Let’s Score Todd To Death: October 2022


By Todd Gilchrist · @mtgilchrist · October 6, 2022, 4:17 PM PDT

It’s October, which means that this column is already late for Spooky Season. (It's been simply too hot to do anything but cook.) Thankfully a ton of really wonderful soundtracks and horror-related music were released in recent weeks to help us — and you — play catch-up.

First, it feels like a month cannot pass without someone reissuing something by one of the former or current members of Goblin, and this month is no exception. Not long ago, Rustblade Records released a deluxe gatefold vinyl version of Claudio Simonetti’s terrific score for Dario Argento’s Opera, a film perhaps not frequently (or frequently enough) ranked among the director’s best, but one with a score that because of that marginalization goes relatively underappreciated. Simonetti simultaneously leans into the sounds that made his music for Argento’s Tenebre and Lamberto Bava’s Demons so unforgettable, while exploring new territory — and adding some vintage heavy metal for extra measure.

The title theme, “Opera,” delivers exactly what you might expect: elegant piano beneath the sound of a woman’s powerful, virtuoso voice. But “Crows” immediately launches into propulsive rock & roll, a direction comfortably at home to anyone familiar with Goblin’s urgent, menacing compositions. And then “Impending Danger” shifts yet again as ominous synthesizers swirl over programmed drumbeats. The third track doesn’t quite cross over into hip-hop territory, but it settles into a midtempo groove that “Confusion” picks up and runs with, flirting with electric guitars and the finest keyboards 1987 could buy for an overall sensation of intrigue.


Metal band Steel Grave adds two rock tracks, “Knight Of The Night” and “Steel Grave,” which are admittedly not enduring classics of their genre. But as Simonetti concludes the original score with “The Cinema Show” and especially the hopeful, delicate “Cosmo,” he proves that almost no one worked more successfully than he did with Argento, as their individual styles became synonymous with one another.


Next up from record label Terror Vision is Bruce Michael Miller’s score to infamous video store staple Demon Wind. A film I still remember altogether too vividly for its lenticular box cover and yet not renting it because I was not quite old enough, Charles Phillip Moore’s film features a synth-and-guitar score that quite frankly could have been paired with almost any horror film from its era, but Terror Vision’s LP version comes in a thick gatefold cardboard sleeve that evokes the same feelings I experienced as a kid obsessed with — but afraid of — its scary contents.


“The Farm” and “Just Thinking About Driving” come straight from the post-John Carpenter playbook, where a strong, simple melody, basic instrumentation, and a whole lot of swagger did the job better than anything more sophisticated or ornate. Cues like “I Have A Surprise For You” and “Contemplation” are largely about atmosphere, but the second half of the record is comprised mainly of larger suites that let the listener immerse themselves more extensively in Miller’s music. Whether or not this score is an essential addition to a horror fan’s collection likely depends on their feelings about the film, but as a physical release, its packaging and artwork make it an instant favorite.


More contemporarily, Waxwork Records released a pre-order for Michael Abels’ score for Jordan Peele’s Nope, and it’s a really incredibly beautiful collection of cues that simultaneously evoke the influences Peele drew upon for the film and also reiterates how Abels and the filmmaker are quickly becoming an inseparable pair, creatively speaking. “Haywood Ranch,” for example, hints at that Spielbergian mystery while also touching upon the western themes that become the foundation for the identity of Daniel Kaluuya’s horse trainer OJ. Suffice it to say that “Jupiter’s Claim” leans much further into that latter feeling, balancing somewhere between Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Magnificent Seven, the naked Americana of Aaron Copland, and any of a variety of John Williams themes, including from Jaws, Close Encounters, and the Indiana Jones film series.


The record’s source music, which includes Dionne Warwick’s Burt Bacharach-penned standard “Walk On By” and Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night” (the latter of which gets a “Jean Jacket Mix”), along obscurities like Exuma’s “Exuma, The Obeah Man” and the sultry “La Vie C’est Chouette,” sung by a young Jodie Foster for the 1977 film Moi, Fleur Blue, make this both an utterly mesmerizing collection of film composition and just a fun as hell soundtrack to listen to. Waxwork’s vinyl version won’t be out until December, but pre-order it now and enjoy the whole thing on your favorite streaming service until it shows up in the mail.

meat for wolfman

The final selection for this month comes from an amazing new/ recent record label, Somafree Institute, which distributes recordings from musician and composer Steve Moore, as well as the band for which the label was named. In honor of Andy Warhol’s deranged horror masterpieces Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula, musicians Corey J. Brewer and Erik Blood recorded the soundtrack to an imaginary third in this genre triptych, Meat For Wolfman, under the pseudonym Blutbraüer. Though they quietly acknowledge that the record has no real relation to those films, Warhol, or “the people of Germany,” Blutbraüer manages to make a record that perfectly evokes the feeling of that time, and those films, for overdue discovery in 2022.


Fans of the soundtrack to Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos and Francoise Du Roubaix’s music for Daughters Of Darkness be enticed: this finds a beautiful balance between the hypnotic, horrific and plain funky, using reverb, harpsichord, glockenspiel, disembodied voices and much more. There are bits of the Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs” in here, as are elements of Serge Gainsbourg’s scores for “La Horse” and “Le Pacha,” striking notes that are unsettling, melancholy, and slightly familiar but without ever winking at the conceit of the record. In fact, I admit I was initially convinced it was a rediscovered score the first time that I listened, it’s so convincing in its instrumentation and its period texture.

Ultimately, Meat For Wolfman is so good that I not only consider it a must-buy, but it may be one of the best scores of the year — and it’s for a film that doesn’t even exist! There are a lot of up-and-comers in film composition who want to assume the mantle of the greats that came before them or capitalize on the sounds their predecessors created. But I’d guarantee that if Ben Wheatley got these guys to do the music for another project like Kill List, or if Let The Corpses Tan filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani commissioned these guys for a score, the next big wave would not be synthesizers but this sound — and Blutbraüer would be riding the crest of it.