Saw IV: Original Soundtrack


Reviewed by Gregory S. Burkart
On these pages you're likely going to encounter a lot of bellyaching from your humble reviewer about the words ?Music From and Inspired By [insert film title here].? This seemingly innocent cluster of syllables ranks at the very bottom of the list of phrases I want to see near the title of a soundtrack album - just beneath the words ?Kenny Loggins? or ?The New American Orchestra.? But alas, beneath the CD title art for Saw IV ? with its oh-so-clever arrangements of bodily fluids and diabolically misused surgical implements - was that phrase, the most tortuous device of all, perched there in its shame.

As I've mentioned before, this text signals a blatantly commercial attempt to crowbar a bunch of trendy alterna-hits from this month's most-downloaded acts into a loose compilation album ? a move that reflects little of the mood, tone or theme of the film concerned, but tells you a lot about the monetary motivations of the record labels involved ? reinforced by the fact that only one of these 19 tracks actually accompanies the film itself.

Nine Inch Nails alum Charlie Clouser seems to be getting rooked a lot lately by this dubious strategy, as his fine score for Resident Evil: Extinction was all but reduced to easily-digestible 45-second soundbites to make room for a crapload of emo and pop-punk foolishness... and he's back on the short end again for this album as well, which is especially egregious given how well his metallic, percussive soundscapes suit the rusty, industrial murder technology that is the series' trademark. Granted, any song by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus could conceivably be used to torture someone to the brink of madness, but that's probably not the thematic connection the filmmakers had in mind.

Another bad omen was my discovery that the ?Album Only? option was locked in for this one on iTunes, which smells like a contractual obligation with the label that prohibits listeners from cherry-picking the best cuts and tossing the rest ? which most of you would be doing if you could, as there's not too many cherries worth picking on this here tree. Sure, there's talent on hand, but some of these choices are just wrong on every level.

After pushing Clouser's work off the table (only the final track ?Just Begun? remains of his original score), the producers at least had the sense to include a sampling of old-school industrial and electronic acts to take up some of the slack: Skinny Puppy and Nitzer Ebb make appearances in remixed form, the former via a Deftones cutup of ?Spasmolytic? that SP fans will recall from the ?Remix Dys Temper? collection, and Ebb's brand-new release ?Payroll? flips the duo's trademark electro-martial sound into something decidedly hip-hop in flavor (which actually works pretty well for them). Ministry's on hand too, with ?Life Is Good? from their reportedly final release The Last Sucker... but sadly it's not one of their best tracks (?Let's Go? from the same album would have fit much better), and to make matters painfully worse, the naughty words are blanked out. So we have a film series where people are rigged to explode unless they cut off and eat their own naughty bits, but the soundtrack has been rendered kid-friendly? What the [expletive deleted]?

The next generation of rivetheads is also represented, albeit in a less impressive fashion. Italian aggro-dance pros Dope Stars, Inc contribute the manic ?Beatcrusher? (from new release Gigahearts), and cult favorite Emilie Autumn employs overdriven violin to accompany overdriven vocals on the Siouxsie-esque ?Dead Is The New Alive.?

On the metal front, we have mostly bitter disappointment: whereas the previous Saw compilations featured the likes of Slayer and Mastodon, this time the metal bar is held aloft by Every Time I Die's ?Werewolf,? which is quite excellent, but it falls considerably from there: Drowning Pool returns with ?Shame,? which is epic-sounding but less gritty than their Saw III contribution ?No More?; Saosin's ?Collapse? employs some impressive vocal harmonies; Avenged Sevenfold's ?Eternal Rest? is suitably brutal and technically masterful (still I can never manage to get into them), while The Red Chord serves up their usual evil brew of quick-switch time sigs and death-march vocal chants. Fueled By Fire musically declares ?Thrash Is Back,? and if that idea excites you, you'll probably like that tune. I wasn't particularly thrilled with it myself.

The rest of the songs range from imminently forgettable to hemorrhage-inducing (I couldn't even get all the way through Oxygen's ?Do You Want To Play A Game? - a childishly literal interpretation of the Saw series mindset), and seem to serve mainly to pad out the album enough to justify plunking down your 13 bucks. Worth it? Not to me, anyway.

If you're dead-set on picking this one up, I can't sign off without issuing a couple of additional warnings for soundtrack completists: first, those who opt for iTunes over physical CDs (and who don't mind the ?album only? scenario mentioned above) should note that the Clouser track is not available on the download version of the album as of this writing, and ?Dead And Gone? by The Absence, reportedly exclusive to the download version, did not appear to be available when I checked. Worse, the song ?I.V.? by the recently reunited X-Japan is not featured here at all. These sins of omission are grievous enough to merit the wrath of Jigsaw himself.