Vinyl/CD Review: Demons Original Soundtrack

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Demons isn’t exactly a good movie, but it’s definitely a memorable one. A low-budget 1985 Italian horror flick about a movie theater overrun by, well, demons, it features quite the ludicrous plot; amazingly bizarre characters; and some wonderfully over-the-top and disgusting gore effects. It’s a solid piece of 80s eurocheese and it has only gotten more gloriously bizarre as the years have gone by.

Probably one of the only aspects of Demons one can appreciate non-ironically (aside from the killer make-up effects) is the score by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti. It’s a creepy little piece of music, composed almost entirely on synthesizers. As such, it’s just as dated as the film it came from, but in the most wonderful way. And now it’s back in print via new limited edition CD and LPs, but are they worth the price?

Simonetti’s score is sort of a middle ground between the eerie minimalism of John Carpenter’s scores, and the full keyboard insanity featured in many scores to 80s films (Rick Wakeman’s work on The Burning comes to mind). It’s heavy on mood, with plenty of quiet sections punctuated by little more than a subtle beat and a sustained couple of notes, but it’s not afraid to take things up a notch with driving, pulse-pounding beats, an occasional guitar riff, and liberal use of Peer Gynt’s classic “In The Hall Of The Mountain King.” The last of which was already a tired trope by 1985, but hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

The original 1985 releases of the Demons soundtrack mixed together Simonetti’s original score with licensed music by hard rock and new wave artists of the day, creating a rather jarring experience. Simonetti’s score is a moody piece that works as it shifts between fast-paced, intense sections and quieter, more subdued elements. This is kind of ruined when you throw a bunch of songs by Motley Crue, Saxon, Accept and Scorpions in the mix.

Thankfully, every major release of the soundtrack since then has forgone the rock tunes and instead focused solely on the score. As the score is rather short, these versions are padded out with demos and alternate versions. While these would usually seem like pointless filler, they’re actually worthwhile here, and are welcome variations. Particularly of note are two additional latter-day versions by Simonetti himself. The first a re-imaging done in 1990 by the Simonetti Horror Project, and the later a 2002 live version by his more recent band, Daemonia.

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Putting the number on the shrink wrap isn’t great.

Both serve as two drastically different sides of the same coin, pumped up and amplified in their own ways. The 1990 take is full-synth, keyboards and drum machines taken up to 11. It’s cheesy beyond cheesy, but if you like your eurodisco with some creepy vibes thrown in, it’s heaven. The Daemonia version is still largely an electronic affair, but it’s made far more aggressive and threatening thanks to some loud acoustic drums and an omnipresent crunching guitar riff. It’s Demons gone industrial, and it works splendidly.

This latest release of the Demons soundtrack by Rustblade Records features an additional track, “Demons Lounge” that has never been released. To be perfectly honest, it’s been about five years since I’ve seen Demons, so I can’t recall if this is a track from the soundtrack or a new remix/composition created for this release. Regardless, it’s a solid addition to the mix, and fits in nicely with the rest of the album, even featuring a return to the “Mountain King” motif that works quite well.

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Rustblade has made this new re-release of the Demons soundtrack available on both CD and LP, with the CD also available as a limited edition affair complete with a bonus remix disc. The standard CD is a general release, while the LP and 2CD editions are strictly limited, kept to a scant 666 a piece (because Satan).

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The LP both looks and sounds amazing. Pressed on beautiful transparent blue wax, it sounds crisp and clear, with very little surface noise or other issues to be found. As many labels in recent years have been rushing out horror soundtracks with little care as to audio quality or presentation, this was a welcome surprise. The album also comes with a small insert featuring variations of Demons poster/VHS box art from across the world. Kind of pointless, but still cool.

 

The CD also sounds great, nearly identical to the original 2003 CD pressing by Deep Red. However, while the 2003 CD had two bonus videos (an old commercial for the soundtrack as well as a music video) this new release just has the commercial. Rather pathetically, this seems to be a mistake on Rustblade’s part, as the CD sleeve advertises that both clips are on the disc.

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That’s not the only problem with the CD. While the limited edition comes in what looks like a high quality steel box, it actually feels rather cheap and hollow, almost like plastic. Also, the included extras inside the box are pretty cheap, nothing more than a replica movie ticket from the film (oddly included in a transparent bag) and a worthless silver pin. While the main CD gets its own jewel case, the remix CD is relegated to a shoddy cardboard sleeve (complete with a hilarious typo). Additionally, since the steel case has no holder for either, both CD cases slide around the box, leading to the potential of the CDs becoming loose and getting scratched.

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Remixed By Remixed By

As for the remix CD itself – what’s the point? The biggest name on here is ohGr (side project of Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre), and his remix of the main theme sounds exactly like what you’d think a Skinny Puppy remix of the main theme would sound like, vaguely industrial with a lot of screaming. Someone out there is probably excited by such, but that someone isn’t me. About the only other big name on here is Leather Strap, another European industrial act. His remix is better, but still forgettable. The rest of the mixes on here are by nobodies from the European industrial scene and are pretty much trash.

Demons is a good soundtrack, and if you fancy yourself a fan of 80s electronic music or just weird creepy shit then you should probably own it. If you don’t own it at all and you want a vinyl copy, then I do recommend the limited edition LP, as it’s more than satisfactory. However, definitely pass on the over-priced 2CD version.  Save for the bonus track, you can get the entire album on most digital music stores, and even the remix CD if you so desire, and at fraction of the cost.

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