Salem’s King Night is officially released on September 28th, 2010, order your copy here through their record label IamSound. The official band website is at, as of this moment it is down due to excessive attention.

King Night: One of the most hyped debut albums of 2010, a debut by a notorious triad of producers from the upper Midwest, shrouded in a veil of debauchery and the occult and almost drowning in buzz and controversy. Salem, by just releasing two limited edition EPs titled Yes I Smoke Crack and Water, created an entire new genre called “Drag.” Jack Donoghue or “Wild Jack”, the maniac philosopher of the three, who raps with a DJ Screw-esque “Goblin-voiced fury” and produces the Atlanta Trap, Chicago Juke/Footwork derived beats, has been quoted as saying: “A word that we’ve used to describe our music is like a drag. That means to us, it’s like music that you give yourself over to rather than a back and forth participation.” Describing their mind twisting, mysterious sound as inspired by “the horror all around us… the grim, slow death of the Rust Belt in America,” could King Night be the unholy grail, the herald of The Next, the harbinger of a new, neo-occult gothic zeitgeist?

“Drag” has now spawned legions of imitators, new groups who appear on the radar every day, often with whacked out names consisting only of symbols. These followers, massively indebted to Salem, are linked by three common denominators: The occult, breakbeats, and skrewed down tempos/vocals.

I have always been fascinated with things done “ahead of time”, meaning visionaries, and especially visionaries in musical history, and pre-King Night, Salem– by releasing just two EPs, some remixes and a few mixtapes– became the undisputed pioneer of a genre so complex, fertile and disturbingly new that the frenzied, futile attempts to pigeonhole it, or even name it, have been a parody without precedent.

Salem’s sound, nearly impossible to describe using mere words, derives from the early 90′s “Chopped and Screwed” remix techniques of DJ Screw/Swishahouse hip-hop — demonic, slowed-down vocals and tempos combined with Chicago juke/footwork and dubstep/grime derived beats layered on top of a darkwave/juke-triphop wall of sound that incorporates elements of noise, drone, industrial and dream-pop. With this demented fusion, Salem pioneered a sound that recontextualized their forebearers straight into a nihilistic k-hole.


As polarizing as the multitude of opinions are about the entire package that is Salem, a strain of consensus keeps on appearing: incomparable.

King Night, song by song:

Previously released material: (All but “Trapdoor” given a facelift mixing by the one and only Dave Sardy)

Redlights- This is the Salem song with the biggest crossover hit potential, dramatically altered, its hauntingly beautiful synth foundation stripped and replaced by a higher pitched, thin and almost shrill synth. The new psychotic layer of juke beats and the rolling attack of the kamakazi dive bomber base drone gives the new version added intensity and complexity. Disclaimer: The new version of “Redlights” can only be experienced in an authentic way on speakers with quality subwoofers.
Rating – 8

Asia- An exilharating celebration of the eerie, and was one of my favorite old tracks even before the Sardy mixing (which made it nothing short of epic). Heather Marlatt’s disembodied, cooing vocals never quite overpower the ultraviolet synth wall of sound and the speaker decimating filthy bass Rating-10


Trapdoor- An old track, the defining skrewicide hit, “Trapdoor” resembles an absurd, evil cartoon. This song stands out for the fact that it’s a racial wormhole: the white voice screwed down to sound diabolically black. This song is beyond epic, its paradigm constantly shifting. Rating-10

[It was surprising that there wasn't a new version of "Trapdoor" on the album, which was the only song of the older material included on King Night that did not get a final mixing down by Dave Sardy. "Trapdoor", with its altered production, was the highlight of the live show I saw at Vice Magazine's "Creators Project" event in July in NYC.


This brings us to the topic of the controversy surrounding Salem's live performances. Few realize how nearly impossible it is translate a sound with this degree of originality live, which is one of the many factors that qualify Salem as a bellweather of Hypermodernity and/or another spade of dirt in the grave of Postmodernism.

Critics of Salem's live performances also fail to realize that the band has very little experience playing out live, and in this rapidly changing Youtube era, it's a bit sad that a young band can't be allowed to develop in relative peace, without having their every move documented for eternity. And the other "Drag" bandwagon-biters primarily still play in front of laptops, where as Salem, the perennial risk takers, actually sing and play instruments.]

Frost- The old classic mixed cleaner, tighter and more piercingly- Marlatt’s narcotic hymns evoke an exquisite and cathartic perception of the tragic. Rating- 10

New Work:

King Night- The eponymous opening track on the album is a triumph of sacrelige, monumental and mind vaporizing, a triumph of the occult. Rating- 10

Sick-If you are skullfuck sick of indie rock or find cracked-out, rapid fire electro dull to the point of extinction, then you will find the song “Sick” to be monumentally refreshing, as refreshing as getting your first piece of ass after being on lockdown in San Quentin for 3 years. The pure evil of Donoghue’s blurred-out, Codine-fueled flow, juxtaposed with Marlatt’s convulsive chant is six six sick. Rating-9

Hound- An awe-inspiring song that warps and electrifies your senses like a nitrous hit. A techno-shamanic oracle of sound that reveals the mysteries of the universe for split seconds. Rating-9

Traxx- Marlatt’s vocals, combined with the eerie atmosphere, echo the transient hints of beauty to be found within the confines of desolation. Rating-7

Release Da Boar- Mysterious and strangely rewarding if listened to on repeat. Rating-7

Tair- Another track featuring the screwed-down vocal talents of Donoghue, and we see more savage elements.

Killer- Salem ends the album on an uplifting note and the result seems slightly out of character. Rating-5.5

It is shocking that the songs Salem has produced, in terms of aesthetics, vary so dramatically, as evidenced by “Tair”, “Frost” and “King Night”. The band’s sound is so multifaceted that these songs sound as if created by three different bands altogether, as an awe-inspiring multiple personality of disordered sounds.

The album is a testament to the power and undefiled wisdom that is found in certain aspects of the occult; Jack Donoghue’s skrewicide vocals, esoteric and possessed, rising straight out of hell, the exquisite lament of Heather Marlatt’s siren-like vocals, the speaker decimating-city razing bass, the light speed-psychotic juke percussion snaps of the 808s, highlight Salem’s mastery at blending paradoxical muscial elements together to create a sound infused with a diabolical grace, something strikingly exciting and original, to a degree unprecedented in the history of music.

What is remarkable about the entirety of Salem’s sound/the entirety of King Night, an album which many will likely find parts of harrowing and confusing at first, is that it heralds a radical fissure in the fabric of the history of underground pop music and presupposes a reinvention of the concept of music.

Occult Hip-Hop: Has this been done before? The occult has had a massive influence in rock, but never, to my knowledge, has it been done, or at least done in a sophisticated way, in Hip-Hop. This, along with the the fact that Donoghue’s screwed-down vocals make him, a white dude, sound fully black, equals another fascinating first in the history of Hip Hop.

King Night is nothing short of epic. Its “big picture” meaning can be summed up in two sentences:

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”- Carl Jung, The Philosophical Tree, Ch. 13 Alchemical Studies

A rare type of genius rises from the unholy abyss that is King Night, a rare genius because it is capable of being accessed by the masses, which is one of the hardest dichotomies to achieve in the arts, and it also separates the pseudo-avant-garde from the authentic visionary.

Just as models for cars change more dramatically once every five years, degrees of change also correlate to genre flux in music. With the indie rock/internet revolution, we saw a dramatic splintering of any wisps of linearity that remained in a genre centralized musical history, a consequence of higher degrees cross genre pollination due to the the vast and exponentially growing noosphere of information and influence sources.

Salem, as musicians, are nothing less than seers, hypermodern shamans, achieving their visionary powers by a disordering of the senses through drugs, crime and madness. Metaphysical aspects of the occult, techno-shamanism and even the poetry men such as Charles Baudelaire has spoken of values the visionary opportunities of altered states, which permit the individual to merge with the world around him and the universe itself and the supernatural lucidity. The supernatural lucidity of Salem’s sound is both a product of and catalyst for the annihilation of the dulling habits of ordinary perception.

What’s truly chilling is it the fact that one of the few intelligible Salem lyrics: “It’s hard to forget what we haven’t done yet” from “Redlights,” released pre-King Night in different versions on both the Yes I Smoke Crack and Water EPs, seemingly suggests remembering the future or being a visionary. Are Salem, like Friedrich “Why I am a Destiny” Nietzsche before them, referencing their probable visionary status? Will they be visionaries, i.e., will they be relevant in 100 years? As was the case with Friedrich “I was born posthumously” Nietzsche: only time, the ultimate arbiter of truth, can make that decision.

Thomas Speiker is a part time el’Matador

  1. [...] Sentimentalist Magazine “A rare type of genius rises from the unholy abyss that is King Night, a rare genius because it is capable of being accessed by the masses, which is one of the hardest dichotomies to achieve in the arts, and it also separates the pseudo-avant-garde from the authentic visionary.” [...]

  2. I’m not hating on SALEM at all because I think they are brilliant — but they are not nearly the first to mix the occult with rap and hip-hop. Take a listen to Three Six Mafia’s old albums, especially Mystic Stylez and Koopsta Nicca’s works. Lots of occult in those works and there were many other producers in the late 80s and early-mid 90s producing this kind of music.


  3. [...] Salem – King Night (IAMSOUND) Sinister, genre-defying soundtrack for the latest late night [...]