Wednesday, 31 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, "Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

By: John Reppion

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/10/2018
Label: EVP Recordings

The Review:

Forty years after his atmospheric, autumnal slasher “Halloween” first arrived on cinema screens, John Carpenter is back, not with a new film (the 2018 “Halloween” having been written and directed by David Gordon Green), but with another of his iconic soundtracks. I say "back" but clearly, just like that ever-babysitter-murdering serial garden-lurker Michael Myers, Carpenter never really went away. His film work has been rightly praised for some time now, but it’s only fairly recently that his music has been widely given the credit it deserves.

Prior to 2018’s “Halloween” soundtrack, the last new (i.e. not remastered or anthologised) film scores Carpenter released were for “Vampires” (1998), and “Ghosts Of Mars” (2001), neither of which had the synth-heavy sound he’s mostly known for. 2015’s “Lost Themes”, and the following year’s “Lost Themes II” – written and recorded with Carpenter’s son Cody, and his godson, ex-Karma To Burn vocalist and guitarist, Daniel Davies – were the first original, non-film albums from Carpenter, and both had that authentic electronic sound most of us associate with the man and his work. The trio started touring together in 2016, performing Carpenter’s film themes alongside their own compositions, and last year released “Anthology: Movie Themes 1974–1998”, featuring their re-recorded versions of pretty much all the Carpenter classics.

It’s this trio of Carpenter, Carpenter, and Davies (son of Kinks guitarist Dave Davies by the way, just in case you find that interesting) who are responsible for the twenty-one tracks on the “Halloween Motion Picture Soundtrack”. So, right from the outset, you can be sure we’re in safe hands. That’s so long as you’re a fan of John Carpenter’s previous musical offerings of course; admittedly there’s not much on offer here if you’re not. If, however, you’re someone like me whose idea of fun is to sit and listen through “Prince of Darkness”, or indeed “Lost Themes”, then I think it’s fairly certain you’re going to enjoy “Halloween”.

Rather than being a reboot or offshoot of the original franchise, the 2018 “Halloween” is a played as a direct sequel to the 1978 film with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, the girl Mike Mayers couldn’t kill. Most of the titles on the soundtrack give away a bit more of the plot than we probably should at this point (given that it’s only been on general release for a couple of weeks) so, in the interest of trying not spoil the film for anyone who’s looking forward to it, I won’t go through every single track here.

Halloween Theme” is a pumped up heart-beat kick-drum driven version of the original, very much in the spirit which Carpenter’s touring trio now perform it. “Laurie’s Theme” has that lovely mix of melancholic, tense, and eerie that Carpenter does so well. This is even more evident in “Prison Montage” which gets near to the Duffer Brothers type synth-wave stuff people now often tend to lump him in with, but it’s much grittier, and heavier than that. As is often the case, elements of the main theme are used as a motif which recurs throughout the soundtrack as a whole. “The Bogyman” is a short, doleful, down-tempo example of this, just like “Ghost Story” is on “The Fog” soundtrack.

There are big distorted stabs, pulse pounding arpeggios, sinister synth strings, terrifying saw-toothed swells, and moody pianos. It is a master-class in electronic horror sound-tracking, and is, in my humble opinion, as good an album as Carpenter has ever put out. “Michael Kills” and “Michael Kills Again” (whose titles I don’t think are giving anything away that we couldn’t have already worked out) are perfect examples of, not just how good a composer and performer Carpenter is, but how he’s managed to move forward and stay fresh and modern sounding, while maintaining his signature style. Often copied but never bettered, if you want the real thing then the new “Halloween” soundtrack is as good as it gets. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some pumpkins to carve. Weirdly though, the knife I had ready seems to have gone missing…

“Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is available here

Info: bandcamp