Something terrible is about to happen...
May 5, 2014 6:06 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite songs that signal an impending cataclysm? I love Carl Orff's O Fortuna from the Carmina Burana cantata. What are some others like it?

I've looked far and wide for songs that rival O Fortuna for its qualities - a sweeping choir, gradually haunting crescendo of the strings and drums, and I've fallen short.

What else comes close to this masterpiece?

Ideally I'd like movements sung in Latin, preferably with a choir and those that build up in intensity during the course of the song.

I'd be willing to stretch those requirements to another extreme and would also appreciate some more modern recommendations- Epica's Cry for the Moon and the following two pieces by E.S. Posthumus - Menouthis and Pompeii

Help me get scared!
posted by rippersid to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Modern, but: Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell, originally from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack (talk about impending doom, christ), and since reused in a bunch of trailers and in one of the LotR movies and/or trailers.

n.b. maybe you'll enjoy this cover of O Fortuna, maybe not, but I'm not passing up the opportunity to post a link to a Botch track on MeFi
posted by The Michael The at 6:13 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]

Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King, recently used here.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:03 PM on May 5

There's a number of compositions on the soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Though now infamous for Keanu Reeve's unintentionally hilarious acting, I nonetheless thought the soundtrack was quite good. I recommend the whole thing, but here are a few highlights, queued up for your perusal.

The Beginning (Track 1)
The Storm (Track 6)
The Ring of Fire (Track 12)
posted by EKStickland at 7:40 PM on May 5

Probably too far outside your scope...but The Rains of Castamere. Eeep.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:14 PM on May 5

In the Hall of the Mountain King and possibly the March to the Scaffold—both of which are for orchestra only—are pretty much what you're looking for. If you require a chorus singing in Latin, you might also look at Berlioz's Dies Irae from his Requiem.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:37 PM on May 5

Mozart's Dies Irae is p bangin also
posted by Sebmojo at 8:52 PM on May 5

To add on to the Dies Irae love here, here's Verdi's Dies Irae.
posted by sqrtofpi at 9:17 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]

Mars: Bringer of War by Holtz

Imperial March by John Williams (Star Wars IV: A New Hope)

Orchestral pieces, both.

My college roommate used to play some Mahler that had this quality, but I regret I don't have a clue what pieces in particular.

The cacophonous piece "Star Gate" from the final visual spectacular from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's Atmosphères by Gyorgy Ligeti adapted for vocals. Gives you that inside-the-beehive feeling of edginess.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:27 PM on May 5

I've always thought Dylan's All Along the Watchtower was fairly apocalyptic.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]

It's kind of happy for what you're looking for, but has the engulfing feeling I think you seek: Sanctus, from the Missa Luba.
posted by latkes at 9:54 PM on May 5

Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen may not meet your criteria for a masterpiece (it's plain English, and I find it liberating in an odd way), but it does leap to mind.
posted by whoiam at 9:58 PM on May 5

Alfred Schnittke's rather terrifying Faust Cantata (1983). Full version here.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:11 AM on May 6

Synergy - disruption in world communications

From the album Cords, which is pretty much all of an apocalyptic mood
posted by philip-random at 1:37 AM on May 6

Ave Satani from Jerry Goldsmith’s score to The Omen.
posted by misteraitch at 1:38 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]

"The End", by the Doors

"This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end "
posted by alex1965 at 4:12 AM on May 6

I don't know that they're as melodic as you're looking for, but the seventies/eighties were pretty apocalyptic for some of us and Punk Rock kind of nails that.

I love the Dickies version of Eve of Destruction.

The Clash has a few song sthat do this:

Straight to Hell

Guns of Brixton

Souixsie and the Banshees with Cities in Dust.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:35 AM on May 6

Modest Mussorgsky Songs and Dances of Death 3 - Trepak
Pure orchestral pieces (also by Mussorgsky)
Hut on Fowl's Legs
Night on Bald Mountain (Arranged by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)
posted by Hactar at 6:19 AM on May 6

Muskrat Love? (I'm sorry, I couldn't help it.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:32 AM on May 6

Waiting for the End of the World. Elvis Costello.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:34 AM on May 6

The apocalyptic Night Chorus, from John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer.

And a man may say something
In ignorance, please God, and be saved;
Or, equally, be damned. Even he
Rejoices, and is in his element.
I am afraid for myself, for myself, for myself.

posted by Iridic at 8:33 AM on May 6

These are awesome recommendations! Keep them coming!
posted by rippersid at 9:10 AM on May 6

Some terrifying stuff that isn't exactly symphonic, but isn't exactly rock either

Einsturzende Neubauten - Halber Mensch
Sally Smmit (aka Sally Timms) - Hangahar
Nico - Frozen Warnings
Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes - Paix
Swans - The Seer
posted by bendybendy at 9:37 AM on May 6

Gimme Shelter or Gimme Shelter both sound apocalyptic. It's just a shot away.

Or if you like something slower and more ominous, there's Burning off Impurities.
posted by Quaversalis at 8:49 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

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