Sunday, 1 September 2013

Choice Cuts : Halloween III : Season Of The Witch (Original Soundtrack)

Score written by Alan Howarth and John Carpenter

I love horror movies. More than just a little. I imagine that many metal fans, like myself, developed an appreciation for the horror genre in parallel with cultivation of their own metal tastes. It helps, of course, that many of metal’s lyrical themes are horrific and much of the album artwork owes a great debt to classic movie posters and horror comics. They just go together. My own tastes got heavily intertwined early on with a cassette purchase of John Carpenter’s original Halloween score in the mid-80s, just as I discovered the first films on VHS. Much like my metal tastes, while I revere and respect the classics, I have a special place in my heart for the oddballs and underdogs. While a discussion of the film as a personal favorite (bordering on obsession) is an entirely different article altogether, I can easily and unironically place the score for Halloween III: Season of Witch at the top among not only film scores but also among all the music I own in any genre.

While iconic, Carpenter’s ’78 score from the original Halloween boils down to little more than the signature theme and scare sounds. It certainly does not hold together as a comprehensive work. Halloween II introduced Alan Howarth to the mix and vastly improved on the original’s foundation. It was Halloween III, however, that firmly established John Carpenter and Alan Howarth as my personal favorites among composers of film scores, exceeding even the traditional favorites of John Williams or Ennio Morricone and light years beyond the modern rubbish we see endlessly recycled by Danny Elfman.

I did not acquire Halloween III until it saw a compact disc release in the 1990s. By that time, score-wise I was firmly entrenched in the world of Goblin and Tangerine Dream, the former almost exclusively associated with the fantastic horror of Dario Argento. Halloween III not only fit in with these sensational scores, it remained atop the heap and always fit nicely with my increasingly heavy tastes in rock and metal as well.
Like some very successful, effective metal - Ghost recently, for example – Halloween III is not heavy but instead sinister. Its sound is punctuated by sharp and pointed threats in place of heft and to ride out its duration is to spend half an hour on a razor’s edge. Halloween III remains compelling thanks to its abandonment of the signature Michael Myers theme (as the film series had then, albeit briefly, abandoned Myers). Carpenter and Howarth improvised the score in real time as they watched playback on video monitors and, as a result, it never relies on one underlying riff. The analog instruments – a Prophet-10 with Poly Sequencer, Prophet-5 with Poly Sequencer, ARP Avatar (2), Arp Sequencer, Sequential Circuits Programmer Model 700 and Linn LM-1 Drum Computer – impart the appropriately cold and eerie affect required both by the film’s technological subject matter and the ear of a listener seeking a soundtrack that serves the dual purpose of complementing a visual story and standing alone as an intriguing and engaging auditory experience.

How does it affect me as a heavy metal fan? The Main Title theme immediately invades the listening space and takes up residence, pulsating with a robotic lifeforce as it send out tendrils that slowly ensnare and appropriate the listener’s senses like its Body Snatcher forebears. While much of the score maintains this mechanical, methodical foreclosure of the flesh, movements like “Chariots of Pumpkins” and “First Chase” deliver intense dynamic shifts with stabbing staccato single-note strains that chillingly puncture the album’s experience. The entire work as an improvised whole relies on the ebb and flow of tension and horror instead of repetitive themes and telegraphed cues. The layers of analog synths allow for a breadth and depth of sound that is at once orchestral and alien. From the first notes you know the destination is dire and are left only to marvel at the aesthetic experience of the descent. The finest purveyors of their craft, from Milton to Slayer, have made horror an experience one can crave and, with Halloween III, John Carpenter and Alan Howarth stand alongside them.

Since that initial compact disc I have grabbed Halloween III in at least three other variations. A vinyl counterpart was picked up along the way largely for its sleeve as the grooves were well-worn and, in 2007, a limited-edition CD reissue from Alan Howarth’s own label more than doubled the amount of original music adding in discarded and alternate takes. Death Waltz Records reissued the vinyl in 2012 and its release, along with Halloween II, was one of my own blog subjects at that time.
I am happy to debate the film’s merits with any horror fan late into any given evening but will never concede that the score to Halloween III is anything less than a work of absolutely evil genius. And I think most metal fans can agree that evil genius is, of course, the very best kind.

Words and recommendation by : Mark at Gogmagogical Records

Soundtrack details:
Death Waltz Records reissued the vinyl in 2012 along with Halloween II

Main Title
Chariots Of Pumpkins
Drive To Santa Mira
Starker And Marge
First Chase
Robots At The Factory
Halloween Montage

Hello Grandma
The Rock
Challis Escapes
South Corridor
Goodbye Ellie

For more information :

Death Waltz Records

As a recap, this is our picks of our favourite records, so if you haven’t heard this band or this record, go check em’ out. We’ll be back next week with yet more, Choice Cuts!! So until then, stay metal and Doom On!!