If you enjoy the 80s aesthetic without the corporate sheen and affected optimism, horror synth is the genre for you. Inspired by the likes of John Carpenter and Goblin, horror synth (aka horror-inspired synthwave, or darksynth) is a style of electronic that emulates the thick, otherworldly textures of eighties horror movie soundtracks.
It can be a breeding ground for gimmicky imitations, but there are also brilliant artists who make captivating and extremely spooky music. Let these retro pioneers layer up brooding analogue synths for your listening pleasure.
Violent, conceptually vast and unusually complex
Without a doubt, one of the best contemporary horror synth artists is the cheekily titled Carpenter Brut. Popular in both the electronic and metal scene for their harsh beats and baroque composition, their trilogy of EPs is a must-listen, being violent, conceptually vast, and unusually complex for the genre, while also funky as all hell. GosT is another great example of abrasiveness and dissonance played for terror; their harmonies sound like they genuinely come from the underworld.
The genre is fairly indie/underground in sensibility, and with that comes a lot of DIY mastering, hence a lot of artists are let down by overcompressed masters that leave the tracks with no breathing room (though they're all worth checking out if you can stand the aural assault).
A delightful journey through bleak fantasy, minimal arrangements and unsettling rhapsody
Perhaps the best-known of them all is Kavinsky (who you may know from the soundtrack to Drive), who suavely evades this with melancholy flair and a good old French house beat. Even John Carpenter himself has added new material to the genre with his Lost Themes album duo, featuring brand new instrumentals from his ear for horror. The second, released last year, was something of a diminishing return, but the first is a delightful journey through bleak fantasy, minimal arrangements and unsettling rhapsody.
Sure, much of horror synth can feel a touch homogenous; there's only so many times you can hear the same chord progressions played with the same synth presets, underscored by the same drum loops. But for the artists who transcend the clichés, it's well worth sticking around.