When Richard Band composed and scored the first Puppet Master film, he had already been capitalizing on the horror movie rush of the Eighties for nearly a decade, having already highlighted his career with such classic horror film scores as Parasite, The House On Sorority Row, Re-Animator, Ghoulies, Troll and TerrorVision.
This project was peculiar for him, having scored most of his work up until that point with full, live orchestras. There wasn’t space in the budget for live players, so this creation, like Frankenstein’s Monster, took on a life of it’s own with a hauntingly arranged score that seamlessly sewed together bits of electronic synth, small group live arrangements, and (presumably) found sounds. The result of stitching these incongruous parts to create a whole, however, produced a monster that was both menacing and beautiful in its themes and an absolute pleasure to listen to.
Richard Band understands pacing better than most film composers and that skill is on full display on the Puppet Master score, for an album that clocks in at approximately the Forty-minute mark, there is a full suite of dynamic music with magical properties throughout. Starting out with a 3/4 Waltz with a simple theme in a minor key the score brings you to a place that is both creepy and mischievous. If you’ve seen the film, you will undoubtedly have flashbacks to it, as the audio cues are all present and incredibly well executed within the soundtrack to create a listening experience that is as immersive as the viewing experience.
The synth parts of the soundtrack never strike a discordant note, and never leave the listener feeling as though they’ve switched experiences. It is a contiguous aural landscape that tickles your earholes with deep, dark, and scary bass synths bubbling up through the aether of live strings and percussion. Electronic keys play familiar melodies over a death waltz of sinister sounds designed to keep you firmly planted on the edge of your seat.
Although perhaps not my “all-time favorite” Richard Band score, it is easily the most identifiable score he has ever created. You can NOT watch Puppet Master without thinking about his score any more than you could listen to this score and not see the film play out in your mind’s eye.
You may wonder why a composer with the credentials that Richard Band had would even take on a project that did not have the budget to keep him working in his accustomed level of accomodation, and you would find the answer in the poster billing with the Director’s name: Charles Band. This was one of his brother’s film projects, and he clearly did his brother a solid. It is obvious throughout the playtime of this score, that no matter how terrifying the buzz saw percussion sounds or how eerily mystical the chimes dancing through the melody are, this score was a labor of love. Sacrifices were made, and it created something terribly personal and beautifully accessible.
The vinyl record I reviewed was pressed on black/white lightweight vinyl. Not audiophile weight, but a solid sounding pressing overall with limited surface noise.