Italian label Backwards describes Nostra Signora Delle Tenebre as “a tribute to the gloriously adventurous soundtracks of maybe somehow less glorious horror and giallo flicks,” while also “a way to celebrate a small but thriving national scene, generally labelled under the admittedly lazy banner of 'Italian occult psychedelia'.” It's an accurate description of an album that manages to be something new, while also paying tribute to the strange music which laid the groundwork for today's more outré acts.
For the most part, that results in a tribute that – while extraordinarily well done – isn't a particularly genre-bending collection. Beautiful Bunker's interpretation of L’aldilà (The Beyond) is the best example of this. Interpolating audio clips from the movie, it's a highlight reel of Fabio Frizzi's score which takes the best parts and compiles them into one seven-minute suite. It's nothing you've not heard if you're a Frizzi fan, even if well done.
It's something like Edible Woman's take on Magic & Ecstacy, from Ennio Morricone's score for The Exorcist II that seems most lazy. It's a straightforward synthesizer cover, laced with drop-D heavy metal chugging, like Sepultura covering Goblin. It's certainly heavier, but really doesn't lend anything to the original, nor do the wobbly, off-kilter synths of Lamusa's Tourist Trap, which sounds like nothing so much as Pino Donaggio's score played on a dying cassette deck.
However, even if most of the songs don't go particularly far afield, the skill with which the artists update their tracks is formidable, and there are a couple who get adventurous. Gianni Giublena Rosacroce's Incubo sulla città contaminata strips out a lot of the glossier elements of Stelvio Cipriani's original Nightmare City score, and reduces it to a sinister bassline and more sharply-edged synthesizer. Father Murphy's L’alba dei morti viventi goes even further, reducing the Dawn of the Dead theme to something almost unrecognizable from Goblin's version, with only the faint echo of a melody in the background to tie them together.
Additionally, when a band doesn't warp the music too terribly – like Jennifer Gentle's take on the Egisto Macchi library track, Chanson de la Nuit – it's still astounding to hear a psychedelic pop band really dig into the style they're attempting to ape and become absolutely unrecognizable in the process.
What really works isn't looking at all of the tracks separately, but as a glorious whole. Beginning and ending with different versions of Nuda per Satana really demonstrates how diverse a compilation this is, as well as how far afield a musician might go with this music and still remain faithful to the original's heart and soul. It really is a case of the sum being greater than the whole of its parts.
NOSTRA SIGNORA DELLE TENEBRE / COMPOSER: VARIOUS ARTISTS / LABEL: BACKWARDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW