John Carpenter - Lost Themes III: Alive After Death Music Album Reviews

John Carpenter - Lost Themes III: Alive After Death Music Album Reviews
The cult director’s third standalone collection of electronic music isn’t necessarily innovative, but it’s comforting, like a chilling movie you’ve seen a million times.

For years, John Carpenter was thought of more like a session musician than a serious artist—a slick and sturdy genre craftsman, more of a cult icon than a name brand. That’s all changed in the last decade as he’s become thoroughly deified as the untouchable and exalted Master of Horror, and without even returning to the director’s chair. Carpenter’s shadow falls over much contemporary American genre cinema and extends internationally too, from the recent Brazilian political thriller Bacurau to the über-stylish movies of Bertrand Bonello, who composes the electronic soundtracks for his elegant French riffs on American genre formulas just like his idol.
After his prolific run in the 1980s and 1990s, Carpenter’s filmography tapered off in the 21st century, leading him into de facto retirement. Then, sensing renewed interest in his work, Carpenter brought his brand back from the dead by focusing on music. The 2015 album Lost Themes, his first non-soundtrack recording, kicked off a comeback that has encompassed live gigs and new scores for the Blumhouse-produced remakes of his most iconic films. Carpenter had almost always dismissed his musical efforts as the product of necessity, but their utilitarian qualities, like his filmmaking itself, found accolades for their stern and chilling minimalism. While his soundtracks may have begun simply as a cheaper alternative to orchestral arrangements, they have effectively spawned their own genre. The Lost Themes franchise has culminated in this year’s third installment, Lost Themes III: Alive After Death, giving the series more sequels than Carpenter has ever directed himself.

Carpenter’s style—distinguished by his formal precision and almost architectural sense of composition, as well as his bare-bones scores—has become easy shorthand for filmmakers looking to channel or reference that long cultural decade known as the ’80s. The revival and influence of the now commodified Carpenter aesthetic is owed in part to Netflix series like Stranger Things, as well as YouTube algorithm-driven nostalgic microgenres like synthwave. Carpenter's new music fittingly feels meant to be streamed as background music, a sort of gothic electronic equivalent to lo-fi hip-hop beats: not ambient exactly, but spooky furniture music, like Erik Satie with eyeliner. These would-be music cues feel like the familiar beats of a horror movie—not exceptional or innovative, but comforting in the eerie way a chilling movie you’ve seen a million times can be on a gloomy day.

Carpenter has long had a canny eye for branding himself as an artist, consistently using the Albertus font to render his name in opening credits sequences, and even stylizing his film titles as John Carpenter’s The Thing or John Carpenter’s Vampires. On the cover of Lost Themes III, Carpenter’s own face overlaps with those of his bandmates, son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies, acknowledging the work released under his own name as a family affair. John Carpenter has become a true enterprise, a full-fledged band, not just an auteurist solo effort. Though his scores are often thought of as the product of a solitary synthesizer wizard, they were, just as often, jam music—the soundtrack for Ghosts of Mars is the result of Carpenter riffing and ripping it up in the studio with Anthrax, Steve Vai, and future Saw composer Buckethead. Alive After Death has the same quality, tight and precise but still somewhat loose and improvised in its construction.

Ghosts of Mars might be Carpenter’s most overtly hard-rock score, but his soundtracks consistently shared as much with Van Halen as they did with Tangerine Dream. That’s never changed, even when the movies are imaginary; “Cemetery” is driven as much by a chugging guitar as it is a Kraftwerk-like techno beat and drum machine, and solos blaze across tracks like “Vampire’s Touch” and “Dead Eyes.” But unlike Carpenter’s nu-metal collaborators on the unfairly derided Ghosts of Mars, Carpenter’s bandmates mostly help him resurrect an old sound instead of crafting a newer, fresher one, yielding distinctly diminished returns—a little like how the David Gordon Green remake of Halloween looks toothless and bland when held against Rob Zombie’s surreal, psychedelic, and misunderstood interpretation of the same material. At times, like on “The Dead Walk,” the organ presets and synthesized voices start to sound a little like the autumnal version of Mannheim Steamroller.

The proliferation of Carpenter copycats has become so rampant that it’s only fair the master cashed in himself, like Juicy J and DJ Paul’s revival of the Three 6 Mafia brand after their early underground work was plundered by so many rappers. (In fact, Paul and the Juiceman owe something of a debt to Carpenter—they’ve returned to the well of his soundtracks time and again for samples from which to construct their own horrorcore universe.) But while it’s wonderful that such a singular artist is getting regular work, it’s hard not to feel like Carpenter is simply data-mining his past life for new material—unlike, say, David Lynch, who does polarizing and uncomfortable things with both his albums and his resurrections of past intellectual property. It’s almost impossible to distinguish “Weeping Ghost” from moments from various Halloween movies. Sometimes the “lost” in Lost Themes feels less like a Satanic tome written in blood and more like a folder of unfinished GarageBand projects Carpenter stumbled upon while organizing his desktop.

But Carpenter is, for the most part, an artist whose work has not been fully understood in its own moment. It took time for audiences to find value in his later, lower-budget efforts: The Hollywood-spoofing Snake Plissken sequel Escape from LA, the mind-melding theory-fiction of In the Mouth of Madness, the virulently anti-church horror-western Vampires, and the Ice Cube-starring Ghosts of Mars have all been reclaimed in certain critical corners, their once-decried nu-metal flourishes and early CGI experiments now embraced with affection. The only third part of a trilogy he has ever been involved with before now is Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which was hated in 1982 for playing fast and loose with the canonical narrative, but is now beloved by many because it dared to try something different. Perhaps Lost Themes III should, ideally, be forgotten for a few decades, so that it can be found again by future generations looking for art to reevaluate, reconsider, and reclaim.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
John Carpenter - Lost Themes III: Alive After Death Music Album Reviews John Carpenter - Lost Themes III: Alive After Death Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 24, 2021 Rating: 5


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