Today I’m going to list what I think are some of the best Call of Cthulhu mood music options out there.
Just about every Call of Cthulhu game is made better with the addition of some nice creepy background music. Some games suggest a very specific kind of music — like period music for a 1920s Cthulhu game — but for the most part just a generic spooky soundtrack will help set the mood.
Unfortunately it can be hard to find good Call of Cthulhu mood music. Too much of the spooky music out there is far too intrusive and in your face, rather than subtle background music just setting the atmosphere and staying out of the way while you play the game. Good examples of this creepy music failure include just about any Halloween sound track, and soundtracks to many movies that you think should be good, like Dracula.
I’ve spent a lot of time slowly accumulating a Call of Cthulhu music collection, and while a lot of it is just one track from this and half a track from that, there are a few gems that provide a lot of tracks of phenomenal Cthulhu music. I’m talking very specifically here about tracks that are generic background music good for most Cthulhu games, rather than big loud tracks for specific situations.
Here are some of my top recommendations.
Atrium Carceri = Cthulhu Gold
Atrium Carceri is a band that produces album after album of creepy atmospheric music that is absolutely perfect for many Cthulhu games. Their CDs are packed full of track after track of perfect Cthulhu mood music that maintains it’s low spooky quality without big in your face moments or surging too-loud conclusions. They have several CDs and literally every one has 80% – 90% of the tracks ideal for almost any Cthulhu game.
Here are a couple samples of the kind of Cthulhu gold that comes from Atrium Carceri:
The only possible concern with Atrium Carceri is that many of their tracks have a slight tech edge to them that could make them sound a little out of place in period Cthulhu games. On the other hand it makes them even better for futuristic horror games, including Eclipse Phase and of course Cthulhu Tech.
Seriously, if you’re going to get only one CD for your Cthulhu background music, get one of their albums.
The Thin Red Line Soundtrack
This is a rare movie soundtrack in which the tracks don’t rise to some kind of horror crescendo, which turns ambient Cthulhu mood music into something intrusive. Not every track is perfect, but there are many awesome Cthulhu background tracks. Here’s a sample:
Soundtrack to The Game
The Game soundtrack is filled with very slow, slightly creepy piano music — the kind of piano music that uses mostly the high-pitched keys. This provides a very low-key and slow counterpoint to investigative games and is particularly well-suited to period games or creepy situations that are just creepy, rather than building up to something truly horrible.
Peter Gabriel’s Passion
This is a bit of a non-standard selection, but I’m a huge fan of Peter Gabriel’s CD Passion, which is the soundtrack for the Last Temptation of Christ. The music is kind of a middle-eastern creepy track. At times the tracks aren’t so much creepy as just very different, something to move players out of their comfort zone, but it can do a good job of setting the mood without being in-your-face creepy. Here’s a sample:
The above are my best suggestions for entire CDs or nearly entire CDs filled with great background music. Some other options that have fewer tracks that are still great include:
Midnight Syndicate is a group that specializes in making gaming soundtracks. They have many CDs of horror music; however, most of it falls prey to the in-your-face crescendo syndrome, and others are just a little too melodic — more like a song than ambient music. There are, however, a handful of tracks across their horror CDs that make good Cthulhu music.
Eyes Wide Shut Soundtrack: yes, seriously. There is one track on here that is perfect for scenes of cultists performing horrible rituals. You can even hear a low voice chanting “K’tulu.” Awesome track.
American McGee’s Alice Soundtrack: this is the soundtrack to the Alice computer game. The nice thing about this is that it provides a different kind of creepy music, kind of a dark fairy tale music. The downside is a lot of the tracks have voice-overs on them, and some have the crescendo syndrome as well. But there are definitely a few nice long tracks of creepy Grimm’s fairy tale music. Another source of this kind of music is the soundtrack to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Hush.
That’s all I have today off the top of my head. But I’m always looking to expand my Cthulhu music selection — does anyone else know of any great sources for ambient Call of Cthulhu mood music?