[Review] John Carpenter Further Elevates His Artistry With the Excellent ‘Lost Themes III: Alive After Death’

While many acknowledge John Carpenter for his work in film, it is equally as important to note his talent for making music. From the creepy catchiness of the Halloween theme to the ominous tones felt throughout Christine and The Fog, Carpenter displays remarkable skill in creating sonic mood. His history in scoring films eventually morphed into a desire to create for himself; one thing led to another, and the opportunity came to release his own personal material in the form of 2015’s Lost Themes.

Accompanied by his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies, the three crafted an intriguing collection of electronic music. The presentation was striking, eliciting vibes reminiscent of his films. Carpenter shared that the tracks were meant to represent a soundtrack to the movies in people’s minds. The three would follow the record up with 2016’s Lost Themes II and would collaborate together on the score for 2018’s Halloween. Now a few years later since that soundtrack, the three offer the world Lost Themes III: Alive After Death.

For much like the previous Lost Themes entries, Alive After Death makes for a superb experience of atmosphere. Each track exudes its own mood, with little repetition felt throughout. In all its technical depth, creativity, and vibrant delivery, Carpenter’s third Lost Themes installment proves to be his strongest release yet.

The opening title track begins with a somber trickle of keys; a low synth hum playing underneath. The high-pitch key playing intensifies, the tone then suddenly dropping to provide small droplets of bass. These transitions continue to play off each other, creating a hypnotic air to the composition. Towards the end, the guitar makes its way in, further adding to the synth driven concoction. “Weeping Ghost” shifts away from the tranquil flow of the previous track, laying down a consistent drum beat with a bass heavy synth. Bursts of distortion intertwine with the synthesizer, the song unleashing frenetic energy through its instrumentation. 

In these two songs alone, listeners will notice the core strengths that are present throughout Alive After Death. For one, there is an excellent balance in atmospheric presence. From the haunting progression of “Dripping Blood” to the industrial dance flavor of “Skeleton,” the record allows for an array of entertainment. In creating such balance, the trio display superb chemistry. Alive After Death contains a plethora of intricate compositions; where electronics and other instruments are layered, weave in and out of each other, capturing and presenting detailed technicality that is exciting and thought-provoking. 

More thrills come in the form of “Cemetery,” which sounds like the backdrop for an explosive action scene. The electronic rhythm slides forth to create a sensation of speed, with a ringing chime effect and heavy synth creating layers of sonic adrenaline. “Turning the Bones” uses its arrangement of electronics to create an aura of ethereal mystique; there is a duality of dark and bright tones that play off one another, offering an alluring progression through the song. 

A major appeal in each song off Alive After Death is how they capture the charm of Carpenter’s films. The excitement and spookiness found throughout his scores has always been present on other Lost Themes records, and there is no exception to this one. Each cut has a means of establishing its own world; each rhythm and melody exudes vibes one may find within works of horror and science-fiction, bringing a fantastical edge to the music. 

On a technical level, there is much taking place throughout Lost Themes III: Alive After Death – and yet – the wonder it shares is pure and simple. John Carpenter, along with the help of Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, has once again crafted another record of extraordinary intrigue. His latest collection carries forth the tradition of intricate instrumentation that oozes with feeling, while further elevating his artistry. Alive After Death is a brilliant example of how music can transport us to places beyond our imagination. 

John Carpenter’s Lost Themes III: Alive After Death releases via Sacred Bones on February 5.

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