CD Review by Gregory S. Burkart
Let me preface this review by stating up front that I have yet to experience Dario Argento's endlessly-belated third installment of the Three Mothers film series. If you're reading these words, chances are pretty good you already know plenty about Argento, his career highs and lows, and the vehemently strong (and sometimes just plain whiny) reactions his films elicit from fans and detractors alike, so I won't waste your time with backstory... although there's plenty of that to be found on this site if you need it.
Suffice to say I've taken pains to separate any preconceived notions attached to The Third Mother (aka The Mother Of Tears) from my appreciation of the newly-released score (as of this writing, only available as a fairly pricey Italian CD import) from Goblin founder and legendary composer Claudio Simonetti... so regardless of what Dario may or may not have unleashed upon horror fans with his latest, I can say with unvarnished honesty that this is hands-down one of the coolest scores released this year, genre or otherwise, and ranks among the artist's finest work to date.
While comparisons to Goblin are inevitable when appraising a Simonetti project, don't go into this one expecting a retread of the audacious, career-defining score for Suspiria ? that approach was already abandoned by the second chapter of the series, with Keith Emerson's more traditionally composed but equally bombastic score for Inferno. If anything, Third Mother bears more of a kinship with Emerson's approach than with ?classic? Goblin... but that's still not sufficient to describe such an ambitious undertaking, and a radical departure from the artist's previous body of work.
To begin with, I might suggest that this is probably Simonetti's most ?Hollywood? score to date, but before you cringe at that thought, bear in mind that I'm not referencing the paint-by-numbers crap that pervades so many horror scores coming out of the big studios lately. We're talking Old School here, and by that I mean the intimate, in-your-face analog flavor of '70s Gothic horror icons. Simonetti cites Jerry Goldsmith, Carl Orff and Bernard Herrmann among his myriad influences for this score, and he wears them all proudly. Case in point: try to listen to the opening track without thinking of Goldsmith's Oscar-winning black mass strains from The Omen.
The album is replete with brash, overblown and operatic themes, all painted in broad musical strokes, booming with timpani and cymbals the size of tractor tires. Tortured, shrieking choral sections range from mezzo wails (reminiscent of Phenomena) to Gyuto monk-style chanting. Add to that some Middle Eastern flourishes, whispered Latin phrases, and a tapestry of electronics that hearken back to '80s-era Goblin.
Sampled orchestral elements are interwoven with studio-recorded instruments ? likely not as a budgetary consideration, but rather to lend a surreal, unnatural touch to the rhythmic sections (mainly staccato cellos and brass, some male vocals) while retaining an organic feel for the foreground elements (violin, woodwind, and female vocals). It really shouldn't work, but it does. Sampling aside, synths are also used both for ambient effect and to supply pulsing arpeggios and analog percussion, though they never overwhelm the organic elements or lapse too heavily into the pure techno that Simonetti employed on Dario's earlier film The Card Player.
Even Simonetti's popular Metal outfit Daemonia is on hand for the closing track, ?(She's) The Mother Of Tears,? with a suitably depraved vocal assist from Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth, who does his best turn in years, rendering the finest COF track the band never actually made. Me, I'd definitely pony up the scratch for an album-length Dani-Daemonia collaboration.
To further catalog the themes, influences and musical elements in Third Mother's sonic palette would be an injustice to the mind-blowing experience of listing to these 46 tracks in one sitting. Yes, you read that correctly ? there's a whopping 46 titles spanning the 75-minute length of this CD. Instead of adhering to the usual album-like structure, this soundtrack is assembled as an end-to-end collection of all music cues from the film, short or long (a handful are less than 30 seconds), strung tightly together with no perceivable breaks or lulls. The overall effect of this approach is that of continual sonic bombardment, with all emotional peaks and valleys concentrated into one- to two-minute bursts, each of which achieving its goal of totally creeping you out, then fading effortlessly into the next one, often crossing the index line as it goes. It's exhausting, but in a roller-coaster sort of way, with the associated endorphine rush of exhilaration. Which would explain why I started the ride over again the instant the final track had zeroed out.
As I said at the top, I have no idea what to expect from this film, and I'd prefer to steer clear of any excess critical baggage in that area. Not even a superb score such as this one can save a poor film, if The Third Mother turns out to be a disappointment. But as a discrete work of art, this album is a must-have for Simonetti/Goblin fans, connoisseurs of Gothic Rock in the purest sense, or just anyone looking for a diabolically thrilling sonic experience.