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Nightmare Fuel: The Decemberists
"Culling of the Fold" deserves a special mention, but "The Mariner's Revenge", "Cautionary Song", and "Odalisque" are all up there too.
"Culling of the Fold" definitely deserves a mention. This is a band that sings about rape, murder, scandal, et cetera without batting an eye, but Jenny Conlee (the band's accordian/backing vocals) downright refused to have it put on the main track listing for its album. You can only get it by buying it from iTunes or redeeming a code from the inside of the album.
"Odalisque" is creepy enough, but then if you look up the etymology of the title, it gets especially dark.
"Leslie Anne Levin." Try listening to this song in the dark sometime. The "shake my rattle bone" line in particular serves as potent Paranoia Fuel.
Hazards of Love is pretty nightmare-fuely. Evil rake that kills children and kidnaps pregnant women with the intent to rape and murder them? Creepy, rise-and-fall-voice possessive, possibly pedophile-esque queen of the forest? Yup, that's bad.
"The Rake's Song" from The Hazards of Love, their rock opera, sees the Decemberists topping their previous attempts; the main villain of the album tells how he murdered his children because he prefers the single life; drowning and poisoning his two daughters, and burning his son alive. One of the last songs, Hazards of Love 3/Revenge is a cheerful but aptly named reprise sung by the murdered children with accompanying screechy violin. "Father, I'm not feeling well, the flowers me you fed/ Tasted spoiled, for suddenly, I find that I am dead/ But father don't you fear- your children all are here/ Singing, oh, the hazards of love."
The band has hinted that it's a prequel to the song "Leslie Anne Levine." In that, he doesn't kill her, but carelessly abandons her when she gets pregnant. She and the baby die shortly after birth, are left in a ditch, and the daughter's ghost haunts the city. So, if anything, that makes it worse.
"The Chimbley Sweep". It could be about male prostitutionnote possibly of the child sort, given that the widow addresses him as "urchin", or it could be about the much-less-risque chimney sweeping, which is potent nightmare fuel all on its own. Chimney sweeping was an incredibly cruel form of child labor that lead to many if not most sweeps developing black lung by the time they reached adulthood. Besides black lung, the profession put sweeps at risk for various cancers (not just of the lungs) and a number of other medical conditions that are high nightmare fuel in their own right. And then there was always the chance of falling and breaking your neck...
The fate of "The Chimbley Sweep" may have been mentioned in "Leslie Ann Levine": "The only love I've known's a chimney sweep/Lost and lodged inside a flue/Back in 1842" That's...that's a pretty horrible way to die.
"Sons & Daughters" at first could strike some as a flight of fancy from some Portland Bohems, but after reading a theory that it is, at least in part, about children who were sent away from London during the blitz, it's moved into the nightmare fuel section of the Decemberists' catalog.
"July, July", since it basically talks about a gut-shot uncle holding his innards in with his hands. Also blood running down shower drains.
It's actually been speculated that the song refers to an abandoned slaughterhouse that Colin lived in at one point, which explains the blood running down the drains.
This is the story of the road that goes to my house And what ghosts there do remain And all the troughs that run the length and breadth of my house And the chickens, how they rattle chicken chains
"The Mariner's Revenge Song," which tells the lovely tale of two men trapped inside the belly of a whale, one of them incredibly bloodthirsty for revenge towards the other. Whoops.
"The Bagman's Gambit" could possibly surge over into Paranoia Fuel as it talks about a political sex scandal and the resulting consequences.
Listen to the lyrics of "Margaret in Captivity" sometime. Pretty chilling, isn't it?