05 February 2014

Scaremeister – “31 Spirits” (Metropolis Records)

Review by John E Smoke

Any release featuring Skinny Puppy’s cEvin Key will always grab my attention. Scaremeister sees key working with  long term collaborator Ken “Hiwatt” Marshall and videogame composer Traz Damji, and the first release “31 Spirits” sees them producing 31 mini scores for movies, most suited more to the horror genre.

Some of these works have been available to the industry for some time and indeed have made it into such illustrious works as Inglorious Bastards, Transformers II, My Bloody Valentine, Book of Eli and Halloween 2 (just to name a few).

So, how is “31 Spirits” as a stand-alone experience? As one would expect, the works are on the short side, with most being between one and two minutes in duration. This is inevitable for a work of this nature but is also the greatest negative. Virtually every track leaves you wanting more, which could be taken as a great compliment, but my overall feeling was one of slight frustration, or indeed 31 moments of slight frustration.

Scaremeister_31SpiritsThat aside, there is little to complain about musically. The production is flawless, as you would expect from those involved with the project. Each of the individual pieces present atmosphere and build to a conclusion that allow the listen to easily conjure up unpleasant imagery in their minds. The evocative instrumental soundscapes are forged from orchestral sounding swells, lush pads and dramatic percussion, as is par for the course. However, there are also spicy extra ingredients to tantalise the fans of the contributors’ other works. Organic sounding synths bubble up in the background from time to time, arppegiated loveliness linking into horrific distorted and mutated sound bites. To my ears some of these tracks could easily be links between tracks on Skinny Puppy’s “Too Dark Park” or “Last Rites”. I am however left dreaming that some of these pieces might eventually evolve into more traditional songs with structure and vocal content, and perhaps pop up to surprise us on a future Puppy or Download release.

So a worthwhile endeavour? Absolutely! Give me more Scaremeister in my  movies and eyeballs in my popcorn! A worthwhile purchase? Probably. If you are a Key/Puppy completest then you have probably already ordered this. If you are a horror buff then this would provide you ample entertainment and a soundtrack to any evening of frights. If neither of these apply to you, then there might be less here to grab you by the throat with scaly claws…