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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

CD Review: Punisher War Zone soundtrack

Punisher War Zone soundtrack
2008 Lionsgate
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Marvel Comics has obviously made a killing at the box office courtesy of its endurant stable of superheroes. If you're a comic book dweeb (and aspirant script writer) like myself, you'll recall that before the silver screen hoopla of late empowering the stock value (well, at least before the recession, that is) of Marvel, DC/Vertigo and a few of the indie imprints, the comics medium was surviving in the nineties moreso on the back of the antihero versus the average good guy. Edgy characters with more piss and vinegar and propensity towards violent means to an end were all the rage in the comics realm. Names such as Venom, Ghost Rider, Bishop, Cable, Blade, Elektra and of course, The Punisher enjoyed their own comeupannce in comics.

The Punisher first appeared in 1974 in The Amazing Spiderman #129. The Punisher at the time was conveyed as a well-armed street thug with no conscience about snuffing his enemies. The Punisher got in Spidey's way and vice-versa (ironically gaining the praise of Spidey's media nemesis J. Jonah Jameson for his cold-blooded finishing tactics), a theme that would continue for more than three decades. Though Frank Castle was more or less a stock character in the Marvel universe when he first loaded himself for battle, a bigger potential was realized in the mid-eighties when The Punisher was granted his own mini-series and then ultimately a full-length series. In the nineties, Castle's take-no-prisoners attitude became hipster chic amongst comics readers, so much Marvel wasted no time in capitalizing by giving The Punisher two more concurrent series Punisher War Journal and Punisher War Zone.

Over the years, The Punisher has been found in rebooted series, offshoot specials and team-ups with everyone from Batman to Daredevil to Archie Andrews. Yes, Archie Andrews. Film-wise, we'd just as soon forget the 1989 dreck that wasn't so much the fault of Dolph Lundgren as it was the script's and worse, the omission of the trademark skull on the black uniform that signals The Punisher faster than a Hell's Angel. In 2004 we found Thomas Jane doing an admirable job in a pretty decent kickstart to a new Punisher franchise, smartly utilizing the over-the-top villain The Russian, which ignited The Punisher's comic book resurrection in the 2000s.

Four years later and Ray Stevenson is handed the skull and the armory as Punisher War Zone invades theaters, and as the best of the regular-running comics series, the war zone is red-hot with the vengeance-seeking vigilante on the prowl with a mostly booming soundtrack to guide his semiautomatics and hand grenades.

Rob Zombie kicks off the Punisher War Zone soundtrack with "War Zone," and though the song itself is predictable to Zombie's beastly stamp jams, "War Zone" gets on the right track immediately with a killer intro march from drummer Tommy Clufetos. Predictable or not, "War Zone" is a monster cut and sounds best at nearly-intolerable decibels. Crank that shit.

The structure to the Punisher War Zone soundtrack is a feast for everyone methodology where everyone is served a slice or two of their favorite styles of metal, hard rock and pop punk. This is a pretty slick strategy for crossover purposes, but to be honest, the merge of radio friendly rock such as Seether and 7 Days Away makes for shaky elbow room when stacked against Slayer, Slipknot, Hatebreed and Static-X. While we're at it, the fast and flighty emo of Senses Fail is more than a bit obvious of its intentions to corral the genre's clique of fans, much less the Flyleaf-esque Kerli.

Add to the confused signals electro pulse ditties from Justice (you know this groove from the Cadillac Esquilade car commercials) Machines of Loving Grace and Showdown, and Punisher War Zone perhaps works a little too hard to appease as many demographics as it possibly can. Undoubtedly Jay Faires, music and soundtrack executive for Lionsgate, took more than a few studies of The Crow soundtrack, wisely recruiting Machines of Loving Grace from that album for starters. Machines' "Butterfly Wings" on Punisher War Zone is a lean and mean dance metal track bridging the bubblegum angst of Senses Fail to the ultraposh house pop of Justice.

Slipknot's "Psychosocial" is naturally added here for superstar firepower, as is Slayer's 2008 Grammy Award-winning "Final Six." Strung behind Rob Zombie and preluding the Hot Water Music-bred Rise Against, the Punisher War Zone soundtrack enjoys a bouncy rhythm that is unfortunately undercut by the FM format rock trifecta of Seether, Kerli and 7 Days Away. Kerli at least has a bit of sensuality to them.

The soundtrack gets its stride again in the electronic-based section as Justice's "Genesis" throbs nicely after "Butterfly Wings," while Pendulum socks out a whiz-bang cyberpunk tune ala Mindless Self Indulgence with "Showdown." Hatebreed pulls off a respectable cover of Sepultura's "Refuse/Resist," one of metal's angriest songs ever written and an absolutely perfect mayhem ode for The Punisher to wreck havoc to.

Static-X has perhaps the album's coolest cut, even if the prefabrication of "Lunatic" is blunt. Singular riffs and digital beat strikes are nevertheless thrown into Wayne Static and Koichi Fukuda's digital meat grinder. The beat patterns are primitive even when tailspun through a modern mix machine, the quick-snapped guitar riffs take inspiration from Ministry's "Thieves," while Wayne Static's gruffy scats are one of "Lunatic's" biggest assets. There's something about Static-X that has Hollywood reliably knocking on their door, given past contributions to the Resident Evil, Valentine, Saw III and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker soundtracks. This one's another song best played at fierce volume.

While The Punisher in a new millennium has had to take a backseat to Spiderman, X-Men, Fantatic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, Blade and even Ghost Rider, there's something about Frank Castle's blood vendetta that keeps writers and producers coming to him. Doubtfully there will be a day when The Punisher's desire for street justice is fully satiated and depending on the success of Punisher War Zone the film, the metal bands will be jockeying their demo tapes for a subsequent Punisher War Journal or Punisher Armory.

Rating: ***1/2


amandara said...

Still to came the movie Punisher War Zone 2008 finger biting movie it can be, as I saw in the trailer. Topic was marvelous and very much fair. Acting was superb. But I think if the punisher. Get his work more difficult it was better. see the movie trailer

movie fan said...

Thomas Jane did a decent job as the Punisher last time; too bad they didn't bring him back for this newest installment as well

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