By Craig Haze
The evocative power of music is something we’re all familiar with. Think of your favorite action flicks and you’ll likely find they had a kick-ass soundtrack to help execute their punch. Gaudy and synth-laden, or ridden with cheesy riffs and solos (or, even better, a mixture of both) they bolstered the bloodshed and bravado of a slew of classic ’80s and ’90s ass-stompers. It’s fitting then that DTV (Direct to Video), the new novel from Decibel magazine’s Andrew Bonazelli, is accompanied by a pugnacious soundtrack as it delves into the testosterone-fueled lore of the action genre.
Disclaimer: I’ve not read Bonazelli’s novel, but I’m putting in my order with label Handshake Inc immediately, and I’d advise you to do the same. The artwork alone, courtesy Graf Orlock drummer Adam Hunt, pays flawless homage to the genre. The novel comes housed in a VHS case, and includes liner notes for the accompanying soundtrack printed on a replica video store receipt. However, novel aside, it’s the soundtrack I’m here to talk about, which reflects the hyper-animated sex and violence that’s proven to be endlessly enticing for action fans. Bonazelli makes fine use of his artistic contacts, with a raft of underground artists performing covers of their favorite smash ’em and bash ’em movie tunes, or playing original songs inspired by the book itself. All the tracks effortlessly encompass the allure of action cinema.
The DTV soundtrack includes, among others, Wolvhammer rumbling through one of the best Cure covers you’re ever likely to hear with “Burn” (from The Crow). Graf Orlock, Great Falls, and Steve Moore handle the main themes to Predator, Robocop, and The Terminator, respectively. Graf Orlock’s cinematic grind is obviously a perfect match for Bonazelli’s vision. Majeure, Lauderdale, and Stomach Earth reinterpret music from Out for Justice, Double Impact, and The Running Man beautifully. The Austerity Program injects plenty of jarring grime into Game of Death, and Early Graves’ cover of “Anvil of Crom”, from Conan the Barbarian, is rousingly delivered and aptly brutish.
The soundtrack runs close to an hour and all the songs are previously unreleased. It is, by turns, invigorating, eviscerating and just good old nostalgic fun. The pulverizing metal component means all the dynamic, outlandish fluency of the action genre is represented. Plus, the slinkier electronic tunes are a grand reminder of the de rigueur post-ruckus third act, where our hero has his bruised knuckles iced by the obligatory love interest, before they make the sweet Vaseline-lens love.
There’s obviously an entire perspective to the album I can’t comment on, not yet having read the novel. However, I think we can safely assume, given Bonazelli’s reputation as a novelist, that the novel will be infused with a timbre as excessive as its soundtrack. The synthesis of the literary, cinematic, artistic and musical looks set to be as perfect as you could hope for with DTV. For anyone (like myself) who fondly reminisces about the golden age of brawl-fest cinema, there’s a wickedly enticing brew to be found right here.