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Steve Moore – Mayhem OST

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Steve Moore - Mayhem OSTDuring the 1980s, synthesizer soundtracks for horror and science fiction films were ubiquitous; most low-budget, straight to video movies had them. But during the nineties they began to fall out of favour. Fast forward a few years and a new breed of artists began to fall in love with the sound of old analogue synths and decided to try and make music that conjured up the same atmosphere as John Carpenter and Goblin had done in that bygone era.

Steve Moore’s band Zombi were one of those, and using sequencers and drums they conjured up the images of intergalactic travel as well as the haunted autumnal streets of Italian Giallo films. So it wasn’t a big leap before members of the band started to score horror films, and with the success of Netflix  series Stranger Days and its 1980s-inspired soundtrack, these electronic scores will only increase again. Moore has now done several soundtracks, including his almost Tangerine Dream homage on Cub to his more Carpenter-based work on The Minds Eye. Moore understands mood and atmosphere, so I was looking forward to hearing this work and I wasn’t disappointed.

On Mayhem, Moore’s sound develops in the way that recent synthwave artists have done by using more pounding percussion for his opening and recurring theme. This use of percussion reaches its apotheosis on the track “ID-7”, where Moore builds up the tension nicely with sequences and the kind of drum work that Harald Grosskopf used to do for Klaus Schulze. Moore never becomes bombastic and manages to play with sound, not only to rack up tension, but to let it disperse in interludes such as the opening to “Dead Inside”, which slowly builds in to a disturbing crescendo.

Moore then begins to use eerie-sounding synth washes that create an almost ghostly atmosphere and give an unsettling feel to the whole score. Choir sounds mix with deep throbbing bass on “Loophole” to give the vibe of something unsuspected waiting around the corner. The mastery of the synth sounds throughout cannot be underestimated; they give the whole piece a forward momentum without ever falling into feeling obsolete or tagged-on.

Yes, it does at times tip its hat to both Tangerine Dream’s and Carpenter’s work, but this is no bad thing and it certainly never feels like an exercise in retro at any point. It’s also one of those rare soundtracks that lives and breathes as an entity within itself without needing the visuals to accompany it. As much as the music has its cosmic counterpoints in places, it’s where the score builds tension and anxiety that it works best. It seems relentless at points, especially when atonal synth pops up on interludes such as “On The Count Of…”. Tracks like “Fuck This Place” also have a quite beautiful melancholy sound to them that adds a nice juxtaposition to some of the other pieces.

If you’re a fan of both Zombi and Moore’s solo work there is plenty here for you to enjoy. At over seventy minutes long there is enough time for you to immerse yourself in its atmosphere. Tracks like “Showdown” are some of Moore’s finest creations and would be interesting to hear slightly longer versions of some of these pieces — maybe they could be worked into tracks on the next Zombi album. Overall, this is a must-purchase album, especially if you a big fan of wonderful old synths and the glorious sounds that they can make. The vinyl version is of course limited, so well worth snapping up while it’s still around.

-Gary Parsons-

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