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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Van of the Dead CD Review: Saw 3-D Soundtrack

Saw 3-D Soundtrack
2010 Sony Music Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Commemorating, if you will, the apparent final segment of the bloody Saw franchise, the film comes out this week in the now-gimmicky 3-D format along with a 16 song "soundtrack" purporting itself as "music inspired by the motion picture."

While this writer has been a stout follower of the Saw series (more so for the bit-by-bit story revelation with each film than the gonzo splatter), an objection must be filed against this soundtrack. Okay, sure, the Saw film soundtracks have always held a candle for format radio rock along with the random "cool" underground selections to pass them off as legit. However, with the Saw 3-D soundtrack, the cash cow element rings more blatantly than ever.

Even if soundtracks of the past for The Crow, Spawn and the Mortal Kombat films have likewise attempted to come off hipper than their benefactors, those films made solid use of the core songs while dumping in a few extras under the "inspired by" caveat.

Caveat is the operative word with Saw 3-D's soundtrack. Upon examination of the playlist, it's a Who's Who of Sony, Universal, Virgin and Island/Def Jam rock acts with a couple of breakouts from The End Records, the latter in the form of Lordi and Dir En Grey.

Unfortunately, what you get on Saw 3-D is 13 songs having been out there on the market quite a bit with three "unreleased" cuts (from the aforementioned Dir En Grey plus Saving Abel and Saliva) which we're to assume were recorded for the moment. Of these three, only the Japanese metal expressionists Dir En Grey seizes said moment and creates a miasma of distortion, grind, growl and subliminal emo, thus it becomes the only worthy horror film song of the three new tunes. Saliva panders to the lowest common denominator with their stomp and drink chugger "Badass," while Saving Abel's "Never" opens the soundtrack with a safe 'n steady FM-ready party jam.

Herein lies the inherent fault of the Saw 3-D soundtrack. It should be called "Brodown Tailgating Music Before the Godsmack Show" soundtrack. Seriously.

In my interview with Filter's Richard Patrick for Retaliate #1, Patrick comments how today's rock is fashioned strictly after the mold of Nickelback. Listen to this album straight through and you'll give him his point. Add to the script Papa Roach and Staind, and this tap serves as the primary vibe of the soundtrack. Hinder, My Darkest Days, Default, Saving Abel, I-Exist and Adelitas Way...all polished and primed for AOR with the same ready-made chord progressions and raise your booze in the air ethos. Umm, I want to play a game here, to coin Jigsaw's vernacular. I'm not interested in faux angst to sell $9.00 beers under the guise of a horror soundtrack.

Snazzy of executive producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules to hoist Krokus' latest tune "Hoodoo Woman" and the agitated punk-industrial-crunk ragefest of Wagdug Futuristic Unity's "Ram the Crush" to deviate from the album's ho-hum it's been awhile norm. Wagdug is a major force on this album and they serve up one of the very few moments of extremity for a film series which has made its namesake on extreme.

On the bipolar end of the spectrum is Nitzer Ebb's trance-dancer "Promises," by far Saw 3-D's finest hour music-wise. If you're reading this and saying "Nitzer Who?" then book yourself a semester at Industrial 101. This song does fit Saw 3-D on a subliminal level and better yet, it's a catchy, bumpy dance number ready for tweaking in the terror zone like Traci Lords did for Blade.

Chad Bennington's Dead By Sunrise checks in with "Condemned," the best of the mainstream cuts, though it's merely borderline with horror flavor. Tool worshippers Karnivool also make an appearance with "Goliath," but you get the feeling they were included simply to class up the album a bit prog-wise. Ditto for Kopek's "Love is Dead," which has a tough groove to it, but it feels more at home in a street fighting epic than a gory puzzle escape series.

Tres cool that the Finnish answer to Gwar, Lordi gets a chance to play on a horror film soundtrack, yet the fist-banging anthem "This is Heavy Metal" is a dunderheaded pick, sorry. It's a case of trying too hard to get hip. Dig harder, folks.

Let's hope Saw 3-D the film has more zip, more revelation and more fun than the overly midtempo brew slug music representing it.

Rating: **1/2


Metal Mark said...

You use the term "cash cow" a lot lately, but I mainly agree with your views on this album. I have it and need to write a review too. It's a lot of songs, but only 4-5 I really cared about. Not a lot of bad songs, but just not impressive or all that memorable.

Anonymous said...

funny, i thought this one flowed better and had more surprises than the last few of these exercises. with the exception of Lordi - nothing I don't wanna hear again. This one is gonna hang around the stereo a bit...

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Mark, I just go with my feeling sometimes. You use routine phrases and descriptions in your reviews on a continuous basis, so I figure you're going on your gut when you review. Cash cow is a term I'm unfortunately doomed to use frequently since I minored in Marketing in college and that term is always used. But yeah, this soundtrack only has a handful of very good to great songs and a bunch of FM filler specifically designed to hit a demographic in the hopes of bumping up sales.

Anon, thanks for your comments. I have nothing against the bands I flagged per se, only the fact we got so many of them in the same helping and with very little "horror" feel by their inclusion. Glad Lordi made it, but for a horror soundtrack, I'm looking for one of the less-dug-up Lordi songs to keep in the spirit. This soundtrack is hanging around my player so I can play the hell out of Nitzer Ebb. :)