Sunday, October 21, 2012


Blood on Satan's Claw 
Marc Wilkinson 

To all the cunts who recently purchased those Mondo reissues and immediately flipped them on E-Bay for $140: I wish you all had one neck and I had my hands around it. Of course this frustrating tendency is endemic to the same miserable fucks who watched their SunnO))) stock plummet and before that their Japanese hardcore punk. I could go on and on about how easy it was to pluck great soundtracks (and lots of not-so-great soundtracks) out of the $1 bins back in the not-so-distant day but that would only raise my blood pressure and as a sympathetic friend reminded me the other day, it's just not worth the effort. After all, the current soundtrack craze will soon join the hula hoop, the mickey mouse hat, the Beta video, the Myspace bulletin and the porno grind sample on that inevitable death march toward total obsolescence. Furthermore, there are occasionally unexpected surprises that come with such reappraisals that bring great joy to real fans. Thanks to the tireless efforts of laudable cinephiles like Jonny Trunk of Trunk Records, some soundtracks have only emerged in the past decade or so due to the commercial revival that makes such endeavors even remotely viable. Take for instance this delightful score to Piers Haggard's 1971 period piece The Blood on Satan's Claw which was entirely unreleased until Trunk lovingly corrected this terrible oversight in 2007 with a modest no-frills vinyl release (incidentally, Trunk was also the first to issue the monumental Wicker Man soundtrack back in 1998 but I'm excluding that masterpiece from consideration today because it lacks the supernatural themes of Satan's Claw and does not meet my strict criteria as a horror film). It's true that much of this record repeats the same maddening scale over and over again and when I play it in public the Thin Lizzies smirk and immediately insert their earbuds. To properly appreciate its grand satanic splendor one must remember that it was released two years prior to Jack Nietzsche's Academy Award winning score for The Exorcist and astute listeners will detect faint ancestral DNA in such songs as Fiend Discovered and especially Angel's Claw and Judge by Fireside. I hear Nietzsche himself may have stolen that infamous sound from Magma but I can't attest to that theory.  Nonetheless, something was definitely in the water back then. Australian born composer Marc Wilkinson trained under Edgar Varèse (the electronic music pioneer for whom the original specialty soundtrack label Varèse Sarabande was named in homage...this shit runs deep!) and his first collaboration with Haggard was a studied exploration of devilish notes and fiendish timbre. That descending chromatic scale that drives people nuts is the infamous tritone interval that since dark medieval times was known as the Devil's Interval and it is made all the more unsettling on this record with the use of two unusual instruments, the Ondes Mertenot and the cimbalom, which provide the "big swoops" and "very pungent sounds" that characterize Wilkinson's main motif. I'm thinking this had to have had some influence on Nietzsche's Tubular Bells. And where the fuck would we be without Tubular Bells? To put it all in perspective, remember that Argento made Goblin listen to The Exorcist as they prepared to score Deep Red. And recall that William Lustig insisted that Jay Chattaway listen to Goblin as he prepared his score for Maniac. I told you this shit runs deep, man.


Leon Holocausto said...

GREAT recommendation, Herr Dread! Did you see the issue of LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS that was devoted to BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW about two years ago? KILLER retrospective.

Ryan.N said...

thanks for posting this one as I've never heard of this one before. nice song, I like the flute or whatever that instrument is that makes that sound; do do do do do doo do do.

I'll have to see this one eventually.