If you don’t know John Carpenter then you really have no Horror cred, to be honest. And if you don’t know he created some of the most exciting and dynamic film soundtracks ever made, then you are really lost. That’s okay, though, because there’s still plenty of time to learn, and what you’ll discover is a fantastic filmmaker that intuitively knows how to weave his film narratives with music that both enhances and broadens the story on the screen. Carpenter has long-since given up making movies (which is a damn shame) and has turned his energies towards the video game industry and, more importantly, back to his music.
Carpenter released an album many years ago called Lost Themes and they were just that, scraps and whole songs he’d written over the years that never made it into his films. It was deliriously great. He followed that up with a Lost Themes II, which was good but not quite as spectacular, in my mind. Still, I’d take more like it any day. And sure enough, this new year he has graced us with Lost Themes III, and the world is better for it.
Here, Carpenter has a whole host of new songs, all instrumental, most of them in keeping with his usual sparse, electronic style. Pulsing bass, digital synths, echoing and haunting themes. He also brings back the electric guitar and drums, which was more prominent in his later 80’s and 90’s scores. While I prefer just the synths, he does mix these rock and roll elements in with great effect. Second track “Weeping Ghost” is a wonderful example of this, a song built on a layered bed of synths, accented with plaintive piano, and punctuated with driving riffs and a steady drum and bass beat. It sounds like something that could have been in Big Trouble in Little China. Opener “Alive After Death” keeps with his more traditional, 70’s sound, as much The Fog as Escape From New York. You can almost feel the laser beams sweeping and searching the crowds at the concerts (if we ever have those again) as the song pulses to undead life. And the record flows on from these two, different songs incorporating various aspects of his fine-tuned styles. You get straight-up synth songs, like “Vampire’s Touch” (playing with a soft, dark mood, mysterious and yet still sinister), and mid-paced “rockers” like “Skeleton.” At the base of it all are those keyboards, powerful and forbidding, occult and mysterious, carrying the weight on every song. Carpenter is joined by his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies (son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies) who not only supplement his work here, but greatly add to it. Their infusion of youth helps keep things vibrant and saucy and make III a damned-worthy follow-up to the first two releases.
If you’re a fan of film scores, you’ll dig this. If you’re specifically a fan of John Carpenter film scores, you probably own this already. If you’re someone who’s just curious, this is a good place to start. Echoes of his work on Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, They Live, and many, many other films reverberate in these throbbing, synth-laden songs. It’s a perfect album for a dark and stormy night, perfect for a snowstorm, and perfect for tropical heat. It’s simply great, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t plug this one into your earphones and give it a ride.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
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Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews. He likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: