Tricks or Treats: “Liar”

Imagine if Trent Reznor at his angriest and Radiohead at their strangest combined into a single entity. Imagine this entity was asked to write a 1800s haunted house soundtrack. Now imagine that this person is a psychotic female who’s the definition of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That person would be Emilie Autumn. Scared yet?

Emilie Autumn is an American singer-songwriter known for a couple of unusual things besides her music. First off, she eschews the typical rock devices of guitar and piano for an electric violin and a harpsichord. Secondly, she appears to be legitimately psychotic. Alright, maybe legitimately isn’t the right word. But if Autumn’s stage presence is just an act, it’s pretty damn effective.

Always dressed in Victorian era clothes, Autumn’s songs focus on whatever riles her up within her own mind. More often than not, this subject is revenge against a lover who’s wronged her. It’s in this context that Autumn unleashed one of the scariest numbers. “Liar” from 2006’s Opheliac.

“Liar” starts off with the death wail of a heavily distorted electric violin. Soon after, the thumping mechanical beat comes in complete with the sounds of an industrial factory. When Autumn starts singing, it’s easy to tell that every word she says is dripping with venomous intent. The chorus consists of the same beat as Autumn repeats the word “Liar” in a deadened manner. A harpsichord adds another subtle layer that connects the song to the Victorian era while the mechanical beat and screams of the electric violin ground it in the present.

When the bridge kicks in, Autumn asks “Are you suffering?” While the line taken out of context may sound overdramatic, she makes it clear that she’s not messing around. Her vocals get louder and louder before she switches from asking to demanding that her subject suffers. This is where the song takes a turn for scary territory. Autumn moves from a spoken shout to a death growl about how she wants “to see your pain!” While her voice is usually angry, it doesn’t get to the point of frightening until she screams with a fury that sounds real. When she screams, it’s not an act anymore. She really wants her subject’s suffering and sounds willingly to turn him into her victim if she has to in order to succeed.

The song’s effect is further enhanced the Autumn’s lyrics. When she says, “I want to mix our blood/And put it in the ground/So you can never leave,” it’s difficult not to wonder if she’s actually done something like that before.

Over the course of the song, Autumn continues to build a haunting environment that seethes just underneath the surface before bursting out at intervals. These revelations of rage are some of the frightening moments in the song and on her whole album. Even though the music sounds somewhat Victorian, “Liar” could ramp up the fear in a modern haunted house any day.


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