Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Zombie Flesh Eaters (2015 Green Vinyl)

Zombie Flesh Eaters LP
Label: Death Waltz Recording Co
Year: 2015 (reissue)

Time for one of my rare record reviews!

Heavy metal is my favourite genre of music, but when I’m writing I actually tend to listen to soundtracks or ambient music. Often both, if we’re thinking of Tangerine Dream or Popul Vuh.  
Why? Well, I find them very helpful for setting the tone for whatever it is I’m working on, and if I need to concentrate on particular details, they’re relatively easy to tune out, something that isn’t always possible when listening to 250+ BPM blastbeats.

So today we take a look at one of my favourite horror soundtracks, for one of my favourite horror films – Zombie Flesh Eaters. Direct by Lucio Fulci, Zombie Flesh Eaters was released as a “sequel” to Dawn of the Dead in 1979 under the title of Zombi 2, promptly going on to be hailed as a cult classic and banned in equal measure around the world. I’ve written about Zombie Flesh Eaters much more extensively on other websites (sadly now defunct), and so to cut a long story short, it’s well worth a watch for zombie aficionados. Few films have such bizarre sequences (a zombie and a shark fight) yet still manage to feel oddly grounded. There’s plenty to laugh at if you’re in the mood, but the tone and special effects still manage to disconcert even today – it’s an excellent introduction to the more grindhouse end of horror.  

One of the real standout aspects is the eerie score from Fabio Frizzi – which of course, is why I’m writing this review today. Frizzi is a veteran composer, having worked on soundtracks from the 1970s up until the present, including several films with Lucio Fulci. Here, his work incorporates a stripped-back synth sound, in tandem with voodoo percussion and touches of musique concrète. It makes for quite an eerie and tense effect, with the notable exception being opening track Sequence 1, which is an oddball calypso-style theme, standing in stark contrast to the rest of the score.

But it’s Sequence 6 and Sequence 8 that are the standout tracks. Sequence 6 accompanies the infamous eye-gouging scene, and is apparently based on “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles. But it quickly devolves into nightmarish territory, with weird synth and ear-piercing feedback accompanying the subtly wrong piano riff. The scene itself still makes for unpleasant viewing almost four decades after its release, and I suppose it’s a compliment that it’s almost as unpleasant to listen to on its own, even without the graphic visuals.

Sequence 8 is the movie's title theme. As soon as I first saw the movie – around ten years ago! – and heard those ominous notes I knew that I was in for something special. Recorded in an era before synth became synonymous with sterile, to this day it has the capacity to unsettle me whenever I hear it. Yet it’s an oddly fond sound too, conjuring up memories of past-midnight viewings of cult trash with friends. 
Pls note the background Cheezels
Death Waltz have released this soundtrack several times since 2012, each with slight differences. This is the green vinyl version from 2015, which incorporates a version of the score that was remastered by Frizzi himself in 2014. It includes some liner notes from the cover artist and Frizzi, but it’s not a special edition – though I don’t think Death Waltz issues anything in huge numbers, it was apparently a “regular” edition. The Death Waltz website doesn’t seem to be selling it at the moment, but I don’t think you’ll have huge problems tracking it down from a reseller if you’re keen on scoring yourself a copy. But for completists or those seeking a particular pressing, you can see the full list of releases here.  

This release is not as comprehensive as the 2000 CD from Blackest Heart Media. For that release, tracks were presented in the order they appeared in the movie, along with dialogue snippets, a few remixes and some covers. I guess they were riding that sort of “Tarantino soundtrack” that was quite popular at the time. By comparison, this vinyl version feels a little bare-bones by comparison, but the presentation is definitely of a high standard, and makes for a nice piece on the shelf. I was happy with the price I paid; it’s a relatively obscure film with very little merchandise, so really I’m grateful that it’s available at all!  

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