Ten Scariest Concept Albums of All Time

Dreck or treat

Bone-Chillingest Moment: "Aquatarkus," when the hideous creature/artillery takes to the water and Keith Emerson gets to unload all his farting-in-the-bathtub Moog sounds.

Grand Finale: In an unrelated story, the album concludes with "Are You Ready, Eddie," an attempt by these lofty classical-music bandits to rip off something more current, like Little Richard's "Ready Teddy." For two minutes and eight seconds, Greg Lake quizzes engineer Eddie Offord on whether he is indeed ready to shut down his 16-track recorder. Why couldn't he do that 38 minutes and 56 seconds ago?

6. KISS
Music From The Elder (1981)
First Sure Sign of Terror: Q: Why is KISS afraid to show its fully made-up faces on an album cover for the first time? A: This ain't rock 'n' roll--this is Genesis!

Spooky Concept: Boy joins the service of God--or the king--or, I dunno, Phantom of the Park. What hope is there for the propagation of the species?

Bone-Chillingest Moment: Hear Paul Stanley bellyache on "Odyssey" like Pavarotti after missing a meal, then try imagining the simulated castration special effects KISS would've no doubt crafted for the stage show if this turkey became a huge hit.

Grand Finale: The anthem "I," where Paul and Gene shout it out loud, "I believe in me and I believe in something more than you can understand." Like what, Crystal Light?

5. Styx
Paradise Theater (1981)
First Sure Sign of Terror: Any concept these insufferable Chicago shriekers commit to magnetic oxide would be a witches' brew for musical botulism.

Spooky Concept: How d'ya make the Depression more depressing than it was the first time around? Stick Styx in a time machine set for A.D. 1929 and people won't even wait for the stock-market crash to start jumping out windows.

Bone-Chillingest Moment: Whenever singer Dennis DeYoung tries to sound guttural, he makes Pat Boone sound like Tom Waits. And he navigates around the word "honey" with all the uneasiness of a cloistered monk.

Grand Finale: My kind of Styx song, "State Street Sadie," is 25 seconds of barrel-house piano played very, very far away.

4. Yes
Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)
First Sure Sign of Terror: Four songs, four album sides--you do the math!

Spooky Concept: Jon Anderson, with some free time in his hotel room before a show, dreams up Yes' waterlogged Waterloo based on a lengthy footnote in Autobiography of a Yogi that describes the four-part shastric scriptures "which cover all aspects of religion and social life as well as fields like medicine and music, art and architecture." Why couldn't he just ball groupies before a show like normal rock stars?

Note: Rick Wakemen reportedly quit the group in frustration soon after touring behind this album because people kept asking him what it was about and he didn't know.

Bone-Chillingest Moment: Steve Howe slips the "Close to the Edge" riff into "Ritual" before quickly remembering, "Ah, wait, that was last album."

Grand Finale: "Ritual" features a drum and bass duel that's supposed to mirror life's struggle between the forces of evil and pure love, a struggle that's played out nightly on hundreds of creaky car back seats in far more lively fashion.

3. Rush
2112 (1976)
First Sure Sign of Terror: Lyrics by Neil Peart, with acknowledgments to the genius of Ayn Rand. Atlas must've shrugged before, during and after throwing up.

Spooky Concept: The title track is a 20-minute opus in seven, or shall we say "VII," stages. Sometime in the not-too-joyous future, rock, roll and any musical apparatus more complicated than a kazoo is outlawed by an oppressive government. The hero of Rush's tale finds all this confiscated musical hardware in a cave behind a waterfall.

Bone-Chillingest Moment: Like the plucky girl who always goes back into the haunted house alone, this Red Star moron actually goes to the Temple of Syrinx with his guitar contraband and rocks out for the Priests. To which the padres, in Geddy Lee's best Witchiepoo vocals, screech back, "Don't annoy us further!" Amen!

Grand Finale: Three Roman numerals after the above exchange comes "VII: Grand Finale," in which a robotic public service announcement blares, "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation. We have assumed control." What took you guys so long?

2. Styx
Kilroy Was Here (1983)
First Sure Sign of Terror: "Original Story and Concept by Dennis DeYoung." Everybody cower now!

Spooky Concept: Sometime in the not-too-joyous future, rock, roll and any musical apparatus more complicated than a kazoo is outlawed by an oppressive government. Hey, why does that sound familiar?

Bone-Chillingest Moment: "High Time," where DeYoung as Kilroy (an imprisoned rock star pretending he's a robot) sings, "I see the kids of a new generation/They're gonna bring back the rock 'n' roll" and "We're gonna start a rockin' nation." Unfortunately, the years of enforced Mind Control prohibit Kilroy from rocking any harder than a Bubblicious commercial.

Grand Finale: Styx, unable to follow up this grand-concept album, break up for 12 years. Domo arigato!

1. Vanilla Fudge
The Beat Goes On (1968)
First Sure Sign of Terror: Liner notes hype this as being "like no album ever made. Above ground or underground. The music is that of Ludwig van Beethoven and Cole Porter and Stephen Foster and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Sonny Bono." Sonny Bono?

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