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Nightbreed (1990)
Music Composed by Danny Elfman
Conducted by Shirley Walker
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek and Shirley Walker
Vocal Performances by The L.A. Master Chorale
Recorded by Bobby Fernandez and Shawn Murphy / Mixed by Shawn Murphy
Album Produced by Danny Elfman and Steve Bartek

Label (Catalogue): MCA Records, (MCAD-8037)
Availability: Out of print
Purchasing options: Check secondary market


"Once again it was time for me to stretch out...Combining dark/fun/sweet/tribal all into one. The great joy in the score for me, other than working for Clive Barker, was being able to use the children's voices and a whole slew of ethnic drums and instruments together with an orchestra, in an attempt to bring a unique musical tone to the film." - Danny Elfman



When I listen to Nightbreed, I am almost immediately reminded of the classic children's story "Where The Wild Things Are" By Maurice Sendak. Equal parts dreamy magic and foreboding monstrous danger, Nightbreed cleverly mixes soothing ethnic percussion, woody riffs and calming choir (both adult and children). Ultimately resulting into a score fully capable of transporting you through visceral action and stunning beauty.

Nightbreed, to those who have not seen the movie, is a Clive Barker story (originally titled Cabal) and film which was left to die by 20th Century Fox in theaters. While not a typical Barker exploration of sex and it's perversions through violence, it attempts to blur the line between who the real monsters in our world are. Largely, it is an allegory for racism, acceptance and realizing one's self. It is not without it's limitations, but it is ambitious beyond it's monetary capabilities (typical of Barker) and sports a cooly evil performance from master of bizarre David Cronenberg.

What Danny's score does is supplant Barker's themes. The Nightbreed are alarming disfigurations and will act violently if provoked. But deep within their physical shells are hearts of fear without peace. "The Initiation" beautifully scores their traditions that they have kept hidden from the world. It is quiet, with soft metallic clangs and an assortment of grooves with softer strings.

The terror ("Dream") is loud and fully realized through orchestral bombast and choir. Just when we believe we have pulled through the terror, we are whisked into a wonderfully fun dance ("Carnival Underground") with a light flute and tambourines. Deep timpani and brass recycle the Nightbreed theme. The choir, always alternating between adults and children, sing along "La, La, Lah, Lah...". "Into Midian" is a familiar Elfmanesque cue. We get a strong sense of movement (reminding of "Christmas Eve Montage" from The Nightmare Before Christmas). We only truly get a sense of Clive Barker's horror film with "Meat For The Beast". Pulsating drums and rich brass with a random shot from the shakhauchi (James Horner take note of word: random).

"Scalping Time" and "Rachel's Oratory" are very light tracks (contrary to what "scalping" may conjure in your mind!). "Party In The Past" returns us to the brass and choir blasts of "Meat For The Beast" and the "Main Titles". "Uh-Oh Decker" consists of some strings that sound remarkably similiar to Henry Manfredini's Friday The 13th scores. "Boone Gets A Taste" alludes to Edward Scissorhands with it's choir. The percussion returns us again to "Meat For The Beast" making it the recurring cue for danger in the film as the Nightbreed attack another unwilling victim in their Canadian cemetary. "Breed Love" is angelic compared to the chaos of "Mayhem In Midian" which bashes us over the head with clangs and loud orchestral peaks. "Farewell" gives us the dreamy music to send us off - that is until the music returns once more to scare us with "2nd Chance". The "End Credits" are pleasing as they provide a nice suite of cues and themes. (If you listen carefully, you can hear Danny tip his hand at the Mars Attacks! "Main Titles".)

When I first bought Nightbreed a few years ago, I actually did not listen to it quite frequently. But it's use of percussion, choir and full orchestral sound have made me come to appreciate it. It now frequents my CD player and will definitely be something I listen to when I require being transported into another state. Which is Nightbreed's greatest quality. Something that is rare. It possesses the magic to bring out not the monster - but the wild and fantastical elements in someone.



Shirley Walker wrote additional cues for the films climax and received an onscreen credit.


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Click for enlarged CD artwork
Click cover to enlarge
01. Main Titles (2:40)
02. Dream (1:03)
03. Carnival Underground (3:23)
04. Into Midian (2:31)
05. Meat For The Beast (2:10)
06. Resurrection Suite (3:37)
07. Boone Transforms (:56)
08. The Initiation (2:50)
09. Scalping Time (1:54)
10. Rachel's Oratory (1:04)
11. Party In The Past (:51)
12. Poor Babette (1:41)
13. Uh-Oh Decker (1:39)
14. "Then Don't Say It!" (1:28)
15. Boone Gets A Taste (2:44)
16. Breed Love (1:52)
17. Mayhem In Midian (1:43)
18. Baphomet's Chamber (2:01)
19. Farewell (:59)
20. 2nd Chance (1:34)
21. End Credits (4:33)
22. Country Skin (4:15)
Performed by Michael Stanton

Total Time: 46:46

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