Richard Band is pretty much unique. Here is a composer with a solid fan base, one who works regularly but has never risen above the level of the B-movie and more often than not scores productions that general audiences rarely see. And yet he has undeniable talent. With pieces like his stirring, grandiose main theme from Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) to his playfully sinister score for Troll (1986) and his wonderfully dark choral work for The Pit and the Pendulum (1990), he has shown real panache and imagination and deserves more attention than he currently receives. So with this presentation of his score for the cult favourite Re-Animator (1985) there is an opportunity for Band to finally share some of that much sought after limelight.
This soundtrack is very much typical of the composer, with enough invention and verve to carry the whole thing off with aplomb. But unfortunately there is one aspect of this score that ultimately detracts from possible appreciation of the composers talent and itís one that has caused various amounts of discussion and dissent. The clue to the problem is announced loud and proudly on the front cover of the CD. It reads Ďwith humble apologies to Bernard Herrmanní. You see, Band chose to pay homage to the Godfather of film music, and in the circumstances that is not such a bad idea. But somewhat disappointingly he decided to use a variation of Herrmannís main theme from Psycho as the lynch-pin of his entire score. Now, depending on your attitude, this could be seen as fun and amusing, while others may take exception to the lifting of one of the masterís most famous themes. Of course, Band knew exactly what he was doing and it was an artistic choice that both he, the director and producers felt was valid. Personally, I would have preferred an original theme, simply because this composer is well capable of creating something memorable and distinctive all of his own. Itís a pity really that instead of enjoying a classic Band title theme, we are simply left with a deconstruction of a well established melody that in all honesty doesnít really do the original justice. Even so, there is still plenty of other material on offer here, and much of that is cleverly conceived and executed. There is also a long audio interview with the composer that sheds light on his intentions for this score and his reasoning behind the Herrmann borrowings, and this is certainly a very welcome additional bonus.
Depending on your frame of mind, this score could be taken as a droll tribute or a lazy rehash. But the truth is itís not really either. Yes, Psycho is strongly referenced and itís intended as a campy joke, one which you will either share or resist, but the music on offer here is pure Richard Band. It displays his polished ingenuity and is one of those triumphs over budget restrictions that donít always get the CD release they deserve. This will not be for everyone, but I have a feeling there will be enough interest and appreciation to rapidly sell out the limited run of 3000 copies.
Gary Dalkin adds:-
While I can't say I particularly enjoyed this album, for the very reasons Mark cites in his review, it does make an interesting comparison with Alan Silvestri's Herrmann tribute score for the much more high profile What Lies Beneath. If you liked that one you'll probably like this too.
Gary S Dalkin