The Showtime network will soon present "Masters of Horror," a 13-episode mini-series of sorts that will showcase creations by some of the biggest horror film directors in history, including John Carpenter, John Landis and other. With a plethora of musical acts to try and convey this sense of scare and thrill, Immortal Records presents us with an ambitious -- if not questionable -- soundtrack, a 2-disc compilation of tracks, many previously unreleased, from some of the most popular, more creative, or purportedly heavy (sometimes a combination of those aspects) bands in both the mainstream and the (barely) underground.
While the nü-metal bands and trendy acts here surely convey the "horror" theme in a whole different context, it's nice to see a fair portion of more challenging, actually aggressive bands take up the disc's track listing. Disc 1's all happen to fall in that respective disc's second half. My personal 'trifecta of awesome' (comparatively speaking against the track listing here) comes in the form of the Bled-Murder by Death-Thursday. The Bled offer up a respectable if not flawed cover of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown;" vocalist James Munoz tries to match Morris' delivery but more just ends up in gargled territory akin to his H.R. impression in the band's Bad Brains cover from the recent Tony Hawk American Wasteland soundtrack. Murder by Death offer up a new song in "End of the Road," a song exploring their maudlin country roots even further, with front-man Adam Turla doing his best Johnny Cash. And while I admittedly have a pretty vehement bias -- I consider War All the Time, from which the original version derives, a personal favorite -- Thursday's "Division St." translates to the acoustic setting very, very well. Geoff Rickly isn't known for having exactly the best voice in modern music, but somehow he sounds near-perfect here; sure, he doesn't attempt to reach the same pitches as on the standard version, but the peaks and valleys are all rather obvious.
Disc 1 disappointments go to -- surprise! -- Scary Kids Scaring Kids among others. Their re-recorded version of "What's Up Now" (the lead track on their originally self-released EP) brings Brian McTernan's overproduction to the forefront and ironically ruins the eerie mood the original had once retained. It's of my own opinion that with the release of their last album, Death by Stereo has started the disappointing descent into complete OC metalcore territory, whereas their past efforts were roughly half that and half SoCal punk, and "Bottled Up" continues said descent with several moments that bear little difference to the radio metal acts clogging up the soundtrack.
Disc 2 offers even more polar results. Buckethead, featuring System of a Down's Serj Tankian, leads it off...and unsurprisingly, it sounds like System of a Down, which isn't a terrible thing, especially in the context of the album. Rise Against treat us with a solid older rarity in "Obstructed View" (listed as "Obstructed" on the case, however), and the Bronx's "Bats!!!" is a great song recorded just after the rock'n'roll garage punk outfit had finished their self-titled debut (and in that vein, no less), but the consistency is disrupted a bit with From Autumn to Ashes' "Betwixt Her Getaway Sticks." The answer to screamer Ben Perri's growl is the practically cringeworthy nursery rhyme flow of Francis Mark's melodic singing. Every Time I Die's "Keith the Music," which is really just the audio for the video the band cut for "Kill the Music" with Keith Buckley's vocals replacing Gerard Way's in the chorus, is a definite standout since it's removed from the otherwise mediocre confines of that band's newest full-length. Matchbook Romance's "In Transit (For You)" is actually a pretty pleasant, sufficiently moody acoustic number taken from last year's split EP with Motion City Soundtrack. Alkaline Trio's not-so-recent turn towards a more pop/rock-oriented but no less punk-influenced sound sprout up in places on "We Can Never Break Up," a Crimson B-side; until we're greeted with Dan Andriano's slightly lisped, friendly inflection, the opening riffs sound like something off one of the last few Ataris albums, but luckily it's not too schizophrenic of a track. Equal Vision tour and label mates Bear vs. Shark and Fear Before the March of Flames offer up newly recorded songs; the former's "Victoria Iceberg" is mildly disappointing because of its lack of an underlying hook, but it's interesting since it finds singer Marc Paffi's normally gravelly delivery cleaned up during his singing parts and no less apprehensive when screaming, and some rather different production values altogether than those on Terrorhawk, while FBTMOF's "Shining"-inspired "237" is sludgier, heavier, and darker than any of the band's past material aside from the displaced wanky riffs.
It's also in this disc we find the album's worst tracks. Senses Fail may be pretty ill-stated in their bland attempt at Misfits imagery, but at least they're making an attempt, where their even worse followers in A Change of Pace (more like, the Same Old Shit We've Been Hearing the Last 2 Years) sound completely ridiculous, failing miserably in their own contribution in "The Thin Red Line." Andrew WK's brand of Christmas metal is probably fun and all if you're a fan, but I hardly feel "scared" more or less by it. BEDlight for BLUE Eyes disgrace the entire theme with the band's terribly out of place, theatrical singing over an acoustic guitar. Gratitude's acoustic version of "If Ever" is actually about as "pleasant pop" as anything off that band's recent debut, but a band whose chief musical influences consistent of U2 and Jimmy Eat World aren't quite the first band I have in mind when I think "horror." Yesterdays Rising ends things on a mediocre note with their later Incubus-gone-screamo-lite of "Contrast of Light and Dark."
While the creators of Masters of Horror have done a pretty stellar job collecting an ample number of unreleased tracks here, their inclusion of several acts that are entirely too "pretty" to be conveying an idea of "horror," or even some grey area of suspense for that matter, hurt it noticeably.
Sixteen songs off the soundtrack