My very first column for This Is Horror, back in December 2011, was about collecting horror movie soundtracks. It was my intention, way back then, to revisit the subject with some regularity, and yet here we are in September 2013 and I still have yet to say anything more about one of the most vital aspects of this genre that we all love. So I thought it was about time I did.
This has coincided with the arrival through the post of some lovely new shiny CDs of music from independent music label Kronos records. The company hasn’t been around for very long, but if its current catalogue is anything to go by I very much hope it gets to go from strength to strength. One of the company’s most recent releases, and one that really is worth picking up, is The Ungodly Music of Carles Cases. The disc boasts ten tracks, the first five of which are newly re-recorded tracks of Cases’ music for Stuart Gordon’s 2001 Spanish Lovecraft adaptation Dagon. I’ve been wanting an official release of this music for years and thanks to Mr Cases and Kronos Records’ Godwin Borg there is now a rendition of it that’s not only worth listening to, I actually think it’s better than the music originally recorded for the film. The disc kicks off with the track A Morte, with HPL’s classic ‘Ia Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn’ put to music and arranged for a male voice choir. It’s certainly an opener worthy of Lord Dagon himself, especially when the church organ and orchestra join in. Track 2 introduces that lovely, lilting female vocal used to characterise Macarena Gomez’s lovely weird and sexy Uxia in the movie, and if there were only these first five tracks on this album it would still be an essential purchase. The other half is given over to the quite different The Ungodly, a movie from 2006 by Thomas Dunn that has something of a Man Bites Dog feel to it. Cases’ music here is more low-key but no less accomplished and overall this is a very attractive album indeed. There are only 500 being pressed so if this sounds appealing act now.
If you buy enough discs from them, you might be lucky enough to get a free copy of Kronos’ promo CD for Dario Argento’s Giallo. I think it’s fair to say that no one considers the movie to be anything special, coming as it does from the period of Argento’s filmography that writers for Cahiers du Cinema might well refer to as his ‘tres mal’. The music to Giallo is, however, something entirely different and definitely worth a listen. It’s composed by Marco Werba. I’ve been a fan of his work since his cover of Pino Donaggio’s ‘The Black Cat’ for the Lucio Fulci: A Symphony of Fear double CD tribute album from Blackest Heart Media several years ago. His music for Giallo really is too good for the film – rich, menacing, orchestral, and with a beautiful love theme for piano dropped in as well. Apparently rights issues have prevented Kronos Records being able to actually sell this disc, hence the reason for it being given away under certain circumstances. If you get the chance it’s definitely worth a listen.
I’ve been playing the above all week, but it’s made me think about the wealth of modern composers around at the moment producing music for modern European horror films. One of my favourite scores (and indeed favourite movies) of last year was Paco Plaza’s [Rec] 3: Genesis. Mikel Salas’ score to the film is available on CD on the Scream Works label. Those familiar with the film will know that the music doesn’t come in until the found footage motif is dispensed with. It’s therefore fitting that the first track is titled ‘Cinemascope’, signifying the movie’s change to that format. The music is as varied as the film, ranging from pounding electric guitars during the zombie chase sequences to more sentimental and romantic themes in the quieter moments. My [Rec] 3 soundtrack was actually a purchase on a whim because I liked the film so much but the music has really grown on me since I bought it.
I may be saving the best for last (four soundtrack recommendations are probably enough for one column) and some may not even consider it European. However, as the remake of Maniac (2012) has a French director (Franck Khalfoun), writer (Gregory Levasseur) co-writer and producer (Alexandre Aja) and composer (Rob) I think it qualifies. Has there been a better synthesiser soundtrack to a horror film in years? Available on vinyl and for download but not on CD for some mysterious reason, the Maniac soundtrack is still getting some serious playtime at Probert Towers. By turns haunting, terrifying, silky smooth and disconcertingly unnerving, this still gets my vote as my favourite soundtrack of recent years.
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