What with Waxwork's release of Chopping Mall, and now Terror Vision putting out Not of This Earth, could some light finally be getting cast on Chuck Cirino? The man's never gotten the fan service the likes of which were granted to his '80s synthesizer peers like John Carpenter, even though Cirino's music makes just as effective use of minimal instrumentation.
A solid part of that may be due to the fact that while Cirino's scores are minimal and creepy, they're not usually for high-profile films. The man's done an awful lot of Syfy films, and despite the perfection in Not of This Earth, Chopping Mall, and even Return of Swamp Thing or 976-EVIL II, it's difficult to mention that the composer has also done films like Camel Spiders or MegaConda.
Cirino, despite working all of this on a synthesizer, does an effective job of keeping Not of This Earth's score from being purely science fiction. Using elements of Morricone's spaghetti western work, as well as the finest pipe-organ classic horror, mixed with the expected '80s synthesizer chords, the composer keeps the music fresh and interesting.
The main title theme introduces a melody that Cirino will revisit throughout his score – it's creepy and very otherworldly, but also just tags the very tail end of '80s new wave dance. Coming Home/Scruffy reworks the theme in an even more minor key, adding in mellotronic waves and pounding kettle drums to drive home the disturbing nature, while Nadine's Basement Trip goes a different route, phasing everything into a wash before layering a very Morricone-esque sparse guitar over it.
A Pound of Flesh and Driving Mr. Johnson do an excellent job of showing off what Cirino really does best, however. These two tracks present the composer's knack for high-energy chase music, which is always something that gets the heart rate up and going. The former builds, falls, and rises several times as it goes along, dramatically ratcheting the tension with each iteration, whereas the latter is a chase theme of classic components. The high end that taps along in the background, like a ticking clock, along with a throbbing bassline – absolutely stellar stuff.
Cirino's The Terror Rhapsody might be the album's highlight. It's disturbing, slightly chintzy, and uses a theremin to really up the tension before it goes into a pipe organ solo, which in turn crescendos into a bass-laden synthesizer. For a piece that's less than two minutes in length, it really pulls out all the stops, and one wishes it was longer.
All told, this is exactly the score every fan of '80s sci-fi could hope for, and it's wonderful that Terror Vision has seen fit to get it properly released. You can snag it digitally from the label's Bandcamp, or procure for yourself one of several vinyl variants, which will net you liner notes by the composer and director Jim Wynorski.
NOT OF THIS EARTH (1988) / COMPOSER: CHUCK CIRINO / LABEL: TERROR VISION / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW