*A quick note of introduction from Dave Dreher*
David Maynor – one of our Gruesome Music family – pitched this idea to me in a conversation recently – what if he were to dig around and find buried gems, things like soundtracks, that have been long forgotten. A great idea, right? I told him so and the next morning, what you are about to read showed up in my inbox. Get ready to be taken on a ride – a ride we’re hoping you’ll look forward to taking over and over again.“
SHOCKER! A Horror Soundtrack Necrospective
The Dudes of
Wrath? Guy Mann-Dude? Ring any bells?
The 80’s, especially the late 80’s, were a goldmine for a few things. Hard Rock and Metal were in a great place. Horror was seeing a massive bumper crop of great films. And at the later part of that decade, those two forces intersected quite a bit in the form of some truly great soundtracks for horror movies. Now I am not talking about scores, even though there were some great scores also. Scores of course being typically instrumental, often orchestral, and written to accompany the music and be played during key scenes.
Soundtracks, on the other hand, are songs selected to be played during the film, either in key scenes or during credits, that the writer, or producer, or composer….. it varies from project to project, but someone has deemed the songs are on theme or fit the movie in some capacity. Lots of John Hughes movies come to mind, and then there are classics like Saturday Night Fever or just about anything with John Cusack.
Over time many soundtracks would start finding rare songs, deep cuts, or even have songs written and performed specifically or that movie. It is all very commonplace nowadays, but during the 80’s is when this was really becoming a thing. And I think that we were near our apex in 1989, specifically with the movie Shocker!
Yeah, Shocker. It was a meeting of some of the greatest minds on all fronts. The names of those involved both behind and in front of the camera are pretty impressive. Wes Craven, Peter Berg, Heather Langenkamp, and wow… Mitch Pileggi. Richard Brooks, Ted Raimi. Even John Tesh and Timothy Leary. Kane Roberts does double duty and shows up on camera also.
But for all it had going on visually, the soundtrack to this movie is a positive beast. Is it my favorite soundtrack of all time? Maybe not. My favorite horror specific soundtrack? Well, it is near the top, but probably not. But this soundtrack stands as a clear moment in time, a tribute to all that was metal and horror in the 80’s, finishing out that decade strong. Very strong. It is a milestone of sorts, and many movies with great soundtracks that came after this owe it a very large debt of gratitude, I think.
This disc drew some pretty big names. Sure, some had worked on soundtracks before. Some would do more in the years to come. But if you can recall what was popular in 1989, to see a list like Paul Stanley, Desmond Child, Tommy Lee, Rudy Sarzo, Vivian Campbell…. And yes, Guy Mann-Dude. They got together to form the Dudes of Wrath. That’s just the artist listing for the first fucking track.
So let’s peel this one back, heading way back 30 years at the time of this writing, and see what made this disc so awesome.
Track 1: Shocker by The Dudes of Wrath
What a way to start this off. As a huge KISS fan, this immediately drew my attention. One of my favorite horror creators just put together a movie and the soundtrack has a few of my favorite bands? And the main title is a band with one of my all-time favorite rock gods? Backed by an amazing collection of other musicians? Hell yeah I was interested.
Tommy Lee kicking out a ponderous drum to start it, then Vivian and Guy some in with some typical 80’s metal guitar. Then you hear it. That was Paul! And then Desmond comes in to sing first….. well, we can’t have everything I suppose. He isn’t horrible, he just isn’t Paul.
The song itself is good. Not the best on the disc actually, but it is a solid slice of 80’s metal fare. When we get to the guitar duel, yeah you read that right it is a guitar duel, things get better. Campbell and Mann-Dude go bar for bar is a pretty nice guitar solo battle before we get to the chorus/anthem. Now, I am not exactly sure why there is such an uplifting and cheery refrain to end this song, but musically it is just fine.
Track 2: Love Transfusion by Iggy Pop
This is probably my favorite Iggy Pop song. No, really. It starts with a very ‘heard it on every other soundtrack’ synth line. But when the music kicks in and you hear the guitars, you also notice the horn following that melody line. This is some Huey Lewis shit going on right here. But then Iggy starts singing and…. and… and I’ll be damned if we don’t have an Alice Cooper song now. It was written by Cooper and Desmond Child, and Cooper provides some backing vocals. Seriously, this is like so many disparate parts that should not work all coming together to make a weird amazing final result to me. I love it. At this time period, you could be forgiven for mistaking this for a Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction song.
And again, in the middle of all this, another very good guitar solo. This is again from Guy Mann-Dude. This song might not be for everyone. But those people are wrong. This song rocks.
Track 3: No More Mr. Nice Guy by Megadeth
And here we have yet more Alice Cooper, this time in the form of a cover by Megadeth. This is 1989. Megadeth were THE SHIT in 1989. Hell, they started off strong in 1989 with Peace Sells and didn’t really stop for decades. They still put out amazing stuff. Dave is still brilliant both in studio and live.
Do I like this version as well as, or even better than, the Cooper original? Probably not. However, this version has blistering guitars. I think the original was Glen Buxton, who was a great guitarist. But he could not play like Mustaine or Friedman.
I think tonally this song stands out on the disc. There are a few others that are pretty hard, but this is the only thing approaching Thrash really, and it really jumps out when you listen to the whole album. Cooper rules. Megadeth rules. How could this not rule?
Track 4: Sword and Stone by Bonfire
Who the hell is Bonfire you ask? Yeah, I had to ask too. They are a German band gaining some prominence during this time. But this track sounds more like…. KISS. That makes sense, this track was written by Paul Stanley, Desmond Child and Bruce Kulick. And it is a pretty good track.
Now I have no idea how it fits within the context of this album, but I guess I will have to watch the film again and see where it appears. It has a decent production, some good guitar work, and an them like vibe. It doesn’t stand out as great, but it also doesn’t stick out as bad.
As for the band? Wow. These guys have been playing since 1979. They released two albums in 2018. Sure, there have been a lot of line up changes, but apparently in Germany these guys are like the Rolling Stones of metal.
Track 5: Timeless Love by Saraya
Track 6: Shockdance by The Dudes of Wrath
Yeah, the title is stupid. But the song, going back to the thunderous drums of Tommy Lee, this song basically takes the into from the opening song of the album and turns it into its own track. But this time around? We have Alice Cooper on primary vocals.
And Mitch Pileggi/ Horace Pinker!
He is a killing machine who never does the dishes after all. Pinker, a stinker! How the FUCK does Alice make some of the stupidest lyrics known to man just sound cool? I don’t know how he does it, but here, he does it with aplomb. We get some guitar strains in the distance, but nothing like a big solo to speak of. But this track doesn’t really need it.
When Alice says ‘I’m having so much fun’, you believe him. This is a fine example of some really talented people doing something they know is silly, and having so much fun with it you can’t help but like it.
Track 7: Demon Bell by Dangerous Toys
Do you remember the Dangerous Toys? They still play to this day, though they haven’t released any newly written music since 1995. They did this song for their soundtrack coming off their very first album. No one but the band wrote this song, and this song is entirely representative of what Hard Rock and Glam Metal was all about in the later 80’s.
They kill it!
This track really is one of the stand outs for me on this album. If you loved Faster Pussycat, or any of the bajillion other LA bands that were soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history thanks to Guns n Roses album that released earlier this same year and was starting to take traction, you will love this too.
Bleach was released 4 months before this soundtrack, so the buzz was there. Nevermind would be released in roughly 23 months. And as much as it sounds like hyperbole, so many of these bands would indeed be cast aside once Nirvana hit mainstream. Poor Dangerous Toys, we barely knew you.
Track 8: The Awakening by VooDoo X
Jean Beauvoir is VooDoo X. He started with the Plasmatics, and played with a LOT of people. He is incredibly talented. This is the worst song on the disc for me.
This is the best Whitesnake song that Whitesnake never recorded. Throw in some Tom Sawyer riffing in the middle to mix it up I suppose. The guitar work is fine. The production is fine. The song just feels like every other song. Like EVERY other song. I can’t really explain it more than that. Some songs are covers, others pay tribute. And then sometimes you just feel like the song is just a reorganizing of a song you have already heard.
Hey, the disc is amazing. They can’t all be winners, can they?
Track 9: Different Breed by Dead On
Do you remember the band Dead On? Have you ever heard of the band Dead On? This is our only other track on here that is anywhere near Thrash. And they aren’t bad. But they aren’t Megadeth.
This track was on their debut album also. It isn’t a bad song at all. It suffers from the same hollow production that many of the indie and minor label thrash bands had back in those days. I am sure live they sounded amazing. But when all that screeching guitar tries to get recorded in some studios, all those mics get over driven, all those channels clipping, they get limited and then compressed to hell. And when that happens the whole middle falls out of it.
That’s the real problem here. It is a good enough song, with no real punch in the way it was recorded.
It was rereleased a few years after this and it really stands out with a better ear for metal at the console. Sure, it is just caught up in the loudness wars at that point as I doubt they had good original masters/stems to work from. But it really is a good song. They really were a good band.
Track 10: Shocker (Reprise) by The Dudes of Wrath
Man, I wish I could write one song and get paid for it multiple times on the same album. Look, this one is a throwaway. It was there to cap the disc, to bring it to LP length most likely. It is just as good as the first time you heard it (track 1), the production is still good, the guitar solos are still damn fine. But really? Do we need it?
Yeah, there were a few low points here. But you know what, they didn’t really matter at all. When this dropped, the names listed as being involved in both the film and the soundtrack created a firestorm in the horror/rock community.
Trick or Treat (1986), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors (1987), Lost Boys (1987), and Black Roses (1988) set the stage. Every year it seemed Alice Cooper had 2 or 3 movie soundtrack tie-ins. Metal and horror movies were a match made in…. well… they were a match. And people were ready for more.
And then they weren’t. This one kind of ends the run of great hard rock horror discs. The next one that is notable from the period isn’t until 1991 when Freddy’s Dead releases, and that focused heavily on the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls. No thrash in sight. So Shocker kind of acted as an ending of sorts, for quite some years at least. There were still amazing scores being made for horror, but actual collaborative and curated songs for soundtracks kind of died out in horror.
And maybe that’s why this one stands out also. Maybe when you look back and decide what you can compare it to, there was nothing else coming out to actually compare it to for quite some time, so it stood alone.
And maybe it was just because it fucking rocked.