DRIVE ANGRY – Michael Wandmacher


Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

Drive Angry stars Nicholas Cage as a bad man who is sent to hell, escapes from hell and goes on “A Mission”. That’s all you really need to know about this movie as knowing any more isn’t really going to help you “get” this score. In fact, I may already have given you too much information. But that doesn’t really matter as the little you do know will be blown from your head by the aural force of the music contained on this CD. Composer Michael Wandmacher taps into his experiences playing in Heavy Metal and Glam Rock bands to deliver for director Patrick Lussier a rock-fuelled, Western-influenced soundtrack.

Drive Angry starts out as it means to go on. “Full Frontal Shotgun” kicks things off with powerful electric guitars and pounding percussion, driving (no pun intended) the music forwards with all the sound levels cranked up to the max. The overriding memory of this score is that it’s loud, headachingly loud. Track after track is filled with the rock-and-roll mix of guitars and percussion, each track sounding more like individual instrumental B-sides from seventies rock bands than carefully thought out underscore. But then subtle underscore would be completely lost in a film of this nature. Wandmacher in interview argues that music for a 3D movie needing to be bigger and bolder than what you would need for a conventional 2D movie because of the visual assault on the senses with a 3D movie: it needs to be an in-your-face score for it to punch through everything else that’s going on (listen also to his other recent score to a 3D flick, Piranha 3D. It’s loud also).

But it’s not all loud though. There are quieter moments, particularly in the middle of the score. Tracks such as “I Never Get Curious”, “A Door That Can’t Be Closed” and “All You See” showcase Wandmacher’s love for experimenting with electronic soundscapes. These probably work well in the movie but don’t do much for me as a stand-alone listen. And being a bit of a horror movie these quieter tracks also allow the composer to strategically place loud “stingers” that no doubt enhance the on-screen shocks. Listeners to the entire CD may relish these quieter breaks but I found I was missing the energetic rock during these quieter tracks, hoping for their return. Not all the quieter tracks are ambient soundscape: “The Accountant” and “Palomar Hotel”, for example, use the same building blocks of guitar (including acoustic guitar and banjo) and percussion to add characterisation to the score rather than just wallpapering the movie in high-adrenaline rock. The final two tracks are also worth mentioning. They are (relatively) low-key and are starkly different from what’s gone before. “Grandaddy” in particular, with it’s use of strings almost sounds from a different score except for the bed of meandering electric guitars that reminds us where we are. Perhaps these tracks would not have stood out so much had the main score been more conventional? But the final track reminds me too much of John Murphy’s 28 Days Later to keep me rooted in Wandmacher’s universe right to the last bars of the score.

This score is really difficult to listen to all the way through in one sitting. Your head will beg for some respite. However, this score is ripe for picking out a good half a dozen choice rock tracks for your portable music player. You’re not going to miss any subtle thematic developments by doing this (though there is the hint of a recurring theme of 5 descending notes on guitar heard in “Milton” that does re-appear again later in the score) but you are going to have some good tracks to break up the orchestral score tracks you’ll be listening to with your player on “shuffle”. And that can’t be bad.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  1. Full Frontal Shotgun (1:24)
  2. Milton (2:02)
  3. The Accountant (2:20)
  4. Palomar Motel (1:19)
  5. The Iron Godkiller (1:27)
  6. Burning Memories (2:03)
  7. Checking Out The Hard Way (1:56)
  8. Piper Rides Shotgun (1:37)
  9. The Bridge (3:09)
  10. Good Little Follower (1:39)
  11. Let’s Go For A Ride (2:00)
  12. Eyes Wide (1:01)
  13. Revolutions Per Minute (2:47)
  14. I Never Get Curious (1:43)
  15. A Door That Can’t Be Closed (1:04)
  16. Road Raging (1:50)
  17. Webster (1:06)
  18. Milton’s Backstory (1:26)
  19. All You See (2:14)
  20. Mass vs. Acceleration (2:14)
  21. Chevelle (1:13)
  22. Walking Contradiction (1:18)
  23. Roadblock (2:02)
  24. G-Man (1:20)
  25. Redline (2:40)
  26. Say Thank You Or She Dies (4:57)
  27. Not of This Earth (4:31)
  28. Grandaddy (3:46)
  29. I’ll Have That Beer (1:38)

Running Time: 60:00

Lakeshore Records (2011)

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