Somewhere over the past few centuries, Latin became the "ominous" language. Maybe it's the fact that it's the language of a once mighty civilization that collapsed from over a thousand years ago. Maybe it's because it's also the traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church, and thus associated with divine power, spirituality, mystery, death, and Dark Age Europe. And from there it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to the idea of magic. And then there's the music with which Latin is often associated — for example, the unique sounds of the Gregorian chant — which can sound decidedly sombre, even spooky to a modern ear. Latin choirs also have those distinctive "ooh", "aah", "ooo" and "-us" sounds, ascending theatrically and descending dramatically.
So whenever you hear a choir singing powerfully in Latin, especially with Orchestral Bombing, it means that this is epiceven when it's not. This trope is extremely common in movie trailers and the climax of devastating final battles; Hollywood will tell you that nothing can dictate "watch this movie" or "Grand Finale and the End of the World" more than potent choir chants in a language most viewers don't know, and that this is the way to give a scene that extra bit of ominous importance.
The actual meaning of the words is unimportant. They could be singing Latin nursery rhymes or reading from a Roman phone book for all we know, or even Dog Latin or complete gibberish; it's the sound that matters, but there are bonus points if the chanting is reminiscent of, or outright stolen from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, especially "O Fortuna". Another famous one is Dies Irae, whose lyrics are genuinely ominous. (If for any reason, such as parodying the trope, 4shared has an mp3 download link for O Fortuna.)
If the creators are particularly clever, the chanting will include a Bilingual Bonus.
Latin is probably the most familiar dead language due to its being the ancestor of modern Romance languages (even though English is a Germanic language, it still has a major proportion of Latin influence, primarily through French and science), and its prominence and impact on modern culture make it easy to fact-check. Nevertheless, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Hebrew and others are sometimes used to similar effect. If a work is set in Russia or the Soviet Union, expect Ominous Slavic Chanting. Eastern-style chanting is also having a surge in popularity, possibly due to the increase in stories featuring conflicts between Eastern and Western worlds. Creators that went to the trouble of inventing their own language for a work will likely find a way to feature it in this manner too. There's also a chance that the music only reminds one of ominous Latin chanting, opting to use "ooh", "aah", "ooo", and the like. Indeed, the lyrics don't need to mean anything; for the majority of the audience, Ominous Latin-Sounding Gibberish works just as well.
Compare Cherubic Choir and the One-Woman Wail. Often a part of Orchestral Bombing and Religious Horror. May involve Ominous Pipe Organ. See also Black Speech for the ear shattering version. See also Creepy Children Singing, where creepy songs and nursery rhymes are played in the background to add tension and fear to a scene. Often lends itself quite well to Mondegreens. Contrast Victorious Chorus, which has the opposite effect of this trope.
Plenty of the examples that follow have earned places on the Awesome Music page in case you feel like listening to them.
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The overuse of "O Fortuna" — particularly for huge, sprawling period epic war footage — was splendidly mocked in this advertisement for the Australian beer Carlton Draught.
In Britain, "O Fortuna" was used for an advert for Old Spice aftershave... and a parody of that advert many years later for Carling Black Label lager...
It also appears in a commercial for Rickard's Red beer, albeit with English lyrics praising the beer. Nevertheless, it's sung by an ominous red-robed choir that appears out of nowhere whenever someone orders the brand. A similar Rickard's commercial uses the above-mentioned "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.
This National Guard ad starts off with Ominous Latin Chanting, but then switches to Ominous English Chanting. Let's just say that it doesn't have quite the same effect as Ominous Latin Chanting.
A disappeared channel in Latin America, Locomotion (the local precursor of Animax), used to feature epic commercials for its series, animation for grownups. An example was the one made for Evangelion. See here.
In 1997, a TV spot for Internet Explorer 4.0 used "Confutatis" from Mozart's Requiem as background music. The ad, which featured Microsoft's slogan, "Where do you want to go today?", was quickly pulled as word quickly spread of the lyrics' meaning: "When the damned are cast away and consigned to the searing flames."
Anime & Manga
The primary battle theme from Vision of Escaflowne is the imposing, "O Fortuna"-inspired "Dance of Curse". At around the halfway mark, "Dance of the Curse" finds itself supplanted by the even more ominous and imposing "Epistle" as the primary battle theme. The fact that this is around the point where the battles get increasingly hellish and violent is probably not coincidence.
The opening theme for Elfen Lied, "Lilium" is Latin with Greek touches, done in a Gregorian chant style. It sets the tone for the anime, which is similarly bleak, sombre, and spooky. The theme is a One-Woman Wail, but the song also appears in other scenes, such as next episode previews, sung by a male voice choir that sounds more Gregorian. There is a Theme Tune Cameo in the form of a music box, giving it yet another different sound.
Keroro Gunsou parodies this; ominous Latin chanting comes up whenever Angol Moa uses her Armageddon Attack (even at one one-trillionth power).
Not even a (mostly) humorous series like this one is immune, as a choral score accompanied the climactic "final" episode. For a Bilingual Bonus, it's an ode to the creator of the universe.
Also, the episode where Koizumi shows the Celestial to Kyon is accompanied with a gregorian chant where the lyrics contain mostly the phrase "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord, have mercy" in Greek). Quite fitting.
The Ah! My Goddess movie had the world rebuilt to Latin choral music ostensibly sung by the three Norns.
Death Note simply loves Ominous Latin Chanting, frequently employing it to make the act of writing a name in a notebook and eating potato chips epic. Whoever's name is written in the notebook will die 40 seconds later, so it is kind of an ominous moment when Light puts a name down. In fact, many of the epic Latin pieces in Death Note have the lyrics of a Latin requiem mass. The song that plays during the four-and-a-half-year timeskip montage, for instance, is a Dies Irae, which is about Judgement Day, fitting how Light imposes Judgement on criminals and the rotten (though somehow, it doesn't include the "liber scriptus" verse). Even in the more calm moments you have the Kyrie Eleison chant, which may as well be the anime's theme.
Rebuild 2.0 goes absolutely crazy with this, having no fewer than seven songs played during Angel attacks with Ominous English Chanting.
Followed by 3.0 having as many as twelve songs with Ominous English Chanting. As well as, calling back to the 24th episode of the show, Beethoven's Ode to Joy. At this rate, the final movie will probably have chanting for every single piece of music in the movie...
"The war to end all wars is here... the air is filled with heavy fear... humanity is disappearing; suffering as millions see slaughter... this is the final showdown. There will be no tomorrow."
"Escape to the Beginning" from The End of Evangelion. It only plays during the beginning of the end of the world! If one manages to find the lyrics (which isn't easy), they're actually quite appropriate, as well.
There's also Ominous German Chanting in episode 24, even though the lyrics themselves ("Ode to Joy") are anything but ominous in German.
The PS2/PC game for Mai-HiME has one track ("Fortuna" by Yousei Teikoku) that comes surprisingly close to averting this, though — its lyrics are mainly a smattering of quotes from classical Latin writers, particularly Virgil and Seneca, with classical rather than ecclesiastical pronunciation to boot. Taken as a whole it still doesn't make a lot of sense, but each individual line is perfectly legitimate Latin.
Giant Robo: The Animation not only features Dies Irae as background music for The Reveal of the Big Bad's secret weapon, but it also has Ominous Opera Singing: the leitmotif for the various and varying flashbacks to the "Tragedy of Bashtalle" is an arrangement of "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from the opera L'elisir d'amore.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has the unusual variation of Badass Latin Chanting. Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's theme music is a One-Woman Wail version of Libera Me mixed with the Hot-Blooded rap song that was earlier used as Kamina's theme in the Recap Episode and they together are called Libera Me From Hell.
Another example of Badass Latin Chanting is To Aru Majutsu no Index which likes to mix chanting and techno music when a serious fight is going on; quite suitably as the series is about a cold war between science and magic/religion but damn if it's not Crazy Awesome. Case in point: Tsuki Genten, first played when Touma faces off with and beats the crap out of Biaggio who's a bishop. Quite an ironic choice of music...
Episode 226 ended with "Stand Up Be Strong (Part 1)," which features Ominous English Chanting, during Ichigo's second fight with Ulquiorra. There's also "Invasion," which plays when Mayuri releases his bankai against Szayelaporro.
"Treachery" and "Invasion" also appeared during the final battle of The Diamond Dust Rebellion, while "Stand Up Be Strong" comes from Fade to Black.
Meanwhile, the fourth movie, Hell Verse, is full of remixes of instrumental tracks that appeared earlier in the series, now complete with full orchestras and Ominous English Chanting, backing images of hell, angels, demons, and torment. These tracks began to appear in the anime episodes at the very end of the Aizen battle. Here's a sample.
Akatsuki has a theme that carries the effect nicely.
And now we have the unearthly track Girei, the only possible theme for Akatsuki's leader, the godlike Painnote It appears to also be Madara's theme as well, given it played both when he revealed himself and when he made his entrance at the Kage Summit.. Yet another example of Ominous English Chanting.
Also Orochimaru's theme/the epic fight music, although the chanting aspect is hard to hear or doesn't kick in until well after the fight and/or plot point is over (the 2 and a half to 3 minute mark).
Whenever Hidan's fear level goes up some sort of ominous chanting starts (with screams of pain in the background). When aided by Hidan's shrieking it gives goosebumps.
What little we saw of the Negi vs. Chao Lingshen battle in the Mahou Sensei Negima ~Ala Alba~ OAD was accompanied with this.
Negima runs on this; nearly all the spells are activated by an incantation in either Latin or Ancient Greek. Supplementary materials usually give the translations of these incantations, and they actually manage to retain some ominousness even in English/Japanese.
The intro to the Umineko no Naku Koro ni anime is rife with ominous Italian chanting. While likely unintentional, the song's name, "One-Winged Bird", immediately bring to mind a certain other famous Latin-chanting theme of ominousness. From the visual novel, one of the game's soundtracks, sy, does have ominous Latin chanting. The phrase is "Dominus mā in dictorē astent in dictorum" (my God stands against the speaker in declaration). There is actually a few latin words interjected in the italian chanson.
Soul Eater has a few tracks that involve ominous chanting for fight scenes, specifically against the Big Bad, although it's tough to tell what language is being chanted. "Salve Maria/(Peace Be With You)" sounds like it may be Spanish rather than Latin, but either way it has a rather depressing, haunting feel to it (which fits well with the character it's often played for).
Pumpkin Scissors features ominous German chanting "Töten Sie sie!" ("kill them") whenever the main character activates his Lantern.
Coincidentally, a different "Fiat Lux" is used in the Tales of Symphonia OVA. Given what is happening while she sings, and knowing the context behind both the song and her ability to perform it, crosses over into Tear Jerker territory. Fiat Lux.
Witch Hunter Robin also features some chanting on its soundtrack. The chanting on "SOLOMON" is hard to decipher, and could just be nonsense words, but they do have a Kyrie (technically, ominous Greek chanting) that sounds absolutely amazing.
Gunnm, while being a manga series still fits the trope, as the Den's attack on the Scrapyard in the end of the original series is set to the lyrics of "O Fortuna".
The Wangan Midnight anime has Voices of S30Z the theme song of the the ominously named Devil Z, fitting since the car is not only the fastest on Tokyo's Wangan-sen, but also one of the dealiest to it's drivers (all previous owners had died in crashes, yet the car survives and continues to run). Later on, the song gets used for every major high powered car in the series.
Noein makes heavy use of Ominous Latin Chanting, mostly in the bombastic themes relating to the hellish dimension Shangri La.
Kingdom Hearts fanfic Those Lacking Spines played this trope for laughs when the sinister Jeffiroth made his appearance to thwart our heroes, accompanied by an orchestra and choir that had appeared from nowhere and a helicopter airdropping Nobuo Uematsu to direct them both in a parody of "One-Winged Angel".
The soundtrack to the film AKIRA contains a great deal of ominous chanting, but most of it is in barely-intelligible Japanese. Nemure, AKIRA, nemure... At the end, though, in that track they actually douse Latin as well.
Princess Mononoke has Ominous Japanese Chanting in the tune "The World of the Dead", which plays when the Forest Spirit's death goop is covering everything.
The Ghost in the Shell films make heavy use of Ominous Japanese Chanting — an antequated form of Japanese, no less.
In the trailer of the South Park movie, "O Fortuna" plays as the boys see Cartman's mom on the cover of "Crack Whore Magazine."
Darla Dimple's Battle Butler Max gets an ominous chanting to accompany his wall-smashing entrance in Cats Don't Dance — as though the red-tint, and the screaming reactions from the crew wasn't enough to show that Max is one scary dude. If you listen closely, it sounds like the chorus may be ominously repeating what was just said. "How does the kitty-cat go?" And Darla herself gets some as background in "Big and Loud".
In Madagascar 2, animals chant in Swahili/distorted English as they try to coax Melman into killing himself to appease the gods.
The Ralph Bakshi cartoon version of The Lord of the Rings strangely uses ominous gibberish with the words "Isengard" and "Mordor" peppered in, rather than actually use any Tolkien language.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Considering the setting it's unsurprising that a lot of the background score is based on Old-World church music, but the Latin vocals only make an appearance when someone's about to find themselves in serious trouble. Some awesome Bilingual Bonus within:
Non confundar in aeternum (Let me not be damned for eternity — during Esmeralda's execution as a witch)
Libera me Domine de morte aeterna (Free me, Lord, from everlasting death)/ In die illa tremenda (On that terrible day)/ Quando caeli movendi sunt (When the heavens shall be moved)/ Caeli et terra (The heavens and earth)/ Dum veneris judicare (When Thou shalt come to judge)/ Saeculum per ignem (the world by fire — during Quasimodo's breaking free of the chains)
Sit sempiterna gloria (May glory be eternal)/ Gloria, gloria semper (Glory, glory forever)/ Sanctus, sanctus in excelsis (Holy, holy, in the highest — when Quasimodo climbs the cathedral and claims sanctuary for Esmeralda)
Quem patronum rogaturus (To what protector shall I appeal)/ Cum vix justus sit securus? (When scarcely the just man shall be secure? — when Phoebus leads the charge toward the cathedral.) These lines (and the lines in the entry below) come from the well-known 13th century Gregorian chant "Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath).
Confutatis maledictis (When the accursed shall be cast down)/ Flammis acribus addictis (Given to the searing flames — when Frollo is about to fall off of Notre Dame; Frollo actually quotes this line in English just before falling, too, albeit not in those exact words)
More examples can be found in the lyrics to "The Bells of Notre Dame" (Latin chanting during Frollo's chase describes the "day of trembling" when "the Judge is come,") and Frollo's Villain Song, "Hellfire."
Very cleverly used in "Hellfire". The interlude between Quasimodo's "Heaven's Light" and Frollo's "Hellfire" is an excerpt from Confiteor, a Latin prayer for confessions of sin. The Confiteor continues into "Hellfire", offering some intentional irony in the first few lines of the song. Most notably, when Frollo tries to claim innocence for his lustful thoughts:
Frollo: It's not my fault! Choir:Mea culpa ([It is] My fault) Frollo: I'm not to blame! Choir:Mea culpa ([It is] My fault) Frollo: It was that gypsy girl, that witch who sent this flame! Choir:Mea maxima culpa ([It is] My most grievous fault)
One of the primary "dark/ominous" motifs in the film uses the phrase Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy") — technically Ominous Greek Chanting, but the effect is the same. The movie practically makes this phrase into Frollo's leitmotif.
And, appropriately to the movie, most of these lines come from the Requiem Mass. "Libera Me" comes from the poem of the same name; the latter two come from "Dies Irae", which is not so much ominous as outright terrifying. See for yourself: "Libera Me".
"Sit sempiterna gloria," however, is a line from Thomas Aquinus' "O Salutaris," which is a Eucharistic Adoration hymn.
The Pixar short film "Jack-Jack Attack" on The Incredibles DVD makes use of "Dies Irae".
It is also included within Hans Zimmer's score for the wildebeest stampede and Mufasa's death scene in The Lion King. For bonus points, this same score (titled "To Die For...") also includes excerpts of Mozart's Requiem when Simba finds his father's body. The only thing The Lion King lacks is actual Ominous Latin Chanting — there's plenty of Zulu chanting but it's hardly ominous (except perhaps the Zulu which is set to the "Dies Irae").
The opening credits of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm are accompanied by Ominous Chanting to the tune of Shirley Walker's memorable B:TAS theme. The chorus, once again, is actually chanting the last names of production team members backwards.
The chanting's in English, not Latin, but that doesn't stop the chorus in "Plagues" and their description of what God's gonna do to the Egyptians from being scary. When they say that the pestilence won't stop "until you break/until you yield," you believe it.
Chorus: "I send the swarm/I send the horde!"/Thus saith the Lord!
The number "Playing With the Big Boys Now", starts with Ramses' priests Hotep and Hoi(Steve Martin and Martin Short)(?) chanting the names of various Egyptian deities. The chanting can be heard later in the background.
The 2009 animated Fantastic Mr. Fox featured a chorus in the final action scenes, chanting a limerick about the villains:
Chorus: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean / One fat, one short, one lean / These horrible crooks / So different in looks / Were nonetheless equally mean.
The Lego Movie satirizes this trope while playing it straight. Listen closely in the underwater sequence to find that the choir are simply chanting, "under the sea" or even "lego." Even operatic "yo ho."
John Williams' now-classic "Duel of the Fates" from the Star Wars saga is the Molto vivace from Dvorak's New World Symphony, with the lyrics consisting of a Gaelic poem sung in Sanskrit. Apparently it's about trees going to war or something. Williams admitted that the lyrics have no intended meaning, they just sound cool. Williams repeated his success in Episode III with "Battle of the Heroes".
The Sanskritified lyrics come from the artistic-license-tastic translation of an old Gaelic poem, The Battle of the Trees, as done by Robert Graves for his book The White Goddess: "Under the tongue root a fight most dread/And another raging behind, in the head."
Pretty much any Genghis Khan related movie and the occasional Hun-themed flick will have the Mongolian form of this trope, traditional Tuvan throat singing accompanied by a warlike drum track. Not to mention the fact that spoken Mongol is probably one of the most ominous sounding languages in existence.
The Omen used "Ave Satani", an original piece inspired by "O Fortuna" as the theme for the young antichrist Damien. It's a a dark inversion of Schubert's uplifting "Ave Maria".
Spoofed in the Jackass film, where "O Fortuna" plays during the intro, which consists of the cast members careening down a street in an oversized shopping cart with rocks being shot at them.
Spoofed in Hot Fuzz, just like everything else. Word of God states the words are "bonum commune communitatis," "for the greater good of the community."
Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky is perhaps the original instance. The Teutonic Knights are accompanied by an ominous Latin chorus, which rises in a crescendo during the battle scene. This made sense because the Teutons were evil Catholics fighting the goodguy Eastern Orthodox Russians in the highly propagandistic film. Prokofiev's film music for this sounds similar enough to "O Fortuna" that it may have inspired the use of Orff's Carmina Burana in movies. (The Orff piece was written earlier — by one year.) The chanted words: "Peregrinus expectavi pedes meos in cymbalis" themselves are snipped from Stravinsky's A Symphony of Psalms. Prokofiev, however, evidently realized no-one in the audiences would know Latin, because the words are randomly chosen from the Psalms, and mean, when read as one sentence: "I as a stranger awaited my feet on cymbals"
Subverted in Branagh's Henry V. The Crowning Music of Awesome is in Latin, but instead of ominous, it's meant to sound hopeful and triumphant after the big battle sequence.
Mozart's "Dies Irae" underscores Nightcrawler's attack on the White House in X2: X-Men United.
The final battle has some extremely Ominous Sanskrit Chanting in the background, although thematically it's rather positive: "And when he is seen in his immanence and transcendence, then the ties that have bound the heart are unloosened, the doubts of the mind vanish, and the law of Karma works no more." As the Wachowskis put it, "We couldn't very well have the choir chanting, 'This is the One, look at what he can do,' could we?"
The freeway scene in the second movie, features "Mona Lisa Overdrive" by Juno Reactor, with Sanskrit chanting from "Navras," also by Juno Reactor & Don Davis.
The Lord of the Rings movies feature ominous chanting in a variety of languages, including the languages that Tolkien made up himself as the main purpose of writing the stories in the first place. Some of the songs were even composed by Tolkien himself.
The Quenya chanting when the Nazgűl made their appearance is quite ominous in spite of being a "good" (i.e. Elven) language, being based on Latin and Finnish in about equal measure.
But anything beginning with Ash nazg durbatulűk (one ring to rule them all) is in Black Speech, the lingua franca of Mordor.
The movies are also notable for the skilful use of a deep-voiced Polynesian choir during the definitely ominous Balrog scene.
One of the themes commonly used in evil-is-winning battle/chase moments begins with the words "Balin! Khazad-dűm!", which is likely Khuzdul (Dwarvish), and if not, is at least speaking of dwarves (Balin being a lord of the dwarves and Khazad-dűm being the Khuzdul name for Moria).
Most of the music in the Howard Shore score that features lyrics has some level of Bilingual Bonus, whether in Quenya, Khuzdul, or the Black Speech, which is often relevant to the scene depicted.
Subverted, though, in two of the Arwen-related songs, which use English: when she prays for Frodo right after crossing the river Bruinen, entering Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring; and in the Houses of Healing, in the Extended Edition of The Return of the King, which has Liv Tyler herself singing it (the scene isn't related to Arwen, but it was first composed for a scene that was).
Though Howard Shore was provided with full translations for the lyrics he used, he didn't always follow them linearly in the score, and sometimes they ended up quite chopped up. Plus mispronounced (the Sindarin rovail [wings] and naur [fire], in the battle at the Black Gate, should be pronounced as "roh-vile" and "nowr", not "roh-veel" and "noor").
While not actual chanting, the opening driving sequence to The Shining is backed by a very slow version of "Dies Irae".
The flagellants from Bergman's The Seventh Seal sing the "Dies Irae," with lyrics "Pie Iesu domine, dona eis Requiem," translated, "Gracious Lord Jesus, grant them rest."
Monty Python and the Holy Grail include a likely parody of The Seventh Seal by including a group of flagellant Benedictines who chant "Pie Iesu" while bonking themselves on the head with wooden boards. "Pie Iesu" is later used to add majesty to the Holy Hand Grenade.
The full (and correct) phrase is "Pie Jesu Domine* THWACK Dona Eis Requiem** THWACK." Translation? "Kind Lord Jesus grant them rest." Fitting for the Witch Village, but not so for the Holy Hand Grenade.
"Grant them rest," is a prayer for the holy souls in Purgatory, asking that the Lord admit them into Heaven. It's for people who are already dead. For this reason, the Agnus Dei for funeral Masses replaces "miserere nobis" with "dona eo requiem," and "dona nobis pacem" with "dona eo requiem aeterium."
The 2007 live-action Transformers film features a basso and an alto choir in counterpoint to each other being used for the Decepticon theme. Also used for the theme when Blackout attacks the base and when Megatron thaws.
Artists X-Ray Dog and Globus and others specialize in music for film and trailers, often featuring a lot of Ominous Latin Chanting.
In the 1963 film of Lord of the Flies, the choir approach singing "Kyrie eleison" repeatedly, in upbeat mood, accompanying a rather triumphant sounding trumpet. It sounds ominous only in retrospect (or if you know what's coming). Ironically, "Kyrie eleison" is part of the Catholic mass and translates to "Lord, have mercy." This is more what it would sound like in the traditional Latin rite.
Koyaanisqatsi features Ominous Hopi Chanting. Both it and its sequels (Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi) feature the film's title chanted (although in Powaqqatsi it's more joyful than ominous), but there are additional Hopi chants in Koyaanisqatsi, which are translated at the end of the film, on screen, as:
If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster. Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky. A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.
In the opening tune, and during the climactic battle in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the enchanted armour sing the words of the 'substitutiary locomotion' spell that is animating them ("Treguna mekoides trecorum satis dee."). The effect is actually quite chilling.
Craig Armstrong's "Escape" from Plunkett and Macleane starts out as ominous and quite mournful, it being played as Macleane is about to get hanged, but soon turns into a driving and triumphant score when Plunkett gets his Big Damn Hero on and rescues him.
Listen to the music that plays during Galaxy Quest when we see the Omega 13 in all its glory. Go on, you know you want to.
Downplayed in Step Brothers. A short sound clip of Ominous Latin Chanting plays when Brennan sees Dale's drum set (on which Dale has a strict 'do not touch' policy) sitting in the latter's room. It plays again when Dale, inspecting his drum set - suspecting it to have been tampered with - finds one of his drumsticks damaged. Cue the quarrel.
2001: A Space Odyssey features, as the monolith music, Ligeti's Requiem mass. The lyrics are "Kýrie, eléison; Christé, eléison; Kýrie, eléison", repeated in a loop — except each syllable is dragged a lot, and the different vocal ensembles don't sing together, adding to the confusion.
His composition "Lux Aeterna" also appears, as the background music during Heywood Floyd's trip to the moon. It's not as ominous, though.
The Arabic phrase used as the chant, Deshi Basara, translates as "he rises" and is very thematically important. It's also used in-universe as a chant in Bane's prison when someone tries to make the climb to escape.
In its masqued ball scene, Eyes Wide Shut gives us chanting in Romanian (an Eastern European language closely related to Latin) – played backwards!
In Godzilla (2014), György Ligeti's very creepy, very ominous "Requiem" (which had previously been most closely associated with 2001: A Space Odyssey) plays during the HALO jump. It was also used in almost all of the trailers for the film.
Star Trek Into Darkness uses what sounds like Ominous Klingon Chanting during the aerial chase over the Ketha Province of Qo'noS.
In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Storm of Iron, the lead Chaos Titan is named Dies Irae.
Averted in the Divine Comedy where Latin chanting is (usually) a good sign and a contrast to the wailing screams of agony heard in hell.
In Andrzej Sapkowski's Hussite Wars series, utter polyglot nonsense was chanted by impostors-masquerading-as-exorcists, surprisingly, to quite the opposite effect. It summoned something unidentified. Which then immediately possessed the village idiot.
The Left Behind book series has Ominous Hebrew And Greek Chanting, as the demon locust swarm that emerges during one of God's Trumpet Judgments chants "Abaddon" and "Apollyon" in their respective languages.
The Japanese gameshow subtly titled Cat Weightlifting includes hints of Ominous (probably Japanese) Chanting when the scientists are placing the final fish on the ground. The show also features unnecessarily awesome music when the cats manage to escape with the increasingly larger fish, and some Metal when each cat gets knocked out in the final round. If you've no idea what it's about, go watch the video already.
"O Fortuna" was also used during the series finale of the cult favourite TV show, American Gothic.
Ominous Buddhist chanting ("Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ!") is used to summon the giant spiders in "Planet of the Spiders".
In the revived series, the first appearance of a massive Dalek army is accompanied by Ominous Hebrew Chanting. (The words are reported to be a translation of "What is happening?", which apart from being an appropriate response to the situation is also a Dalek Catch Phrase.) The words are "Mah Koreh, Mah Mah Koreh" (what's happening, what, what's happening) repeated over and over again. Here is the theme.
A moment in the following season's finale, featuring the use of the Dalek's Genesis Arc — sending millions of Daleks against the 5 million Cybermen that have already taken over the world winds up using the prerequisite chanting as well.
And then of course, there's "The Dark and Endless Dalek Night", which contains a mixture of Ominous Latin and Terrifying Hebrew Chanting.
In "Tooth And Claw", the bald monks chant "Lupus Deus est" — 'the wolf is god' — as the moon rises.
And in "The End of Time, Part 2", the Ood sing "Vale Decem" (Farewell, Ten) as Ten regenerates.
The Headless Monks of "A Good Man Goes to War" have a decidedly unsettling chant/song they perform before they attack. How they manage to chant, given that they lack heads, is anyone's guess.
The Borg's first appearance in the "Best of Both Worlds" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is accompanied by an awesome sounding synthesized choir (appropriate for the Borg's artificial nature).
As much mournful as ominous, the words in the opening credits (in all TV airings on UK television, and from season 2 onwards in the U.S.) are actually a Sanskrit prayer known as the Gayatri Mantra, considered to be the holiest verse in the Vedas, the founding texts of Hinduism. Roughly translated into English it reads:
Oh God! Giver of life, earth and sky That heavenly light which must be worshipped Let us attain the radiance of God May our thoughts bring us ever forward into light
Played with in Kamen Rider 555 in which a Corrupt Corporate Executive (though to be fair, the entire organization was corrupt too) played Ominous Latin Chanting on a personal CD player in his office whenever he was on the job. The situation didn't matter; he could be planning world domination or just relaxing after a hard hour's work, but the Chanting would still be belting out at full volume. Thanks to the show having a serious tone 99% of the time, this came off as more creepy than humorous.
The opening credits to Mr. Bean had a real church choir singing the Latin for "Behold the man who is a bean", "End of part one", "Part two", and "Farewell, man who is a bean".
The theme to the darkly humorous Danish television series Riget (of which Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital is a remake) mixed genuine Latin phrases with gibberish, counting to seven in English and slow spelling of the word "rectum" . Even the legitimate Latin is nonsense ("speculum et cetera"; "mirror and so forth").
An episode of Spaced features apocalyptic Latin chanting to reveal a cute dog lying with bamboo on Tim's bed, as he has a fear of both.
Even Survivor (yes, the reality show) has done this with a generally unliked contestant (somewhere between quirky, insane, and power-hungry) doing yoga in the rain (complete with ominous lightning and thunder) as "O Fortuna" plays in the background.
Warehouse 13 's pilot had Ominous Medieval Italian Chanting.
In the new Discovery Channel series Wild Tropics, whenever the sharks or other dangerous predators show up the music shifts to Ominous Polynesian Chanting
Ominous Chanting is quite common on Merlin, though it's so indistinct that it's hard to tell whether or not it's Latin. Or what they're saying. It's very old English according to the DVD extras.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has this. Usually, though, it isn't so much chanting as speaking it to perform spells and/or do rituals.
In one particular case in Season Two, it was ominous Italian opera when Giles discovered that Angelus had killed Jenny Calender. The moment is also another Whedon example of Anyone Can Die
While good characters are shown to use magic in the show, as a rule the good guys (okay, 'girls') cast spells in what is actually intentionally-badly-pronounced Italian (so it sounds ancient), whereas the bad guys e.g. Warren use Latin chants.
The straightest example of this comes in a flashback when the still human Drusilla enters a church for confession, and is encountered by Angelus who just ate the priest. The background chorus sings ''Pange Lingua'', an old eucharist hymn, presumably from The High Middle Ages, with some variations.
Gaelic is a rare variation.
Same goes for Supernatural with its various exorcisms and rituals, not only in Latin, but sometimes even in Enochian.
The soundtrack for Lexx includes a fair amount of random choral chanting (although a lot of it is just oohs and aahs).
Once a player goes to the third level ($50,000 and beyond) on the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the background thinking music starts to sounds more and more dramatic, with a choir chant playing over top of the music. However, the background music for the $1,000,000 question is a complete subversion, instead consisting of just a low, deep bass note, a drum hit, and a heartbeat.
Hannity's America on Fox News has been known to use Carmina Burana as a cold opening sometimes, usually to a montage of "sinister" goings-on amongst (usually) Democratic political figures in Washington, D.C. Apparently it's supposed to be funny, although Hannity's America is generally serious.
Another "hard to tell if it's Latin or not" but the Highlander: The Series episode "The Immortal Cimmoli"
Licat volare si super tergum Aquila volat - A man can fly where he will, if he rides on the back of an eagle.
Parodied on How I Met Your Mother. When Barney pressures Ted to swear an oath to him as his bro (a "bro oath" or "broath"), he lends the ceremony some extra solemnity by playing a recording of some chanting monks. It takes Ted a couple minutes to realize the monks are actually just chanting the word "bro" over and over; Barney had them record it just for the occasion.
For the most part in Charmed, practicioners of Good Magic cast spells in English Rhyme, whereas Dark Magic was done in Latin.
A Left the Background Music On variation when Frasier goes to Bebe's hotel room and there's a choir singing outside the window. While she tries to seduce him, he throws open the window to get some air just as the choir hits a particularly ominous crescendo, accompanied by sweeping red floodlights.
Slovenian Industrial band Laibach bypassed ominous, going straight to nightmare fuel unleaded with "Vade Retro Satanas" from their album Nova Akropola. ""
German electronica band E Nomine uses a lot of Ominous Latin Chanting — with good results. Then they combine it with the guttural voice of a Chain-Smoking German to make it even more sinister. "Schwarze Sonne" is a perfect example of just how epic this trope can be.
The song "Kann denn Liebe Sünde Sein" by the German metal band Eisbrecher has this in the beginning, but it's in German.
B-Movie sample pioneer Rob Zombie has used this technique in a couple songs, more notably in the White Zombie song "Super-Charger Heaven" (supposedly using a Latin excommunication trial).
Most power-metal albums, especially those with a fantasy theme. Any "Rhapsody" album starts off with a choir chanting ominous Latin gibberish.
"Lux Triumphans" from "Dawn Of Victory" is an excellent example of Ominous English Chanting.
While primarily instrumental, the band Nox Arcana employs vocal tracks on each of its albums. Almost all of those vocal tracks are in ominous Latin, as befits the band's name. Winter's Knight includes Gregorian hymns, which are neither intended nor played as ominous, but they have a somewhat spooky effect regardless. Necronomicon also has plenty of ill-boding chanting, but it's not in a human language. Blood of the Dragon is in the fantasy genre, not horror, but it still uses plenty of "O Fortuna"-inspired chanting throughout the album (particularly in the title track, where the influence is so obvious it's ridiculous).
According to composer Joseph Vargo, most of the post-"Blood of the Dragon" albums contain pseudo-Latin Chanting.
In the penultimate scene of Berlioz'sLa damnation de Faust, a male chorus chants in a made-up demonic language ("Ha! Irimiru Karabrao!") as Mephistopheles triumphantly brings Faust into Pandaemonium. The final scene is set in the other place, where a Cherubic Choir welcomes Marguerite.
Puccini's Tosca, at the end of Act I, with the Latin prayers underscoring the nefarious schemes of corrupt chief of police and sexual predator Scarpia, though the prayers themselves culminate in the first lines of the Te Deum, which is usually considered more celebratory than ominous. More ominously, Spoletta mumbles a few lines from the "Dies Irae" during the torture scene in Act II.
Puccini's Turandot (based on a Chinese fairytale) has the chorus (singing in Italian) playing the people of Beijing, reflecting the changing moods of the crowd, first as a frenzied mob screaming for blood, then cheering the Unknown Prince on as he successfully answers the princess' riddles, and pleading with slave-girl Liů, who has killed herself, to reveal the prince's name. Especially at the death of Liů, the sound of the chorus is chilling.
Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov has the chorus playing the Russian people. Many opera lovers consider the chorus to be one of the main characters, and they get their own curtain call. Their prayers, mob scenes, and laments, sung in Russian, sound spooky as well as heartrending, particularly at the death of Boris. At several points, some really ominous Latin chanting is heard.
The band Enigma combines Gregorian-esque chants with ethereal electronic sound effects. The album "The Screen Behind the Mirror" samples Carmina Burana — so much so that it could be said to be Carmina Burana with samples of Enigma. It was one of the few times where the original publishers sanctioned its use.
The band Gregorian plays covers of popular songs in a Gregorian-chant vocal style with modern instrumentation. There are a few of their songs which feature Ominous Latin Chanting including their cover of the inevitable "O Fortuna" and their original, "Gregorian Anthem".
While Swedish symphonic metal band Therion does not always implement Ominous Chanting into their songs, almost all of them have choirs singing in some capacity. They, too, have covered "O Fortuna". Other songs like "Seven Secrets of the Sphinx", "Via Nocturna", or "The Wondrous World Of Punt" may also fit this trope.
Although in English, AFI's "Miseria Cantare" tells you that Sing The Sorrow's plot (it is a concept album) is not going to have a happy ending. Yeah, the lyrics are nihilistic, but it is the background chorus and eerie music that show you the magnitude of the unhappy life the main character of the plot is going to have.
Brazilian power metal band Angra employed this in their song "Acid Rain", first to open the song, then to mark the passage from the bridge to the guitar solo.
"Warszawa" on the album Low, by David Bowie, has a long chanting sequence, made of Bowie overdubbing his own voice in several keys. Ominous, yes, and quite appropriately based on an old Polish composition, but the actual lyrics are gibberish.
Evanescence use it in the songs "Whisper" and "Lacrymosa," as well as the unreleased song "Anything for You." Whisper's lyrics translated are, "Save us from danger, save us from evil," and the other two are just from the "Lacrimosa" section of the Requiem mass.
Enya's Tempus Vernum is entirely Ominous Latin Chanting, which is essentially a list of pairs of opposites. ("Therefore, the earth and the stars. Therefore, the east and the west...")
Pax Deorum and Cursum Perficio. Enya seems to like this trope a lot.
She's also very fond of Gaelic (not surprising at all, given her musical and cultural background), and for Amarantine even developed an artificial language — complete with its own script — for those moments when neither Latin nor Gaelic met the dramatic requirements.
Demons & Wizards also uses this: "Crimson King" starts with chanting choirs and "Chant," the outro on their first album is a (pseudo?) Gregorian chant that Hansi Kürsch made by multi-tracking his voice. Speaking of Hansi, the second album by his main band, Blind Guardian, opens with "Inquisition": Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem chanted repeatedly. (This is the same as the chanting in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) It's fairly relevant; the first song is about John the Baptist.
Inversion: "Orchestral metal" group Trans-Siberian Orchesta's rock opera Beethoven's Last Night features some Ominous Latin Chanting, but it's generally uplifting and set to a variation of Ode to Joy. The piece has the titular composer reflecting on his life and career, and how his music has affected the world.
The more traditional version makes its appearance in "Requiem (The Fifth)" from said rock opera, which, as its name implies, is a mash-up of Mozart's Requiem and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
AIM's Demonique combines, to wonderfully creepy effect, ominous chanting with dialogue from the movie "Halloween" and a trip-hop beat.
"O Fortuna". The piece has been popularly associated with Satanism ever since it was used in The Omen.
Which this student of Latin finds saddening, because it's the most awesome piece of musical navel contemplation you will ever hear.note It's a medieval college student complaining about how life isn't fair, possibly prompted by a loss at the gambling table.
Also from Carmina Burana is "In taberna quando sumus", an Ominous Latin Drinking Song.
See a hilarious animated video with misheard lyrics here.
Mozart's "Dies Irae" from the Requiem gets almost as much play as "O Fortuna" in dramatic situations. Unlike most of the pieces on this page, though, it has the thematic weight to match its ominous tone when translated: the lyrics are describing the Apocalypse.
The original Dies Irae Gregorian chant is pretty freakin' spooky all on its own.
Adiemus, a classical piece by Karl Jenkins, isn't technically Latin (the composer invented all the "words" himself), but it's spine-tingling awesome.
His pieces containing real latin chanting are even more ominous, like Dies Irae from Requiem or Sanctus from The Armed Man.
Deathspell Omega is a Latin choir playing black metal.
Check the ES Posthumus album Unearthed and you're less likely to find a song withoutOminous Latin Chanting. The reason behind their use of it is the fact that the songs are all about dead civilizations and ruined cities of the ancient world.
A Song For Europe by Roxy Music has Bryan Ferry repeating the song's last couplet in French, then in Latin.
The song "Sister of Charity" by Finnish Gothic-Rock band The 69 Eyes contains repeated Ominous Latin Chanting, made even more ominous coupled with the deep bass voice of the singer. The Latin words translate to "Between hope and fear... Charity in war".
Some Latin chants are so well known in classical music that they can be quoted in an instrumental piece without the words being used. The most ominous of these chants is the Gregorian Dies Irae. Examples of its many uses appear in the Witches' Sabbath movement of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Camille Saint-Saëns's Danse macabre and third symphony, Sergei Rachmaninov's The Isle of the Dead and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Franz Liszt's Totentanz.
Nightwish implements chanting in a few of their songs on their album Imaginaerum.
"Saltwater" by Chicane features ominous Gaelic chanting, sampled from the Theme Tune of Harry's Game.
"Four Seasons" by Blue Amazon also uses a Gaelic-sounding chant.
Epica has a whole album in which each features at least one verse with Ominous Latin Chanting.
All of their intros (with the exception of the largely instrumental "The Score: An Epic Journey") begin with Latin Chanting; some songs that feature ominous chanting are "Cry For the Moon" and "The Phantom Agony" (Ominous English Chanting) and "The Divine Conspiracy" (Ominous Latin Chanting). "Seif Al Din" may feature Ominous Arabic Chanting.
As mentioned in The Matrix entry above, the Juno Reactor songs "Mona Lisa Overdrive"(Kyrie Eleison) and "Navras"(ominous Sanskrit chanting).
Starflyer 59's "Underneath" and "First Heart Attack" (the first and last track from the album ''Old') feature sampled, wordless chanting, courtesy of Richard Swift's mellotron.
"Memories in a Sea of Forgetfulness" by BT uses (not so ominous) Arabic/Muslim chanting, which sounds like the Adhan prayer call. Also, "Firewater" has the Muslim chant "La illah illa Allah" (I bear witness to no god but Allah).
"Scorched Blood" by Xorcist has this.
Vangelis has used the omnious singing, more often sounding closer to Greek but can evoke Latin and sometimes other languages (like Egyptian Arabic in one of the Blade Runner cues, courtesy of one-time bandmate Demis Roussos). Examples of this includes Heaven and Hell, Mask, his soundtrack to 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Voices, his various El Greco works and Mythodea
There's even a moment when baby sounds are used ... "Message" from Direct
Thenote 1970s revival of the operetta Candide accompanies an attack on the hero's home with a new Gregorian chant, which takes some liberties with Catholic doctrine. The chant include the phrase "Agnus Dei, Ora Pro Nobis" ("Lamb of God, pray for us"), which traditional Catholics would consider heretical.note "Lamb of God, have mercy on us" would be appropriate, but "pray for us" is said to saints, not to God—and in Catholic doctrine, the "Lamb of God" is himself God.
The chant was written for the 1970s revival using the music of a pre-existing song, "It Must Be So." Most productions use the instrumental "Battle Music" instead.
Symphonic Metal band Tristania uses this a lot, along with Soprano and Gravel, with fairly epic-sounding effects. The song "Wormwood" uses a passage from Carmina Burana
As do Morten's side projects Sirenia and Mortemia. "The Mind Maelstrom" is essentially a praise chorus to Ominous Latin Chanting while Mortemia is strictly Morten's death grunts and Latin chanting— His formula is demonstrated well in "The Malice Of Life's Cruel Ways".
The 1965 Yardbirds B-side "Still I'm Sad" features wordless ominous chanting of the same melody to which Keith Relf sings the lyrics.
Most of the songs by Audiomachine are like that and can be heard in numerous film trailers.
Apoptygma Berzerk originally used a sample of Carmina Burana on the track "Love Never Dies : Part One" - .
Funker Vogt often uses ominous English, German, and non-lyrical chanting.
Carmina Burana itself. Originally it was a collection of medieval poems and songs, usually written by students and dealing with such topics as drinking, revelry, love and morality. Carl Orff, who composed the music in 1935 most likely thought that medieval texts in Latin must be definitely ominous, so he created famous and extremely dramatic score. 'O Fortuna!' ('Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi') is actually pretty mellow poem about waxing and waning whims of Fortune, clearly inspired by stoic poetry of Marcus Aurelius. If you know Latin, the dissonance between Orff's score and bawdier lyrics is outright hilarious.
Omnis Mundi Creatura by Helium Vola is very ominous, and the creepy synths in the background only make it scarier.
Black Metal has a lot of examples of this trope. Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' title track is probably the most famous example.
Meat Loaf uses this in his album "Bat Out of Hell 3: The Monster is Loose". It is in Spanish, not Latin, but still ominous.
J.S. Bach has both Latin and German examples in his vocal works.
The St. Matthew Passion contains an example of Ominous German Chanting that doubles as a Song Style Shift. The movement "So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen" starts out as a fairly traditional duet, with occasional interjections of the choir. After the duet ends, the movement immediately turns into an incredibly angry-sounding chorus with such lyrics as "Open the fiery abyss, o Hell, crush, destroy, devour, smash with sudden rage the false betrayer, the murderous blood!"
The motet Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 227) contains Ominous German Chanting as well - this example is more forceful than the previous, with a strong emphasis on the word "Trost" (Defiance).
Bach's B Minor Mass, while mostly positive in tone, has a bit of strong and dramatic Greek at the very beginning of the work, with an ominous chanting of "Kyrie eleison!"
Bach's Magnificat also has ominous Latin in the movement "Omnes generationes".
A Soviet rock opera Juno And Avos uses Ominous Church Slavonic Chanting for the same effect. Opera also features an actual Latin chanting, but surprisingly it's not ominous at all.
Sunn O)))'s Monoliths and Dimensions album has guttural Hungarian chanting courtesy of Attila Csihar, as well as traditional church choir on the aptly named "Big Church".
Akiko Shikata loves to use this in her more epic songs, her privileged languages being Italian and Greek it seems. A good example is Umineko no Naku Koro ni, among others (the Italian here being about the greatness and cruelty of the witch Beatrice).
While the effect is more epic than ominous, Sakanaction's song "Aoi" features Ominous Japanese Chanting in the verses.
The Undertaker has often gotten in on the act, as many of his Pay-Per-View entrances see him preceded by torch-bearing, black-robed druids chanting in Latin. Extra points to his Wrestlemania XIV entrance, where the druids actually entered to "O Fortuna" before Undertaker made his entrance to his usual music, a particularly-chilling rendition of Chopin's "Funeral March".
Raven's entrance theme from his short WWE tenure prominently features Ominous Arabic Chanting. Raven mentioned on his website that Jim Johnston (WWE's music director, and writer/composer of about 90% of the songs used by WWE) used it to make the song sound "creepy and alien". It works beautifully.
Ominous Arabic chanting was featured even more prominently in Muhammad Hassan's theme, but this time, it was post 9/11, and the music was deliberately chosen to, along with the entrance video that interspersed shots of Hassan and his manager, Daivari, with slow pans of various American landmarks, leave the viewer with a vaguely uncomfortable feeling. All of this played directly into Hassan's character, which was an Arab-American who was sick and tired of being stereotyped as a terrorist, and lashed out at everybody, including the audience, for doing so.
WWE has even integrated ominous Latin into The Merch — a Triple H T-shirt features, among the skull-and-bones motif, the single word "Eversoris"note "Destroyer".
Mistico's theme song, performed by the band Era, consists of Ominous Latin Chanting, violins and a scorching guitar solo or two.
"O Fortuna" was used during the reveal of one of the three Super Bowl championship banners for the New England Patriots during the pre-game ceremony for the subsequent season-opener.
Warhammer has human magic users slowly become more and more influenced by their chosen magic discipline. In the case of White Magic users, this may make them able to sing in a chorus by themselves.
Warhammer 40,000 uses this one, too, but in dramatically different circumstances. The Imperium of Man is a theocratic fascist state, whose official language is High Gothic, usually rendered as Latin in the books. Anytime an Imperial choir strikes up, whether it be members of the Ministerium trying to bolster the morale of the ImperialGuardsmen defending against an enemy onslaught, or the AdeptaSororitas singing their battle-hymn Ave Imperator, this trope is in effect.
The song "All That's Known" from Spring Awakening has an interesting variation on this. The chanting is in Latin—but it's the start of The Aeneid, recited by students. As the singer is rebelling against this type of education, it's quite fitting.
In Princess Waltz, a techno version of this causes Nerdgasms during Badass moments in the game, and it definitely gets the player geeked out of their mind for the upcoming PWNAGE!
Features prominently throughout the score for Dragon Age: Origins, though Inon Zur manages to use it to create any number of different moods. Some of it is also in their constructed elvish language, too.
Eternal Darkness does this with ominous whispering that comes up in incidental music during chapters set in the Forbidden City in Persia.
Appears during the start menu in Star Wars: Republic Commando. It is perhaps worth noting that this is not Latin, but is in fact Mando'a, the Mandalorian language, which has been expanded into what is essentially the Star Wars equivalent of Elvish. Translated, it's a Mandalorian battle poem, modified for the clones to be able to sing about their loyalty to the Republic.
FORCED has this in a couple of its music tracks, most notably when The Master appears to taunt the player. This track combines whispering and chanting.
Crops up once in Primal, during the boss battle with Adaro.
Possibly oldest among the trope users in gaming: Roberta Williams' Phantasmagoria opened with a full Gregorian chant called Consumite Furore. Only barely weakened by the use of poor Midi instruments in some portions. Here is the full version of it, compared to the shorter, faster version found in the intro linked above.
"One-Winged Angel" (yes, that one), the Final Boss theme from Final Fantasy VII, is in Latin. With the exception of the repetition of Sephiroth's name, the lyrics are taken from sections of Carmina Burana. This music was updated somewhat as a Bonus Boss fight in Kingdom Hearts. When the one and only Sephiroth made his film debut in the spinoff Advent Children, however, his theme song was given a massive makeover, complete with new lyrics (underlining the character's themes), a more operatic tone, and blazing electric guitars.
Speaking of Final Fantasy,Final Fantasy VIIIopened with "Liberi Fatali," or "Fated Children," splitting the camera time between a heated duel and a field of flowers. The lyrics themselves were rather ominous and dramatic even after translation and heavily foreshadowed the events of the game. Mind you, the initial words, "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" (which are also used at other places in the soundtrack), though sounding vaguely Latin, are actually an anagram for "Succession of Witches" plus the word "Love".
Dancing Mad, the Final Boss battle theme for Kefka in Final Fantasy VI, is the predecessor to "One-Winged Angel" mentioned above. Made extra epic with the inclusion of the most ominous pipe organ fuge this side of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. And it was all done on the SNES with just a voice-synth card. The live version with an actual choir and (presumably) Latin lyrics properly invokes this trope.
Canto Mortis from the same game shares some of its lyrics with the more expressive Cantata Mortis, but has a much more foreboding vibe to it. Fitting, considering the first time you hear it is when the six remaining Cosmos Warriors are marching towards nigh-certain death for the sake of sealing the source of the Manikins.
Final Fantasy X has Ominous Nonsense Chanting. The Hymn of the Fayth, though slightly more upbeat than most of these examples, is actually Japanese written in one direction then read in another direction, the explanation of which can be found here.
Ace Combat Zero uses this trope to good measure in its final battle too. But they had more or less just took the same song and lyrics from Ace Combat 5 and remixed its symphonic choir theme into something akin to a Latin Flamenco. But we're certainly not complaining. It was appropriate since Zero was the prequel of 5.
Subverted in Ace Combat 6; the background music playing during the battle at the Chandelier is superficially similar to many cases of Ominous Latin Chanting. However, it's in plain English and sung by a boy's choir.
Paired with more cheerful Inspiring Latin Chanting in the common theme A Call To Arms.
"O Thanagor" is played quite a few times in Wrath of the Lich King. The ominousness of the song itself is context-based. On its own, it's a standard long-live-the-king blessing. When applied to Arthas, it becomes so very terrifying: "Long live the king/May he reign forever/May his strength fail him never/First in battle, last in retreat/Even in death..."
The version of the song sung in the Wrath of the Lich King trailer adds Latin to the whole shebang and makes it worse still. "Erigo Eo Draco Modo" (let this dragon be raised) and then "Specto Su Praesenti Caligo Caelum..." (see his power darken the sky). As if Terenas's voiceover wasn't enough...!
The background theme that plays during the Culling of Stratholme Caverns-of-Time instance has plenty of ominous Latin lyrics—unfortunately they're really hard to hear. What one can glean is often kind of terrifying though ("veneficus fatalis" is damn right).
The main battle theme for the Final Destination stage of features Ominous Latin Chanting, along with face-melting electric guitar solos. Interestingly, it's a remix of the main theme for the game, where the Latin Chanting isn't ominous at all; in fact, it's more lyrics than chanting. When you beat the Subspace Emissary mode, the theme plays again with a very loose translation of the lyrics displayed... and they're a thematic description of the events of the game (granted, a very loose and non-specific description). It's worth noting, though, that said piece was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, the famed Final Fantasy composer responsible for the aforementioned "One-Winged Angel" and "Liberi Fatali". Man just loves his ominous chanting.
The "Fire Emblem Theme" music on the Fire Emblem stage also has Latin lyrics, and although it's much more upbeat, it's no less awesome. Translation here; apparently, it's the same choral group responsible for the main theme.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn also had Latin in its main theme, but this is not the same as the Latin used in Smash Bros.
The lyrics from Smash Bros. were, however, reused and enhanced in Fire Emblem Awakening, mixing the main theme with the Avatar's theme during the final battle with Grima.
Alone In The Dark 2008 features a dark, haunting soundtrack with Ominous Bulgarian Chanting, courtesy of composer Olivier Deriviere and the female choir The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices.
Subverted in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter: The final boss, Mordekai the summoner, spends the entire battle chanting to himself in ominous-sounding Latin, but as the in-game bestiary will explain, having been risen from the dead, his brain has suffered significant damage, so he's constantly talking complete and utter crap to himself, in Latin!
In Fable, whenever you find yourself wandering around a graveyard, the background music will feature plenty of ominous chanting.
Notable for its use of Melancholy Dutch Chanting in at least two missions, one of which ("Arnhem Knights") features a huge, chaotic battle; in the latter case, it is presumably to underscore the violence of the mission itself, and actually works rather well.
The track "Sturmgeist's Armoured Train", however, plays this straight, combining loud and ominous "Ah-ah"'s with pounding percussion and powerful brass.
StarcraftThe Teaser of the Expansion Pack features ominous opera chanting playing on an antique record player in Admiral DuGalle's quarters as he and Vice Admiral Stukov discuss the ethics of using the Zerg as a bio weapon while watching said aliens ravage a hapless human colony. It swells from Latin into Ominous French Chanting with a Bilingual Bonus of Soundtrack Dissonance — "Give everything for honour!" — as the Admiral orders his fleet to abandon the colonists to their fate. The French part of this song comes back to haunt DuGalle in the epilogue as he commits suicide moments before the Zerg catch up with his retreating fleet and completely wipe it out.
The trailer featured said Ominous Operatic Latin Chanting as the audio as clips from various cutscenes played.
The Brood War Aria (actual track name, honest) comes back in Starcraft II as Emperor Mengsk's personal theme. In addition, several other tracks feature ominous chanting, such as the Escape From Mar Sara.
While it may not qualify as ominous, per se, Homeworld used Samuel Barber's "Agnus Dei" to a similar effect. It first plays at the beginning of the first mission, accompanied by cinematic views and radio communiqués of the Mothership preparing to leave its berth. It plays again on the third mission, when it returns from its hyperdrive test to discover that all life on Kharak had been destroyed. It plays a third and last time in the final mission, when your Mothership is being swamped by overwhelming enemy reinforcements... only the latest arrivals are rebels who help carve a path for your fleet to strike at their mad emperor.
The Halo series has ominous Gregorian chant playing during all of the main menu screens.
Other examples include "The Maw" (heard at the beginning of the level of the same name), the Delta Halo theme, and "Ancient Machine"(one of the Flood themes). Several tunes also feature an Ethereal Choir. This isn't technically Ominous Latin Chanting though, since the chanting isn't in Latin. In fact it's nothing more than "uh" and occasionally "oo".
Except in a few themes (notably Destroyer's Invocation from Halo 2) in which the chanting is reversed English. Then there's the music for the live-action trailer We Are ODST which features someone singing in Welsh about cheating Death and 'plunging headfirst into the afterlife'
Freedom Fighters features a lot of Ominous Russian Chanting in the more climactic parts of the game. This makes sense in two ways: the Russians are the ones that are invading the USA, and these songs are mostly based on the Soviet Army Choirs.
The second and third battles with Vergil in Devil May Cry 3 feature battle music that ends in a foreboding chant, though it may not necessarily be in any specific language.
Also present when you visit the Divine Statues scattered everywhere.
Meanwhile, in the fourth game, Ominous Chanting (and not-so-Ominous Chanting) makes up a considerable portion of the soundtrack. Considering the game's Crystal Dragon Jesus themes, this makes perfect sense.
The song "Stage Music 9 (Demon World) by Tetsuya Shibata, in the soundtrack for the game, begins with nothing but such chanting.
God of War, appropriately, featured Ominous Greek Chanting that started up whenever something suitably spectacular came into view, Kratos killed a lot of things (or just one really big thing) or Kratos solved a puzzle... So, the whole game, yes.
The whole soundtrack of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is peppered with Ominous Dragon Chanting, and whenever the Dragonborn levels up, comes upon a dragon, or Word Wall, variations of the theme begin playing. There's the title theme, "Prophecy of the Dragonborn", sung in The Dragon Language, as well as Sovngarde.
The indie title Larva Mortus is made of epic Latin orchestrals. The ambient tracks are not without chants, and the main theme and the boss fight music has lyrics composed of famous latin sayings(Si vic pacem parabelum, Acta Est Fabula, Etc). It's funny though, because the game is a simple horror themed top-down Shooter... One can take a guess on what most of the games budget was spended on.
Metroid Prime uses ominous chanting in its main menu, although there are no words. Just "Aaahhh ah-ah". It still sounds awesome. (the title theme of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is similar, though with "Oh-oh-oh-oooooooooooooohhhhh")
The Zealots in Resident Evil 4. The language is Spanish, but it's a romance language, and the words for death are similar. Either way, hearing an eerie leech-infested monk whisper the word "death" over and over is about as ominous as they come.
Ominous Italian Chanting is employed in the first game, namely during "Destati" ("Awakening") at the beginning, "Fragments of Sorrow" (End of the World's battle theme) and "Guardando nel Buio" ("Watching in the Dark", one of the final boss themes).
Kingdom Hearts II also had Ominous Chanting in three songs: The Organization XIII Theme and both the main and battle themes to The World That Never Was. It doesn't appear to be in any particular language, however.
For those who thought that the "Bowser in the Dark World" theme fromSuper Mario 64 wasn't ominous enough, Super Mario Galaxy 2remixed it with plenty of Latin chanting. There aren't any words, though, just lots of "Aaaah"s.
Dimentio's final Boss Remix from Super Paper Mario has wordless chanting, with a strange, "jack-in-the-box" - like instrument playing eerie music over it. Yes, it is weird.
This is used in the Neo Bowser Castle Dream World theme from Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, called 'Neo Bowser Sunrise' by the game itself. Gets kind of creepy when you speed up or slow down time, since the chanting gets higher or lower pitched too.
The Fire Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has Ominous Arab Chanting which was removed in later versions of the game because it was actually part of an Islamic prayer. The Shadow Temple also has an Ominous Chant of "aaaah — uuuuuh — ooooh"
There's also the ominous screaming that made up the Forest Temple's theme. That music by itself was nearly Nightmare Fuel just cause it made you so on edge.
The Song of Time was also chanted in the Temple of Time. No lyrics, just "Eeyaaah-eee-ee-yaaaah."
The game apparently contained Ominous Arabic Chanting. Unfortunately, this got the game labelled as blasphemous by some Muslim leaders, and triggered a recall in order to remove the lyrics.
It also has Nevsky's Battle on the Ice during the laughably easy final boss.
The opening theme to 11eyes has an Ominous Latin Chanting chorus in the background chanting the Seven Deadly Sins. (Superbia invidia ira acetia avarita...). This is more than just Gratuitous Latin, though. The Seven Deadly Sins extend to the Theme Naming of a very certain group of enemies that show up later in the game.
The Legend of Spyro loves this trope. Not that's a bad thing, in some cases, it works quite well, such as Gaul's theme in The Eternal Night (and the theme for the Destroyer level in Dawn of the Dragon).
Rogue Galaxy had Latin (at least, that's what I believe it is) chanting for the final boss and a block puzzle the size of Manhattan. Unfortunately, the chanting consists solely of a single phrase repeated over and over. It sounds cool, but "Hungary Bravara" doesn't actually sound too ominous.
Armored Core for Answer subverts this trope with the song "Scorcher", which plays a total of 3 times in the game (one of those times is For Answer's infamous Scrappy Level, the Occupation of Arteria Carpals) — it sounds like this trope at first, but it's actually English ("I can't go there, Find It! Pound It! I can't see clear, Stomp It! Beat It!"). Most of For Answer's songs are subversions, or rather, Ominous English Chanting. Only "Today" and the intro version "4 The Answer" are not in English. (Yes, even "Spirit of Motherwill" is in English.) Same goes for a LOT of Armored Core songs— although, the jury's out on what those Lyrics actually are (and in some cases, questioning what they may be is a form of Internet Backdraft- case-in-point "Thinker" from Armored Core 4)
The Disgaea series generally includes a few songs with with some wordless singing in each title. "Pathos No. 7" and "Last World" from Disgaea 3 and "Hold You Back" from Disgaea 4 consist of wordless choir singing.
The original Disgaea had a track of the same name with the word "Armageddon" being chanted at various points, along with wordless chanting featuring heavily. Appropriate, considering the context the song appears in.
Beyond that, almost the entire Middle Ages soundtrack consists of REAL Gregorian chant.
The opening theme to the second expansion pack Beyond the Sword consists of this. However, the previous expansion pack (Warlords) avoids this by using a Lebanese song sung in Arabic, while the original main theme more or less inverts this by having the main theme in very non-ominous Swahili, while being a rendition of the legitimately latin Lord's Prayer, no less.
Would you believe this trope can apply... to a boxing game? There are "aaaaahhh"s in the music when you fight Soda Popniski in Punch-Out!! Wii.
"The Seal Is Broken" from the final boss fight. Not sure exactly what language the music that plays during the Destroy battle is in, but it's ominous chanting. Oh, and Nobuo Uematsu is responsible for the game's music, so...
Lost Odyssey takes this a step further. There's Ominous Japanese Chanting, and then, half-way through the song, Ominous Japanese Rapping, and it is awesome.
That's clearly High Gothic, which is represented in-universe by Latin mixed with English.
The original Dawn of War had a track simply named "Chant," which underscored your first encounter with the traitorous Chaos Marines. Dawn of War: Winter Assault introduced the excellent Imperial Guard Theme, and several variations. Most of these contain chanting of some sort.
The soundtrack in the turn-based game Chaos Gate consists of almost nothing but this.
Appropriately for the setting, many of the music tracks in Dawn Of War feature ominous High Gothic or Eldar chanting.
Shadow Hearts has a recurring theme known as "ICARO", a term for a shamanic song dealing with removing baneful spirits from a person, which is chanted thusly.
The Zealot Ganados from Resident Evil 4 like to walk around chanting Spanish words like "ˇCogedlo! ˇCogedlo!" and "Morir es vivir, morir es vivir" in deep or breathy voiced just before, or during their attacks. "Morir es vivir" translates to "To die is to live" and "Cogedlo" means "Catch him".
The soundtrack for .hack//G.U. has a lot of Ominous German Chanting. Specific tracks include "Great Temple of Caerleon Medb:, "Wailing Capital Wald Uberlisterin", "Welcome to the World" and "Over the Mountains".
For a budget shooting game, Starfighter Sanvein has this for its "Mine" stage. However, exactly because it is a budget game, the Latin chanting is just... keyboard synths. But damn it if isn'tawesome (starts at 00:27).
Multiple songs throughout the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series incorporate wordless vocals of this style into them. Some examples include Mt. Thunder from Rescue Team, and the Kyurem battle theme in Gates To Infinity.
BlazBlue does the same thing as Guilty Gear with all the final boss themes, too, like "Awakening the Chaos", "Endless Despair", and "Sword of Doom".
Then there's the ominous tune "Curse", another wordless Ominous Latin Chanting song that plays when Take-mikazuchi fires its laser beam down on and destroys a random heirarchial city and when Hazama turns Noel into Mu all the while mocking her attempts to resist him.
Another song that also uses wordless Ominous Latin Chanting at the beginning is "RIOT", which plays on different occasions like when Rachel deflects Take-mikazuchi's blast to defend Kagutsuchi, when Hazama/Yuuki Terumi collects the souls of many Librarium soldiers to feed to the cauldron he is transforming Noel into Mu within, and in Noel's Gag Reel when the BlazBlue cast is ordering the Kagutsuchi puffer fish simmered in peppers and spices from Noel and Carl, who are currently running the restaurant as the current chef and waiter.
RosenkreuzStilette features "Dark Purple Moonlight", the theme for Grolla's stage, "Dark Purple Moon ~ Dance of the Moon ~ Rebirth", the theme played when Spiritia talks with Grolla, when you encounter her now-undead grandfather Raimund, and in the options and replay sections of Rosenkreuzstilette Grollschwert, and "Fighting Eternally", the theme when you fight Graf Michael Sepperin. All three have no words, just "Aahh-aahh-aahh".
Zorne's talk theme "Sinner" also counts as having wordless Ominous Latin Chanting as well, mixing it with heavy metal, orchestra, and church organ sounds, making it one of the most ominous songs in Rosenkreuzstilette. Strangely enough, it centers on such a short-tempered, impulsive, and moody young girl who would do anything for her adoptive father, and not on a true villain of the Doujin franchise like Iris, her adoptive sister.
Return To Krondor has five music tracks that can qualify as this. The first track plays whenever the Tear of the Gods appears, even though the chanting in the tracks sounds more peaceful than ominous. The second track, which definitely sounds like a singing church choir, plays when the characters fight against a demon, death nagas, and shadows. The third track, which has some choir singing in it, plays when a group of vampires are finally vanquished and in one battle when a fake priest revives dead townspeople as zombies. The fourth track, containing some ominous chanting, plays when a vision of an evil wizard opening a portal for a dark god is shown and when one character has a nightmare of his murdered girlfriend. The fifth track, consisting entirely of ominous chanting, plays during some fights in the second last chapter and during a fight with a dragon soul in the final chapter.
Portal 2 has "PotatOS' Lament", an errie sad Latin music sung by GLaDOS voice actress Ellen McLain. Word of God says the lyrics are completely wrong and don't mean anything. Just proves Ellen can sing complete gibberish and still sound awesome.
"Ishkokum Mes Mos Of She'res"note "Clever man, child of the dead winged creature"
Played with in Astérix and Obelix: XXL 2 which uses male Latin choirs and orchestral music during mass battles with legionaries, but singing in a distinctly pop/indie-rock style rather than the expected classical style or One-Woman Wail. This fits the series Anachronism Stew feel and the fact that Romans in the Asterix comics are rarely very intimidating.
Played more straight in some other tracks, which have a lot of pounding brass and ego sum victorium and ego sum glorium going on. These vocals are pitched down to a point where they sound like a silly cartoon choir rather than a real one, doubtlessly intentional.
All boss themes in Pandora's Tower are of this type. Notably, all of them except that of the Final Boss are the same, but the voices are different (the first version is sung by men, the second by women and the third by all singers).
In Doom House, this trope accompanies the evil doll wherever it goes or wherever it dispenses forth its horrific evil.
Given that the soundtrack of Doom House, and its sequel Mood House, is lifted directly from The Omen, this makes sense.
The "You Are Mighty" website, currently at FillInTheBlank.You.Are.Mighty.Aninote.com (put whosever name you want to flatter in place of FillInTheBlank, uses looped ominous Latin chanting in the background. Very loud ominous Latin chanting.
Mario Brothers has this sort of music as much of the score, especially in battle scenes.
Also toyed with in the now-defunct RPG World. As the heroes infiltrate the Big Bad's headquarters for the final battle, they ride an elevator that plays "creepy chanting Latin chorus" music. The lyrics are a modified version of One-Winged Angel.
As with many other tropes, The Order of the Stickhung a lampshade on this one when Vaarsuvius makes a Deal with the Devils. In this case, an actual choir is seen singing "Bunkus! Nonsuch! Gibberos! Gobbleygoos!" just to the side of the main action. According to one of the devils, the choir consists of dead paedophiles who are "[snipped] fresh every morning so they keep that high pitch." Because it "just isn't the same without someone chanting faux latin in the background".
Parodied in the episode "Damien", the son of Satan's arrival in town is accompanied by a choir of voices chanting "Rectus Dominus Cheesy Poofs" — which is obviously supposed to be Canis Latinicus for "Ass Master, Cheesy Poofs" can actually be translated as "Straight master, Cheesy Poofs".
The episode "Fantastic Easter Adventure", which spoofs both The Da Vinci Code and the Easter holiday, featured a pseudo-Latin version of "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" that memorably includes the phrase "Hippitus, Hoppitus".
"Britney's New Look" had the characters chanting ominous Latin.
Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain have a humorous take on this when an episode has a secret conspiracy Christopher Walken look-alike. His appearance was preceded by chanting of an incongruous group of words, always ending in "Lactose!" I.E. "Rialto, Ontario, Gluteus Maximus, LACTOSE!"
A Robot Chicken parody of Final Fantasy VII set at a fast food restaurant featured Sephiroth make his entrance with the background music being a parody of One Winged Angel but with the chorus chanting "HAMBURGER! HAMBURGER!"
In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "Mega Muriel the Magnificent", Ode to Joy plays whenever Muriel, possessed by Courage's Deadpan Snarker computer, attempts a death-defying stunt in front of a crowd of spectators. Could also be an example of Soundtrack Dissonance, considering Ode to Joy's melody is, for lack of better wording, joyous. On the other hand, since Muriel pulls off some pretty awesome stuff, it does fit a bit.
The Invader Zim episode "Gaz, Taster of Pork" featured cues of a chorus singing "Pork! Pork! Pork!" and later, "Piggy-piggy-piggy-piggy...". Spoofed additionally with "Meats of Evil".
The Lion Turtle's appearance is heralded by ominous Chinese chanting of the Pure Land Buddhist prayer mantra "Nianfo". He's not a bad guy though. Just old, wise, mysterious, a bit scary, and very big.
The same chant appeared on two other occasions: once when Roku came back on the Winter Solstice to kick some Fire Nation ass, and another time when Aang fused with the Ocean Spirit to form a spectacular One-Winged Angel and kick some more Fire Nation ass.
In the 2003 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Shredder has his own self-titled (as shown on the TMNT 2003 cartoon website) music that plays whenever he appears as his fully-armored alias. It uses wordless Ominous Latin Chanting at both the beginning and at the end whenever it's played, unless it's shortened for some occasions. There are also other different variations of this ominous tune, and on some occasions, this tune and some of its variations also use the Japanese samurai-inspired "yoo" sound.
The Spectacular Spider-Man. Mysterio's spells are all Latin, however they are nonsense phrases when translated. They sure sound ominous though.
Bacteria! It all began with one! Bacteria! Two is what we then become! Bacteria! Each of us becomes two more! Bacteria! We become stronger than before! Bacteria! We keep growing at this rate! Bacteria! No longer shall we wait! Bacteria! As our plan unfolds! Bacteria! We will take over the world! (Rocky sprays the toilet bowl with disinfectant)
"The Job" featured ominous pizza topping chanting (because Richard got a job delivering pizza which was destroying the universe).
Batman Beyond. During the episode "Babel", Terry experiences a flashback to the death of his father. Throughout the flashback, Gregorian chant (the Pange Lingua) is interspersed with the show's usual rock background music.
Transformers Prime - the chanting is usually saved for the more epic moments. The most recurring occurence is in "Prime Finale", notably used during Optimus Prime and Megatron's first battle, and Starscream using the Energon Harvester on a hapless Vehicon. Another, very dramatic use of chanting occurs as the Nemesis prepares to fire on the Autobot base as Optimus moves to destroy the Groundbridge inside. This is also used in a book end as the same piece of chanting is used as a reformatted Optimus prepares to destroy Darkmount's fusion cannons a few episodes later.