanted to convey? The album is definitely sympathetic toward the female characters; we seem to get the story through their eyes.
We definitely wanted to touch on the theme of gender oppression that occurs within religion, specifically Christianity. But it wasn’t really that important or intentional; this album wasn't my Burger Manifesto Part One.
So how did you go about translating what struck you about the film into lyrics, and then music? The placement of the acoustic interludes, the intensity of the last track … it's clear that y'all thought about creating an emotional arc through the course of the album.
First and foremost, we watch the movie a lot and talk about it. Then I break the story into a aiz-part outline with a synopsis for each song. We focus on one song or part of the story at a time, and Jeremy and I sit down to match the emotion of the scene to the proper riff and arrange it all into a skeleton. The guys hammer it out into a complete arrangement, and from there I’ll work out vocal melodies and piece the lyrics in. It sounds complicated and it is, at times, but for us, it’s the most satisfying way to go about it.
What are some of your favorite horror movies that you haven't written songs about? Anything recent catch your attention?
The classics are the ones that are almost too sacred to touch: Gates of Hell, The Beyond, Suspiria, Inferno… anything Fulci or Argento. If we were ever to take those on we’d have to approach it with a lot of care and respect. Recently? The Taking of Deborah Logan, Starry Eyes, Ex Machina, The Sacrament, Here Comes the Devil, The Pact, At the Devil’s Door, The Babadook… This could go on forever.
And finally … what do you think happened to Dario Argento's career?
Classic possession. There is a demon in his ear giving him terrible ideas and the inability to say the word “no.” It’s tragic but he is still a legend. Trauma is his last watchable film and that was more than twenty years ago.
We recently attempted Argento's Dracula and asked this same question about 10 times before giving up and watching Opera to try and remember him as he should be remembered. He’s proven that he can still do it though: his episode of Masters of Horror, "Jenifer," is one of the best of the series. 'A Dracula' is out now on Candlelight Records—buy it from the label or on Bandcamp.