Having watched frontman Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails' Danny Lohner now get the chance to produce his own film soundtrack. The film is the forthcoming Underworld, a dark gothic action movie about a centuries-long war between vampires and werewolves. The soundtrack follows in an appriate vein, mixing some angry heavy rock with more melancholy softer tracks. The problem with focusing on modern rock is that the compilation is dated very definitely, but as much of the music is written, produced or features Lohner, it holds together cohesively unlike other recent similar soundtracks. Much of this was recorded in secret at his home studio, as usually collaborations of this magnitude would make waves in the press. This has led to a great deal of hype around its release, largely justified it appears...
The album opens with two impressive collaborations. The first, The Damning Well, feaures former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland, Filter's vocalist Richard Patrick, The Vandals and A Perfect Circle drummer Josh Freese, and Danny Lohner. All are impressive musicians and offer great performances in the heavy brooding opener "Awakening", especially Patrick's vocals. The supergroup recorded four tracks, including two with Evanescence singer Amy Lee, but they may never see daylight due to contractual issues. The fourth song may well appear on a future soundtrack.
The second collaboration, Puscifer, features Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle, who provides his special brand of smooth and distinctive vocals, and again Danny Lohner. It is an emotional song with excellent use of dynamics in a similar, but slightly more accessible, style to the recent A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step album. Keenan's presence is heavily felt throughout at the album in two remixed A Perfect Circle songs (with Wes Borland adding guitars to a new rockier interpretation of "Weak and Powerless") and the emotional high point of the album which comes in a collaboration with David Bowie, Chili Peppers' John Fruiscante, Josh Freese, Lisa Germano and string arrangements from composer Edward Shearmur. It is soft, sad, brooding and utterly dark. A perfect track for this compilation.
Other notable tracks include the first new release written by Skinny Puppy since the late 80's, in an expected industrial style. Not especially original, but charismatic and will please their fans nonetheless. Similarly a new track from Dillinger Escape Plan will please fans, but "Baby's First Coffin" is rather death metal and a little too heavy, not really fitting into this selection. The Renholder tracks are the soundtrack itself, composed by Lohner ("Renholder" is an anagram of "re: d. lohner"). They are unremarkable industrial sounding affairs, and all rather similar.
Milla Jovovich's suprisingly good vocals on "Rocket Collecting" are definitely worth a listen. Although this softer, sweeter piano and strings number will not be to everyone's taste, it showcases the actress' clear talent well. The other softer tracks with female vocals, the bittersweet "All of this Past", moody "Suicide Note", and beautiful "From a Shell", offer a balancing variety, clearly for use in the more emotional moments of the film. They are all dark and melancholy, but often fail to stand out particularly well.
Although it is still difficult to tell quite how the film itself will turn out, this soundtrack certainly bodes well. It is designed to complement the film rather than shocase and further the talents of a few rock artists as some recent films have attempted with large quantities of substandard heavy rock. It is not mainstream in its efforts, and will not appeal to everyone as a result, but fans of any of the artists featured should enjoy what they find here, especially fans of Maynard James Keenan's work. However, some of the less noteworthy standard heavy rock tracks do not fit in so well, and spoil the balance slightly. With such a range of A-list collaborations this is one of the most exciting modern soundtracks, certainly not typical, and let's hope the film can live up to the same high standard of the selection of excellent songs mentioned here.
KEY TRACKS: Bring Me The Disco King, Rev 20:20, Rocket Collecting, Awakening