Review Summary: A fresh take on a cult classic film’s soundtrack.
As we all know, Tim Burton has the uncanny ability to make anything, including a sacred Christian holiday…well, creepy. The blending of topics so foreign to each other (Christmas and Halloween) made for a wholesomely original movie that was, and still is, deserving of high acclaim. The original soundtrack stemming from the storyline was equally as intriguing, and might even be considered an essential component of The Nightmare Before Christmas
experience. In 2008, a wide variety of modern artists collaborated to redefine that experience on an album called Nightmare Revisted
. This take on the soundtrack has a decidedly rock-oriented nature, featuring acts like Korn, Rise Against, and Marilyn Manson. However, there is still a great deal of variety across genres for listeners to digest. From the pop-sensibility of The All-American Rejects and The Plain White T’s to the authentically Japanese band, Yoshida Brothers, Nightmare Revisited
is quite the eclectic experience; one that also provides a fresh take on the movie’s celebrated classic soundtrack.
The soundtrack begins and ends with brief instrumental tracks, “Overture” by DeVotchKa and “End Title” by The Album Leaf. Each of these instrumentals are followed or preceded by Danny Elfman’s narrations that effectively introduce and conclude the experience. Of course, the main focus of Nightmare Revisited
is on what happens in between. The first true “cover song” comes in the form of Marilyn Manson’s “This Is Halloween.” The song is meant to sound ominous and sinister, so who better to cover the song than the most disturbed, creepy man in the world of music? When all is said and done, he was likely the best choice to sing the song, and it shows with what is most likely the strongest track on the album. In fact, most of Nightmare Revisited
’s highlights come via the “rockers”, which brings us to Rise Against’s rendition of “Making Christmass.” Tim McIlrath’s vocals work very well with the frantic pace of the song, creating another definite highlight. Only one other band comes to mind that could have outdone Rise Against, and that is System of a Down. One could easily picture Daron Malakian screeching out the higher pitched portion of the chorus whilst going nuts on the guitars, all the while having Serj man the main vocal duties. With that said, Rise Against is still an excellent choice for the style of the song, and “Making Christmass” is one of the strongest contributions on the record. Another memorable performance comes by way of Korn’s “Kidnap the Sandy Claws”, which was also the last song the band recorded before entering their hiatus. The song’s quick, punchy, and slightly irate tone fits Korn’s personality ideally and helps Nightmare Revisited
keep that rock-oriented feel that is contains from the start.
Even though the heavier tracks tend to be the highlights of the soundtrack, there is still a wide variety of other pleasing covers. At the top of that list may very well be “Town Meeting Song”, an 8:56 epic that experiments with Pink-Floyd psychedelic rock along with full-on, Broadway theatrics. The track commences with an eerie synthesizer, eventually focusing in on a thunderous drum beat. Tim DeLaughter, the musical director and lead vocalist, sounds as tortured and focused as ever. However, the song changes gears fast and it soon becomes much more optimistic and cheery. Needless to say, “Town Meeting Song” is a really weird
experience, but one that is engaging/intriguing at the same time. Both The All-American Rejects and The Plain White T’s contribute to Nightmare Revisited
, and their respective songs “Jack’s Lament” and “Poor Jack” really show each vocalist’s knack for playing the part of Jack Skellington (or at least “becoming the character” in a vocal sense). Perhaps the most pleasant surprise is The Yoshida Brothers’ “Nabbed.” The track starts slowly and quickly increases in pace, before settling for the quirky but catchy strumming of the “shamisen”, a three stringed Japanese guitar-like instrument without frets. The song also has an almost danceable techno backbeat, making “Nabbed” one of the most enjoyable tracks found here. The Shiny Toy Guns also make an appearance with the brief “Finale/Reprise”, which showcases the band in their element with heavily electronic music that is also atmospheric and somewhat bizarre. This also serves as an effective outro to the entire album, as the ensuing two tracks consist simply of Elfman’s narration and an instrumental track.
Despite all of the extremely strong tracks on Nightmare Revisited
, there are also a few covers that fail to impress. Amy Lee’s performance of “Sally’s Song” is not nearly as good as it could be, especially considering that the concept of the soundtrack is right down her alley. The main reason for disappointment can be traced to Lee’s vocals. She doesn’t push her limit like we have seen her do so many times, and at times she even sounds bored. Part of this is the nature of the song, which isn’t meant to go “over the top”, but Lee doesn’t strike a chord with the listener like most of the artists on this soundtrack do. In general, “Sally’s Song” doesn’t hold a candle to what we all know Amy Lee is capable of. “What’s This” by Flyleaf is another let down, as Lacey Mosley sounds equally as annoying as she does uninspired. The song drones on and manages to feel too long, even at a brief 3:20. Other unimpressive contributions include The Vitamin String Quartet’s “Jack and Sally Montage”, Sparklehorse’s “Jack’s Obsession”, and Rjd2’s “Christmas Eve Montage”, none of which add anything to the storyline or the mood of the album.
As a whole, though, Nightmare Revisited
in an outstanding collection of cover songs that do justice to Tim Burton’s 1993 classic film. The best songs are so good that they nearly redefine the soundtrack, while the majority of the other songs manage to (at the very least) maintain the quality of the original Nightmare Before Christmas
soundtrack. There are a few moments where contributing artists drop the ball, but for the most part, the selection of covering bands on Nightmare Revisited
is superb, and some of them far exceed expectations. Thus, Nightmare Revisted
is a quality soundtrack that can be played and thoroughly enjoyed at any time of year, whether it be Halloween, Christmas, or any time in between.