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Various Artists

The Punisher: War Zone Soundtrack

Review by Gary Hill

Soundtrack albums are always such a crap shoot. Some times the music, taken away from the film, doesn’t really hold up. Other times the songs included on the disc aren’t even featured in the movie. I can’t tell you if that’s the case because I haven’t seen the movie. What I can tell you is that for the most part I like all the music here. Yeah, there is one I would have to say I don’t like and some others that are just “alright,” but this is fairly consistent. The musical style is far from monolithic, which is a bonus and makes this more listenable than a disc that feels like 13 versions of the same song. While a lot of this is metal, it’s not exclusively so – and that’s why it’s in the “non-prog” section of the site.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Rob Zombie - War Zone
Percussion leads this in and holds it for a while. After a time it stomps out in a smoking jam that feels one part Rob Zombie and one part Ozzy. Of course, the vocals are all Zombie. The music on the verse is stripped down and reminds me a bit of Brutal Planet era Alice Cooper. The guitar solo on this is a real screamer. There’s a cool and quite dramatic melodic segment on this, too. It’s the closing section and seems to combine Zombie’s sound with dark progressive rock and more typical soundtrack elements. You pretty much can never go wrong with Rob Zombie.
Slayer - Final
Dark and ominous at its onset, Slayer launch into a plodding Sabbath-like jam, but turn it out with typical Slayer elements. After running through this introductory segment they fire out into a jam that’s just plain brutal. Frantic and ferocious this machine is custom built for mosh-pits.
Slipknot - Psychosocial
The stomping riff that drives this is quite cool. The vocals are raw on the verses yet they pull out to a melodic chorus. If anything, I’d have to say that the chorus is a bit too smooth and polished. There is a killer guitar solo on this cut. I also like the staccato, machine gun like section that follows it.
Rise Against - Historia Calamitatum
The guitar sound that leads this off is more “rawk and roll.” In fact, as the other instruments join this feels more like punk rock. It’s got that sort of alternative rock texture that’s based on punk, but not quite emo. While I’m not sure I like this as much as some of the metal material, it’s a nice change of pace. It’s energized and catchy and there’s still a good amount of crunch.
Seether – Fallen
Bass stands alone at the onset. After a little while the other instruments join and we’re in the midst of a stomping metallic rocker. They drop it to a stripped down alternative rock motif that’s a little too generic for the verse. It builds up nicely, though. This is far less metal than some of the early cuts and yet it’s also quite tasty. It’s another bit of variety.

      

Kerli – Bulletproof
Now, this is really different. An almost psychedelic ethereal sound sets the stage for a female vocal line. It is almost like a crunchy Enya. They power up to an epic metal jam for the chorus. While the female fronted epic metal band is starting to become a cliché, this track really works well. It’s one of my favorite pieces on show here and another fine bit of variety. There are some echoes of Mazzy Star in this moody cut. There’s an almost prog rock segment later in the cut with classical strings and other elements serving to ramp up the arrangement.
7 Days Away - Take Me Away
We’re back towards more typical metal territory here, but not quite there. This has a nu-metal meets Bush sort of sound. It’s a good tune, but pretty generic. I can think of twenty other bands that sound pretty much exactly like this. The number has a lot of energy and anger and that’s a plus, but it’s pretty forgettable. The slower, more pure metal jam late in the track is a nice touch, though.
Senses Fail - The Past Is Proof
If you want to talk about generic music, just check out this track. It’s another of those punk meets alternative rock in a fast as heck progression piece. This is OK, but frankly, I’d hit “skip” here. In fact, I find it nearly impossible to resist that temptation.
Machines Of Loving Grace - Butterfly Wings
Now for something completely different, at least on the intro. It comes in feeling almost like electronica. They power this up into harder rocking jam that reminds me quite a bit of a more metallic Depeche Mode. I suppose comparisons to Nine Inch Nails would be warranted and you might also hear some Radiohead in the mix. It’s a good tune and a nice change of pace.
Justice - Genesis
This begins with a dramatic and quite symphonic movement. That holds it for over half a minute then we get a false ending. From there it’s into an odd arrangement that seems like a cross between Flush the Fashion era Alice Cooper and some Euro-dance music. There’s a major funk element to this and it’s a cool piece – if a bit strange. It makes for another change from the standard of much of the album. It’s basically an instrumental, but there are some vocal samples – or perhaps they are just synthesized sounds that feel like vocals.
Pendulum – Showdown
Keyboards start this, but then we are pulled out into another cut that’s a bit like the one by Senses Fail. This has a more raw arrangement, though and seems more like real punk rock. The keyboards over the top remind me of Hawkwind-like space rock at times. I’d have to say that this isn’t my favorite cut on the disc, but it also doesn’t have me running for “skip.” It’s got a bit of a rock and roll vibe and works out to some techno dance grooves. In fact, that portion of the song is closer to some Euro-club music than any kind of hard rock or metal. As they continue it really begins to resemble Hawkwind at times.
Hatebreed - Refuse/Resist
Angry and raw, this is more into the metal modes. It’s a good song, but not one that really grabs me all that much. Still, the frantic thrash section is pretty compelling.
Static-X – Lunatic
Percussion, with an electronic feel, leads off here. The other instruments join in a noisy nu-metal pounding after a short time. When the vocals join we’re in the midst of some serious hardcore. There is a tasty guitar solo on this.
Ramallah - Days of Revenge
The sound that leads off here reminds me of the music from John Carpenter’s Halloween. A hardcore jam takes over from there, though. Once the vocals enter this seems to merge those elements along with a rap vocal. It’s a cool piece of music. I actually like this one quite a bit and would consider it one of the highlights of the set.
 
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