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Saturday, May 08, 2010


The Runestone
Music by David Newman
Perseverance Records PRD 029 (US)
43 Tracks 72:55 mins

Limited to just 1200 copies, Perseverance Records have released an early David Newman score for Willard Carroll's 1990 man in a monster suit film, The Runestone. Newman has of course gone on to bigger and better things, but he got his start in low budget horror fare such as this, Critters, The Kindred and My Demon Lover.
Despite the low budget, apparently the division of music between orchestral and electronic was an artistic decision; one that, in hindsight, has majorly backfired. For, the electronic tracks, of which there are many in this 43 track CD, just sound very dated. In any case, regular visitors to this site will know what I think of electronic music of this period. Truth is, within the confines of all this album, there is a better album trying to get out and, if you programme your CD player for tracks 2,3,8,12,13,16,20,21,25,28,32,33,34, and 37-43, you'll see what I mean. So, for the purposes of this review, I will concentrate on the orchestral tracks alone (although many of these do have electronic elements), starting with track 2, "Main Title/Discovery," which actually starts out electronically, but then orchestra combines with the synths to take the 7-note main theme mysteriously onward to its conclusion. This theme is virtually an ever present in the score and is very reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's work on the likes of The Omen and Secret of Nimh, as well as James Horner's music for similar low-budget productions like Humanoids from the Deep. The following "The Runestone Travels" presents an uptempo and powerful reading of the theme, with horns, brass and strings variously taking the lead. "What Do You Want?" opens fatefully, before Goldsmith-like stabbing strings, allied to the main theme, take it to its conclusion. They reappear at the start of "No Turning Back - Part 2/What the Hell was That?," before electronics take over. The following track, "Second Killing," presents more Goldsmithian action, reminiscent of his great Alien score, and this time combines electronics and orchestra, in the style of that great composer, whilst also calling on Newman's main theme.
The Goldsmith influence continues in "Martin Grabs Marla," with its powerful horns-lead opening, but unfortunately the electronics take over again. "Marla Escapes Fenrir" opens tensely, again combining orchestra and synths, before doom-laden horns lead the orchestra furiously onwards towards its savage conclusion, where a brief electronic coda threatens to spoil things. "Heavy Petting" follows, presenting a little calm after the storm, with string writing reminiscent of Goldsmith's Poltergeist scores, but even this ends on a sinister note.
Another exciting action rendering of the main theme, for both orchestra and electronics, features in "To the Mine," and "Entering Society" continues in the same vein. "Fenrir vs. Officer Newman"( an on-screen cameo by the composer), the first of a trilogy of action tracks, builds to a furious conclusion, with electronics opening "Battle: Round One," before the orchestra kicks in, everything coming to a head in the furious "Fenrir is Held Back."
There's a surprisingly tranquil moment of beauty in "That's Enough," the first in a series of 7 tracks that conclude the score, with the following "Fenrir Reigns Terror" opening suspensefully before more powerful action writing takes over. A dissonant opening to "Jacob Gets the Axe/Sigvaldson and Fenrir Reunited," leads to more suspense and then another bout of furious action. "Jacob Brings the Axe" continues at breakneck speed, and there are more fireworks in "Final Battle" and "They Kill Fenrir," with things winding down to a conclusion in "Final Scene." "End Credits" reprises the calm of "That's Enough," before the main theme, in opening mysterious form takes us to an ominous conclusion.
So, ignoring the purely electronic tracks, what we have here is a score that owes a lot to Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner but, if you accept this, and especially if you like their music of this period, you''ll have a good time listening to some genuinely exciting action writing. I'm just pleased that Newman, like Horner, left the Goldsmithisms behind and went on to find his own voice.
Accompanying the disc is a splendid 20-page booklet, featuring Daniel Schweiger's detailed notes on the film and its music, with contributions throughout by director Carroll and composer Newman, all lavishly illustrated with numerous colour stills from the film; and, at the very end of the booklet, there's a fascinating account by Perseverance's own Robin Esterhammer on the trials of actually getting this release out there. With dedicated individuals like Rob, the preservation of our film music heritage is in good hands. Order your copy of the album from