Vinyl Review: Maniac Soundtrack (Death Waltz Edition)
It’s weird buying a soundtrack to a movie that you have no plan on actually seeing, isn’t it?
Well, that’s what I did with the soundtrack to Maniac, the latest high-end vinyl only release from Death Waltz Recording Company. And I’m glad I did, because while I have no desire to see the Maniac remake produced and co-written by High Tension director Alexandre Aja and starring Elijah Wood, it sure does have one hell of a fantastic score.
The score to Maniac was done by French musician Rob (that’s it, no surname, just…Rob). It’s a stark and beautiful score performed almost entirely on synthesizers, and while I’m sure many people will compare it to the scores of John Carpenter’s films, I don’t think that’s an apt comparison. Carpenter’s scores, while eerie and memorable, were far more simplistic and minimal than what Rob has going on with Maniac. There are layers to this music, not just simple synthesizer melodies on loop. A better comparison to make would be of Vangelis’ score to Blade Runner, more of a soundscape and ethereal than out-and-out creepy.
One proper “song” is included on the Maniac soundtrack, “Juno,” featuring vocals by Chloe Alper. It has a deliberate 80s vibe, but it doesn’t drown itself if kitsch like some throwback synthpop does. Like the best tracks from artists like La Roux or Empire Of The Sun, it wears its 80s influences on its sleeve while still creating something new. Alper’s vocals, for instance, are far more restrained than they would be if the track was actually written and performed in the 80s. She sounds like Allison Goldfrapp, if this were the 80s she would probably be rocking this thing like Bonnie Tyler or Laura Branigan, blowing it out of the water with an over-the-top performance. Her low-key vocals do the song well, serving as a great contrast to the poppy, bouncy feel of the track (which makes me wonder how the hell the song is used in a movie like Maniac).
It really is a fantastic release, and Death Waltz does it a great service by delivering one hell of a package along with it. The cover art is amazing; a disconcerting, creepy image of a mannequin face. It’s unsettling and conveys the dark nature of the film, while thankfully not resorting to the gory, exploitative and sexist imagery that the original Maniac became justifiably infamous for. Additionally, the sleeve is an ultra-thick gatefold and is laminated with an extremely glossy and reflective coating that almost makes it like a mirror. It both looks and feels great.
There are three variants of this release, a picture disc, a flesh-colored vinyl with a blood splatter, and a silver-colored vinyl with a blood splatter. As you can tell from the pictures, I opted for the silver one. I love the look of it, and thankfully it sounds amazing. This is a very quiet record, my initial playback yielded almost no pops or crackles, and the surface noise is nearly inaudible.
This is the best release that Death Waltz has put out to date, and if you like minimal, synth-heavy scores, then you should definitely buy it.
It’s just too bad that you probably can’t.
In an incredibly unfortunate business decision (of which Death Waltz deserves none of the blame), the makers of Maniac decided to license out the vinyl edition of the soundtrack to different companies depending on their region. As a result, Death Waltz cannot legally ship their version to France or America. I don’t know who is handling the release in France, but Mondo Tees scored the distribution rights for the states, an incredibly unfortunate development.
As of right now, you can’t even buy their version of the score, it’s sold out at their official website, and it doesn’t get a wider release for another week. And even if I could get their version, I sure has hell wouldn’t, because their cover art is absolutely sickening, a piece of low-rent, misogynist trash. I’m not even going to show it here, if you want to see it, go look for it yourself.
Now look, I get that Maniac is a film about a serial killer who targets women, and while I’ve had my lifetime’s fill of movies about that particular topic, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Aja is an incredibly talented filmmaker, and while his silly take on Pirhana was sexist garbage, his artful High Tension was a clever twist on horror movie tropes that was actually pretty forward-thinking in a lot of ways. And besides, I haven’t even seen the film, so it’s not fair for me to comment on it one way or another. But the cover art by Mondo Tees is just ugly and vile, both for what it portrays and stylistically. It’s sleazy trash made to appeal to sleazy trash, and we Americans sure deserve better.
Death Waltz’s silver edition of the Maniac score is sold out, but if you live in America or France and really want to score a copy of the flesh-colored one, I bet you could turn to Twitter and see if someone can help you out, or check out the forums on Death Waltz’s own website to see if you can find an intercontinental vinyl trade buddy. As of right now, you can even get a pretty decent deal on eBay, I’m seeing some going for around $40, not cheap, but certainly a fair price for such a high-quality product.
And if nothing else, you can buy the soundtrack digitally on iTunes and at Amazon, so you’ll at least have the music, which is worth a listen even if you’re like me and have no interest in the movie itself.