ALL MUSIC COMPOSED BY JOHN CARPENTER, CODY CARPENTER & DANIEL DAVIES
Well, I can say with great certainty that this sure took me off-the-fukk-guard, and I’m alternately pissed that I didn’t know about it seven months ago, but also oddly elated to have found it when I did, which was the 8th of October, a mere couple of weeks before Halloween *(this year, it appears I have two “Seasonal” albums coming my way, which hasn’t happened in a really long fukking time) – – – oh, the mutherfukking irony. *(To explain – – – not the ironies – – – if you’ve missed that you’re hopeless – – – but the “Seasonal” albums thing: Since my teens, there have been albums that, when heard during a certain time of year, can tend to resonate the vibe of that season – – – so think Xmas songs, but change the holiday to Halloween and add artists like the SAMHAIN, ALICE COOPER, some DANZIG, CANCERSLUG, early IRON MAIDEN – – – albums I heard or acquired during previous Season’s of the Dead, so it’s almost like holiday music, in a sense – – – and I’ve not found anything since CANCERSLUG’S masterpiece of mayhem, ROOTWORK, that has recently fit the Halloween sound-bill, and LOST THEMES II does just that.)
My first astonishment was finding out that JOHN CARPENTER was actually taking his initial LOST THEMES from last year, 2015, on the road, performing material from that release in a live setting *(his first actual music-only album, even though he’s written most all of his own soundtracks to most of his films), as well as some of his soundtrack classics. *(Unfortunately, I have missed these performances.)
With LOST THEMES II, there is this incredible musical growth from LOST THEMES *(which, as fukking astounding as it is, I really thought was a one-off) – – – J.C.’s trademark minimalism is still present, as well as some sonic references to bits and pieces of past scores of his thrown in quite tactfully here and there, but there is now a much more grandiose dynamic to the sound, largely due to the multi-instrumental talents of his son and writing partner, CODY CARPENTER. The album builds and crumbles. ebbs and flows, wanes and waxes its way through an electro-rock-driven netherworld of absolutely epic proportions, if you just shut your eyes, close out the world for forty-seven and a half minutes, and let these driven soundscapes take you where they may *(which could very possibly be some really neat places, I might add).
In true mayhemic J.C. form, LOST THEMES II is a rare case of a sequel *(if you really want to call it that, however, I do think that is part of the already multi-layered, in-meaning title – – – I think I may have mentioned this previously in the review for the first LOST THEMES; J.C.’s always had a very weird and strained relationship with Hollywood, his best films tanking at the box office and leaving us with “I really don’t fukking care anymore” shite like the irredeemable GHOSTS OF MARS, the JAMES WOODS starring disaster VAMPIRES, and an ESCAPE FROM L.A. **[which oddly enough, I’ve grown a strange fondness for over the years, realizing he’s really just shoving the bird up Hollywood’s syphilitic urethra] that upon first watch I found deplorable) that is superior to its predecessor, in almost every way. Not that I don’t love the predecessor, but here there is nary a slow moment here, an intense and continual build to an apocalyptic semblance of a finish. *(I really wish CARPENTER had gotten the opportunity to make his version of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON – – – he was forced **[swindled?] into making the enjoyable, yet flawed, start of the downward spiral he was soon to fall prey to, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED – – – redeemed hope with the LOVECRAFT homage IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS – – – after which point we shan’t discuss). **(Not entirely true, his CIGARETTE BURNS for the first season of Showtime’s MASTER’S OF HORROR series is one of the quintessential highlights of his filmmaking career – – – just one fan’s opinion.)
However, here we’re dealing with a piece of music who’s creator’s passions are an almost synesthetically tied transference of the audial & visual as one, virtually inseparable. LOST THEMES II is not merely a sequel by any stretch of the imagination, but more of an expansion and decipherable growth of the sounds presented on the initial LOST THEMES. That is, it’s a piece of music that’s meant to be listened to as whole, rather that in piecemeal pockets of “this rocks!” or “meh”. That’s not to say it’s lacking in some incredibly and superior standout tracks, however: “Distant Pulse” is classic, total-anthem CARPENTER material, picking up on LOST THEMES’ cliffhanger, heavy and charging, tense, setting the stage for what is about to follow; “Angel’s Asylum” captures some of the more attractive and swirling melodies to be found throughout the album, reigning in a particular kind of bittersweet beauty *(possibly my favorite track); “Bela Lugosi” sounds like a true descent into the bowels of madness, a leering, harsh and heavy monolithic scape of sound provided for the journey; “Hofner Dawn” plays like some twisted nursery rhyme, the minor chord progressions ever so slightly off and reverbed as to be like haunting, inescapable memories; “Windy Death” is an anthemic dirge for the ages, both touching and eerily turbulent; “Dark Blues” is vaguely reminiscent of the THEY LIVE theme in its suspenseful, guitar-driven militaristic thromb; “Last Sunrise” goes into PRINCE OF DARKNESS territory, both somber and thoughtfully gloomy, as well as abstractly disturbing; “Real Xeno” begins deceptively, turning to finish the album on a firenote of dark and mysterious, inhuman intrigue, and just when it gets going it suddenly – – – we are left with another cliffhanger, an absolutely brilliant and brutal open ending *(as, in his celluloid-medium heyday, was so often J.C.’s cinematic way, and he really did know how to do it like virtually no other at the time). There almost needs to be a LOST THEMES III, to round this ongoing masterpiece out. One can but only hope. Unlike a number of his peers, J.C. hasn’t washed-up, he’s merely switched mediums.
This is a set of songs that exists as a psychological story that the listener creates, through exclusively sound, within the realms of their own imaginations, the story perhaps being different upon every listen. As to the idea, basically being soundtracks to films that don’t exist/never got made, it’s brilliance, like most J.C., in incomparable. It was he who set the standard for such classic, rock-structured soundtracks as PHANTASM, the brilliant works of Italy’s GOBLIN and FABIO FRIZZI, up through the ages, both inside and out of cinema, including acts like ZOMBI, POWERGLOVE *(responsible for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN’s “Plague Theme”), DAEMONIA, DI AUGER and any number of recent performers/filmmakers over the years to have recognized the originality and power of a sound essentially invented by J.C. himself. *(Admittedly, GOBLIN did start around the same time period, and TANGERINE DREAM I believe slightly before, but I feel the two unintentionally, internationally crossed paths, creating a wonderful, too-long unappreciated subsect of music that until recently only enthusiasts – – – such as myself – – – have truly adored.) All of J.C.’s influences show here and there, from obscure prog-rock and BRIAN ENO-esque weirdness, to even certain bridges sounding quite reminiscent of classic ALICE COOPER *(of whom J.C.’s not only worked and been friends with, but has too been a lifetime fan and creative admirer of).
The added creative influences of his son CODY CARPENTER and DANIEL DAVIES no doubt also play a large part in LOST THEMES II working out as well as it has, injecting a bit of new, if similarly themed, blood into veins that refuse to burn out.
There’s not much more I can say, really. This is the continuation of the uniquely pure and wholly sonic-side of a cinematic frontiersman and genius, so often screwed by Hollywood that he has nothing but an huge middle finger for his years of questionable treatment whilst fighting to bring his personal visions to cinematic life. This work of truly independent brilliance in a sonic-only format really is the best middle finger one can give to a truly shitty industry that’s repeatedly screwed you. And to that I can only say: CHEERS, MR. CARPENTER & CO., CHEERS.
JOHN CARPENTER’S LOST THEMES II is recommended to fans of soundtracks *(particularly his, and similar), prog-rock, early-mid ‘70’s ALICE COOPER, Krautrock, Experimental Electronic *(though there is certainly no lack of guitar – – – there may be more present here than on the previous release, and it rocks), Witchaus, Goth Rock, Psychedelia, Soundscapes, Dark Musics in general – – – and disappearing into their imaginations to let a story unfold. Tomorrow I plan on listening to them back to back, and see what my own strange mind conjures up.
On a final note, one song, “Real Xeno”, did pop a question into my squirming excited mind, the title of which alone really kind of saying it all: remember his first film, DARK STAR, anyone? Perhaps he’s making a joke, or statement, about the REAL origins of the Xenomorph from the ALIEN franchise, giving us all a little reminder as to what really influenced the intergalactic beast, as well as homaging the unfortunately departed, dear friend and collaborator of his, the great DAN O’BANNON *(if you’ve no idea who or what I’m referencing, do your homework, kid – – – there’ll be a quiz in the morning). It’s a nice thought to think, even if I’m over-analyzing. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.
Oh, did I mention I absolutely adore finding this true gem most accidentally at the time of year I did? *(There are no coincidences.)
JOHN CARPENTER – LOST THEMES II is available at:
Amazon and iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/los…
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email is firstname.lastname@example.org