Review Summary: Brains! Brains!
Have you ever gotten a feeling where you just don’t feel it? Where you understand that to a point it doesn’t work, yet there are those small glimpses of what you’re looking for? Michael Nyman’s and Damon Albarn’s albatross upon this soundtrack is creating an eerie sound that is reminiscent of the Civil War Era. Not quite the easiest task in any stretch of the mind. Ravenous was quite the underrated and obscure movie when it was released. Its tale of a Civil War deserter who soon finds out where he’s been outpost is being inhabited by a few cannibals. Much of the movie is set at Fort Spencer and the backwoods of those times. The eeriness cannot be more expressed with the multitude of odd instruments on any soundtrack ranging from the banjo, harp, and flute. The setting of the entire album works, but the majority of it feels off if you’re put off by the first few tracks. Oddly enough if you’re midly interested it does work with perfection.
Thus, this cannibalistic eerie atmosphere that we must be accustomed too will either work for the listener to great success or just feel downright wrong. If you are the latter there are a few tracks that exert what you’ve been thriving for. What makes this soundtrack so interesting is the fact the subject matter is so severely overlooked. Cannibalism is quite a disgusting and inhumane act, yet this soundtrack for all of its problems is incredibly original. It uses a different approach than conventional movie soundtracks, which is a saving grace. Albarn’s and Nyman’s decision at attempting to create such a weird, obscure, strange atmosphere is only enhanced by your knowledge of the subject matter. If you enter with open ears, with no knowledge of what the soundtrack is pertaining towards, then you will leave feeling severely unimpressed.
The closest comprehension I can give you with this movie is the fantastic classic ‘Deliverance’. Not only are they both extremely strange, both containing horrific villains with the realization of how vulnerable man is. Showing that in any state or time period we are susceptible to anything. The album thrives on its occurrence of massive un-conventional forms of music. ‘Ravenous’ builds upon it whilst keeping its strange mood. For a horror movie, the soundtrack fits perfectly – extremely indecent, unexpected, and a major oddity. “Hail Columbia” enters the soundtrack with the general period music – Civil War Army music with the entrance of a banjo and violin halfway through the track. This is an obvious indication of what is to come. And if you dislike it already, you probably will hate it even more.
“Boyd’s Journey” takes upon itself to bring the banjo to a massive downward spiral of darkness and eeriness with the reliance of only 2 strings. Even with the bassoon and violin to elevate the mood, it begins to be clearly evident where the soundtrack is headed; track by track it gets moodier and more peculiar. “Welcome To Fort Spencer” and “Noises Off” feels like a drunken quartet of musicians trying to keep in sync with each other, welcomed additions. The greatest inhibitors of what Albarn and Nyman were trying to create go to “Colquhoun’s Story”, “The Cave”, “Trek To The Cave” and “‘Let’s Go Kill That Bastard’”. “Colquhoun’s Story” paces itself amazingly slow with the creeping banjo, imploring the use of 3 strings by the end of the soundtrack we’re introduced to haunting violins. “Trek To The Cave” begins with a haunting rendition of violins until a banjo is brought in – almost a comedic style of musicianship at this point. Much like the movie, the themes of dark horror are elevated with dark comedic scenes. What works so undoubtedly well with “Trek To The Cave” is the use of instruments – violins, flutes, banjo, bassoon, all with great perfection. It increases the magnitude and scope of the track itself as if you yourself are trekking through those woods – much mystery, suspense, and tension. “The Cave”, much like “Colquhoun’s Story creeps with massive stealth, only to widen its scope as the minutes head towards the finish line with booming background drums, back and forth violins, and low bassoon. Even the hilarious output of “Run”, sounding like an old country tune, with yelps of “woohoo”. Lastly, “’Let’s Go Kill That Bastard’” is memorable in its tone of drumming and suspenseful upbringings. Every jolt of drumming increase and violin crescendo allows the song to tighten its grip and its sudden realization of hostility – a magnificent 4 minutes, a clear best on the album.
You’ll find yourself asking yourself more questions as the album goes on, but with repeated listens, you will understand why they choose those types of approaches with each track. The peculiar, unrelenting, eeriness within this soundtrack is extremely effective. Not only is it increasingly built track by track, but the sudden surprises with the various instruments and chaotic sequences in some tracks will have you wanting more. The horror suspense and even some dark horror comedic moments are scattered on this soundtrack. This is really based on taste, you will know by the first quarter of the album if this original style is for you.