CD REVIEW: DOOMSDAY

Composer: Tyler Bates
Label: Lakeshore
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Grade: B+

Doomsday might be a pastiche of every post-apocalyptic/war/zombie/biker flick/medieval adventure ever made. And I still might be forgetting some genres to boot. But what makes Neil Marshall’s film work like goofy gangbusters is the pure imagination he puts into every fanboy classic he’s splooging over. The same thing can be said of Tyler Bates’ score for Doomsday, even if it’s a lot more honestly original as to how it pays tribute to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York’s synth sound, and then evolves it to today’s orchestral-rock action groove – a musical hybrid that Bates’ score for 300 has played no small part in.

You can say that Carpenter truly put electronic scoring on the map with his stripped-down score for 1978’s Halloween, the cold synth chill of its theme making the soundtrack far more effective than if it was performed by a hundred strings. And when Carpenter hit 1998 NYC with 1981’s Escape, the director-composer amped up the percussive muscle of his machines, creating a massively atmospheric score that might be the ultimate representation of the 1980’s rocking synth action sound.

Tyler Bates certainly has a lot more musical toys to play with 27 years later. So it’s no mean feat for him to strip down his energetically dense approach on such scores as Dawn Of The Dead, The Devil’s Rejects and Slither to find that old Carpenter groove again. It’s a scary atmosphere that mixes dark drone ambience with percussive hits and a mean guitar attitude, music that conveys a very bad future along with the take-no-crap attitude of one pissed-off hero. The fact that Marshall’s done a sex change on Snake Plissken for Doomsday may account for such girlie additions as a female chorus, and a true feeling of tragedy for the plague-stricken Scotland she hails from. When that kind of primitive synth flair has long gone out of favor, it’s particularly cool to hear it renewed with the flair of Doomsday, especially when it’s mixed with a real sense of drama and creativity. And that goes a long way towards making Marshall’s movie-copy energy seem almost as fresh as its music.

While Marshall’s putting every favorite flick through a hilariously bloody grinder, Bates is out to pay tribute instead of doing a knock-off. It’s something he’s more than showed he could do by replicating the 70’s blaxploitation funk for Baadasssss. And what’s even better here is the true sense of musical construction he’s given to Doomsday as it plunges into its plague-stricken heart of darkness. Tyler at first ventures out in full Carpenter glory for “Boat,” a taking-care-of-business shootout cue whose high-pitched rock percussion theme is pure Plissken, even if it’s a hot chick who’s wearing the eyepatch. Then in “Piss & Vinegar,” Bates tunes the Carpenter edge to a beautiful, Vangelis-like synth lament. You can even hear a Keith Emerson Nighthawks groove as Doomsday Doomsday’s soldiers enter the Glasgow hot zone. And just as the film keeps eating up more genre favorites than it can possible swallow, Bates’ music keeps you guessing as to where the hell it will salute next.

It’s certainly a journey that never bores as an orchestra finally rears its head in “Hospital Battle,” a trumpeting, ever-accelerating cue that’s an action trailer standard waiting to happen. Then in “Strung Up,” Bates reduces his sound to a dark, haunting female voice. It’s only a pit stop before Doomsday makes an explosive graduation to symphonic rock with an exhilarating “Train Escape.” Yet it’s the ancient stuff that truly seems to bring out Bates’ metal god beast, as he more than showed with the Korngold-meets-metal sound of 300. And when Doomsday ends up providing Bates with knights on horseback and gladiator games, he truly unleashes a kitchen sink of musical heck with “Same Shit, Different Era,” an industrial-symphonic rage cue that King Xerxes himself would go ape over.

As it deliciously eats every musical genre it comes across, Doomsday resembles the musical equivalent of that big fleshy thing that Tetsuo ends up as at the climax of Akira, a non-stop, all-absorbing behemoth that finally brings all of its ideas together for a delirious car escape back to civilization – orchestra, rock and religioso themes making the musical stakes about the survival of humanity itself. While John Carpenter may have played Snake Plissken’s more-than-similar mission with a lot less instruments at the end of Escape From New York, there’s no denying the insane power, and enjoyment that Bates uses to sum up this wonderfully nutty salute to the sci-fi favorites of 80’s yesteryear. But while Neil Marshall’s accomplished a wet dream of a rip-off onscreen, Bates’ true accomplishment here is paying homage with an honest sense of creativity. He’s taken the John Carpenter sound to the next level with Doomsday. And if Carpenter had the musical budget to play with way back then, Escape From New York might have sounded a lot like Doomsday. And that’s probably the best compliment this die-hard, old-school electronic fan can give to Tyler Bates’ thrilling score. Doomsday is 1980’s synth Memorex, and then some.

Take the wild Doomsday ride HERE

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