In anticipation of Halloween, Rolling Stone urges us to “feel free to ignore “Monster Mash” in favor of this handful of more austere chillers: Vintage murder ballads, dissonant classical spine-tinglers, psychedelic freak-outs, shock-rock creep-outs, Southern gothic alt-rock gloom, art-noise desolation and more.” And, one of the choices proffered is Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche (1971).
Songs of Love and Hate might be Leonard Cohen’s most depraved album, which is saying a lot. Accounts of suicide (“Dress Rehearsal Rag”) and infidelity (“Famous Blue Raincoat”) leave an undeniable sting, but the 1971 LP’s creepiest moments come on opener “Avalanche,” which finds Cohen playing his classic role of stygian bard to perfection. Over rolling flamenco guitar and swelling strings, he portrays a hunchback living at the bottom of a gold mine: “Your laws do not compel me/To kneel grotesque and bare,” he sneers. Even as the song edges into dark obsession and, eventually, pure horror (“It is your turn, beloved/It is your flesh that I wear”), Cohen’s voice maintains a trancelike composure. No wonder gloom-rock poet laureate Nick Cave has been covering the song for more than 30 years.
Note: This is also the most recent addition to the Cohencentric Leonard Cohen – Halloween collection