When one thinks of horror movies, there are a few things that immediately come to mind—vampires, ghosts, knives, and blood-curdling screams. But for Brian Michael Henry, the genre carries with it a powerful romance, an outsider’s perspective on love, and a profound sense of longing. To explore the genre’s romantic facets, Henry created his latest EP, «The Horror! The Horror!», a five-track collection of New Wave-inspired alt-pop tracks that examine love and desire from the perspective of classic horror characters.
«The Horror! The Horror!» may only be Henry’s second recorded release—following 2021’s Remote Work—but he’s no stranger to the stage, having made a career in opera and musical theatre before diving head first into home recording at the height of the 2020 pandemic. «I’d never even really set out to record anything until the pandemic», says Henry. «I just always did shows and performed other people’s stuff. I don’t really like to write songs about myself, but I started watching all these documentaries and horror movies during the pandemic and started writing as though I was one of the characters I’d been watching and then I became addicted to the recording process».
While Remote Work was a collaborative effort between Henry and co-producer Colin Summers (aka Scrawnyman) and featured contributions from a handful of session musicians, The Horror! The Horror! is an entirely solo effort, a product of isolated late-night bedroom recording sessions, Henry’s self-described obsession, and a powerful drive to create something all his own. «I wanted to see what I could put out on my own without help», says Henry. «On Remote Work, I hired a friend of mine to produce a lot of those, but for The Horror! The Horror!» I was listening to a lot of Suicide, Depeche Mode, and Erasure and I just loved the idea that these bands were just two people or one person in a room doing it all themselves, and I wanted to do a full project that I did all myself».
Throughout «The Horror! The Horror!», Henry examines the humanity of monsters and the monstrosity of humans atop pulsing layers of cold electronic production that call to mind both John Carpenter’s signature synth scores and modern darkwave artists like Cold Cave in equal measure. Henry’s vocals, however, are reminiscent of Stephin Merritt’s signature croon and lend a notable warmth to each song, creating a more three-dimensional portrait of his characters and heightening the emotional resonance of the EP.
«The Horror! The Horror!» kicks off with «Waiting», a dissection of obsession and stalking inspired by the films Single White Female and Fatal Attraction. At its core, «Waiting» is a love song and a pained exploration of longing, at once sympathetic towards its narrator, and acknowledging that her actions are immoral. From there, the EP continues with «Teenage Werewolf», a thumping 80s synth ballad that utilises werewolf lore as an allegory for addiction and alcoholism.
Elsewhere on the EP, Henry engages in more playful fare, such as on «Vampire’s First Date» which moulds the imagery and aesthetic of films like The Lost Boys and Interview With A Vampire into a bouncy song about immortality and flirtatious attraction. The EP closes with «Financial Serial Killer», a twinkling, reflective track from the perspective of someone who falls victim to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and whose life is left in ruins, framing Madoff as a Michael Myers-esque slasher.
Although Henry’s background is in musical theatre, his songwriting prowess and synth-heavy instrumentation throughout «The Horror! The Horror!» eschews any acute Broadway sensibility in favour of New Wave and post-punk influence, a recent development in Henry’s tenure as a writer and performer. «I used to hate the sound of synthesisers so much», says Henry. «But as I’ve gotten older and listened to more synth music and film scores, it’s something I’ve grown to love. I don’t think these songs sound like a horror soundtrack, musically, but I wanted to capture some of those textures that synths provide».