Sound: Anti-hero Frank Castle is back with a vengeance and forced to kick a little more butt in Punisher: War Zone, the newest edition of the Marvel Comics-inspired film series. While there are some soundtracks that are wrapped tightly around the visuals they accompany, the music selected for Punisher: War Zone conveys it's message with or without a special screening. There's also been a bit of hype around this particular soundtrack, namely because some pretty big names from the metal world are attached to the project. Slayer, Slipknot, and Rob Zombie are all on the impressive roster, and not surprisingly, they are also among the highlights. Although there are a few throwaway tracks from other artists, the music on Punisher: War Zone is not as one-note as you might expect from an action movie.
Starting it all off is Rob Zombie's War Zone, which was actually inspired by and written specifically for Punisher: War Zone. While it's not necessarily the best song on the album, you do have to give Zombie credit for going the extra mile. Given his past work as a director/writer, it's cool that he continues to support other filmmakers' undertakings. For the most part War Zone is a modern-day Thunder Kiss '65, but that was a cool song in the first place. There is some creative keyboard work added in towards the end of the song, and although brief, it is one of the most melodic sections in the War Zone.
Slayer delivers Final Six, which many of you will recognize as the Grammy-winning song from Christ Illusion. While it's always a nice little twist to have Slayer included on any soundtrack, it would have been more satisfying to hear new material from Kerry King and the guys. Final Six might have earned accolades among industry insiders, but Slipknot's Psychosocial delivers the perfect amount of aggression, melody, and amazing guitar work. From the pinch harmonics to the chugging rhythm section, Slipknot's track is easily one of the strongest on the soundtrack.
After hearing the first few songs on the tracklist, it may seem that this is one soundtrack that has no intention of letting up on the distorted guitars or angry vocalists. About halfway through, however, things take a very different turn. The biggest surprise comes with Bulletproof by Kerli, an Estonian vocalist who sounds eerily like Alanis Morrisette. It's a very low-key song in comparison to Slayer, but it makes for a nice contrast. Then there are the club/dance selections, which are shockingly good. In fact, they give the metal guys a run for their money. Australia's bass/drum duo Pendulum provides Showdown, which although features very few vocals, turns into a fun, synth-driven song fit for a video game. Likewise, Justice's Genesis is an instrumental that does feel like it's been inspired by Michael Jackson's Thriller in some of the keyboard work - and it's not such a bad thing to be compared to a classic. // 8
Lyrics: Soundtracks are not always cohesive lyrically, particularly when you have an assortment of artists featured. You're going to hear some very different messages - from Slayer's chatter about half-burned corpses and funeral pyres to Kerli's desperate cry to an aloof lover - and it's likely most people will fast-forward through at least a few songs. That may have more to do with the music underneath than the lyrics, but do be prepared for a pretty interesting, eclectic mix of themes. // 8
Overall Impression: There are quite a few well-known bands that I failed to mention in the first section, and that's primarily because they delivered exactly what you might expect and kept the status quo. Seether has a catchy, melodic rock song that should please it's fans, but the track does get lost a bit against the impressive work of Slipknot or Justice. Hatebreed, although always consistent with the anger and/or aggression, is actually one of the weaker offerings. The good news is that even though not every band provides it's A-side material, Punisher: War Zone has enough peak moment that you certainly won't find yourself bored or disappointed. // 8