Recording a Christmas album is famously something all artists sign 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-baked 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 waters only few have traversed: Halloween music.
For a holiday adored by so many, there’s an extreme 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 aspects of life in general, Kim Petras has risen up as our knight in shining armor. Her latest release, “Turn Off the Light,” is a magnum opus of Halloween music, a concept album as ambitious as they come.
Released last Oct. 1, “Turn Off the Light Vol. 1” 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 LGBTQ+ community that even knows who she is) by announcing that volume two would be combined with volume one into the previously aforementioned magnum opus.
With an instrumental preceding each track, “Turn Off the Light” practically begs to be listened to from end to end. 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”; “There Will Be Blood” thumps right into “Bloody Valentine,” whose finale sets the scene that kicks of “Wrong Turn.”
“Massacre” is a highlight and one of the more in your face Halloween-y tracks on the album. A rare moment of minimalist production — as minimalist as a Kim Petras song can get — allows Petras’ vocals to take center stage as she bone-chillingly belts the chorus, backed by a haunted chorus of her own voice.
Much like on volume one, the new instrumentals add to the narrative of the album without making it seem 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 saved for future Petras’ classics, their presence isn’t resented.
While the additional tracks (the first nine, as well as 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) unmistakably present on tracks like “Death by Sex.” You know that meme 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 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. “Everybody Dies” is strangely reflective on the human condition. It plays like a wedding march, or something like a distorted doo-wop ballad.
Petras sings, “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.
Giving the trajectory, it looks like 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!