CD Reviews: Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans & While She Was Out

By • January 26, 2009

Composer: Paul Haslinger
Label: Lakeshore Records
Suggested Retail Price: $9.99 (on iTunes)
Grade: B / B+

Of all the composers who have been in the ranks of Tangerine Dream, perhaps none have found a similarly rewarding Hollywood groove like Paul Haslinger. Having played on many of the electro-rock band’s best soundtracks like NEAR DARK and MIRACLE MILE, Haslinger has parlayed his beat into the thrilling likes of DEATH RACE, VACANCY, CRANK and SHOOT ‘EM UP. But if there was one score that established his solo talent for dark suspense, then it would be Haslinger’s music for 2003’s UNDERWORLD, for which he created a darkly impressionistic sound to accompany a war between vampire fashionistas and their uncouth werewolf slaves. Few scores were as indicative of the rock-sample road that horror music was going down, where a threatening wash of sonic exoticism ruled the night.

While it would be Marco Beltrami who’d give a more symphonically conventional, if no less effective score for the significantly better sequel UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION, Paul Haslinger has now returned to the fold with his prequel score for RISE OF THE LYCANS, which continues to up the series’ accelerating quality- a rarity for any horror franchise at that. And Haslinger’s experimental talons are out in style again, ripping apart straight-up orchestrations to pour on a turbulent, neo-Gothic vibe that’s more than enough to fill up any number of vampire kingdoms. Though Haslinger’s scoring is all about state-of-the-tech art, he still manages to give LYCANS a kind of ancient “historical” weight, beginning right off with its pounding title track. Insane percussion and razor-sharp samples rule much of the action here, from “The Arrow Attack,” “Court Battle,” “Per Aspera” and “Storming the Castle.” Haslinger is often laying down rhythms that accelerate into all-out insanity. It might not be easy listening, but Haslinger certainly gets the fury flowing with his approach.

For all the enraged builds here, none is more subtly effective than “Sonja’s Trial,” where the slashes and hits prowl about with relentless, impending doom before ending in emotional tragedy. And as with UNDERWORLD, LYCANS’ most effective music comes from its “romance” music, with the creepily beautiful “Lucian & Sonja Love Theme” taking its cue from the attraction Haslinger first gave to UNDERWORLD’s supernatural soul mates. A tantalizing eeriness also fills the piano chords of “The Most Precious Thing To My Heart,” while ghostly, “howling” voices make an impact in “The Wolves’ Den.” By the time that the beasties avenge themselves with “The Rise of the Lycans,” Haslinger has achieved an effectively menacing wall of sound. Like dungeon fog, Haslinger’s LYCANS score is always swirling about with danger and anticipation, its mist filled with the mix of circuitry and twisted human playing that’s become all the horror-score rage now- a sound that Haslinger has effectively ridden the crest of.

That being said, Paul Haslinger has also composed the far-less fearful scores of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, BLUE CRUSH and BRING IT ON AGAIN. So if the fairly abstract LYCANS is too crazy for the more tenderhearted listeners, they’d be advised to tune into WHILE SHE WAS OUT. Barely released in theaters on its way to DVD, this Kim Basinger home invasion vehicle is actually even more musically effective than LYCANS for Haslinger, its subtle scares a pleasant inverse from the craziness he’s usually asked to provide. This is a film where the threat is about stalking instead of pouncing, allowing Haslinger to show perhaps his most impressively melodic chops for a genre score. Here the menace is generated with a detuned piano sound and a striking orchestral theme, suspense music that incorporates an old-school WAIT UNTIL DARK approach while still enabling Haslinger to employ his dark rock grooves and unsettling samples. He gives the danger a melancholy, yet somehow warm “female” face- or as much of one that’s possible as Kim Basinger unleashes death from a toolbox. Consider WHILE SHE WAS OUT “Haslinger unplugged” if you will, a score that’s the definition of how less can be more when it comes to the kind of arsenal that Haslinger has effectively expanded upon since the days of Dream.

Run wild with Paul Haslinger and the LYCANS on iTunes this February, and on CD in March. In the meantime, experience the downloadable wrath of WHILE SHE WAS OUT on iTunes NOW.

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