AUDIO REVIEW: CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) / COMPOSED BY RIZ ORTOLANI / LABEL: DEATH WALTZ RECORDING COMPANY, ONE WAY STATIC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
When Death Waltz Recording Company and One Way Static announced that they'd be releasing Riz Ortolani's score for the infamous Ruggero Deodato video nasty, Cannibal Holocaust, soundtrack fans the world over went berserk, and justly so. The score's seen several releases over the past 20 years both in Europe and the United States, but it's never been available on vinyl, despite the growing desire for such an iconic score.
Well, it's now available. The track listing has no surprises, as it's the same ten tracks from every prior release.
The score is surprisingly beautiful for as brutal as the movie can be. The main theme is justly compared to Ortolani's ‘More’ from Mondo Cane, as it operates in the same big and bold, yet romantic vein. The lush strings and quiet acoustic guitar of ‘Crucified Woman’ manage to bring further beauty to the score, as well. Set against the dissonant synths of ‘Adulteress' Punishment’ or the ragtime funk of ‘Relaxing in the Savana,’ the score can seem to be hard to wrap one's head around.
What's masterful about Ortolani's score, however, is the fact that when all of these tracks are listened to together, rather than viewed as a collection of individual works, you can hear the commonalities, and it all begins to make sense. As it begins, the rhythm of ‘Savage Rite’ may be a dark bit of synthwave that could've been released yesterday, but as the strings kick in and things begin to descend into madness, you hear a more sinister take on the romantic aspects of the main theme. It's astonishing how switching to a minor chord can mean the difference between beauty and fear.
In terms of whether to get this: yes, obviously, but spend the extra money to get the deluxe edition. Sure, the cover's a little stark: just the film's logo in silver on a black background, but you get a gorgeous gatefold sleeve (if that can be used to describe an image of a woman staked to the ground), as well as a much sturdier LP on 180-gram vinyl, which is described as "brown/olive vinyl with heavy red splatter," but is better described as "jungle and blood." The standard edition, on red, looks pretty nice, especially with Graham Humphrey's cover art on the sleeve, but the deluxe edition has that as a huge poster, plus Jock's art for the stateside Mondo version as an art print.
Really, though: that's all superficial, in the most literal meaning of the term. The deluxe edition certainly looks better and feels a lot more solid, but it's the liner notes that one gets that really send the deluxe edition over the moon. Death Waltz and One Way Static have always managed to get great quotes from those involved with the film and soundtrack, but this booklet really goes all-out. The quite honest quotes from the actors in Cannibal Holocaust are appreciated, as always, but Stephen Thrower's essay on the cultural commentary of the film and how Ortolani's music comments on that is absolutely masterful.