Sound: The soundtrack for the latest edition of Saw follows in the tradition of the franchise's past releases, with a flurry of today's metal artists lending their hardest/creepiest material to the playlist. The problem this time around, however, is that there isn't the usual heavy-hitters included. With Saw II, the accompanying soundtrack had the likes of Marilyn Manson, Queens of The Stone Age, and even Buckethead -- some extremely big names who can instantly create a mood with one riff. The follow-up Saw III didn't disappoint either, with everyone from Lamb Of God to Slayer (you don't get much better that) on the soundtrack. While the music from Saw IV isn't bad by any means, it certainly does feel like a step down. You get a few iconic artists, but most of the songs come from newer bands that aren't yet in the same league as Lamb Of God or Slayer.
The soundtrack for Saw IV begins with Nitzer Ebb's Payroll, which has a nice grooving bass line that sounds similar to Korn's early days. It makes for a great start, but it doesn't draw you in quite enough. Drowning Pool's Shame fare a bit better, thanks in large part to the incredible vocal talent of Ryan McCombs, who seems to channel Layne Staley at times. Avenged Sevenfold's Eternal Rest and Ministry's Life Is Good brings a grittier, distorted sound to the mix, and it's exactly what a film like Saw IV needs to maintain the eerie vibe you get visually.
Some of the song choices just didn't match what you might expect from a horror flick, with Saosin and Nikki Sixx's newest venture SIXX: AM being the main offenders. Both are very talented bands, but the songs they chose for the album didn't really flow with the rest of the playlist. Saosin delivers fantastic guitar work and SIXX: AM vocalist James Michael has an absolutely beautiful voice (perhaps too beautiful for this soundtrack), but the 2 bands are almost too seamless. The soundtrack really needs a little bit of danger behind it, and Saosin and SIXX: AM just felt too safe.
Industrial metal veteran Skinny Puppy makes an appearance with the song Spasmolytic, which is just plain eerie. Rather than vocals, there is a disturbing vocal sample running over a mid-tempo industrial groove. If Spasmolytic is any indication of what else they could do with the horror film genre, Skinny Puppy could have probably scored the entire film successfully. The heavy presence by industrial bands does carry the CD, although it would have been nice to have a bit more traditional metal added to the mix. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrical content is generally of a darker nature, as should be expected for a horror film. Avenged Sevenfold's Eternal Rest is a great example, with lyrics like, Dark in their hearts; I can feel it burn inside of me; Tormented young with no souls, haunting me. For Saw IV, to not have lyrical talk about death or haunting would probably be the biggest disappointment, and thankfully there is a dark theme running through most of the playlist. // 8
Overall Impression: If you're a fan of insanely amazing guitar work, check out the track Crossing The Rubicon by The Human Abstract. It's got an incredible guitar intro that deserves to show up on some future edition of Guitar Hero. Once again, it doesn't really feel like a horror film song, but it is musically one of the most impressive tracks among the 19 songs featured on Saw IV.
Not to say that there aren't talented bands on the soundtrack, but it does seem there might have been a smaller budget for Saw IV. Because there aren't any Slayer or Marilyn Manson tracks, it is not going to be an immediate draw for some. Of the 19 tracks, some accurately convey the creepy feel of the film and some are just so-so, generic songs -- and that inconsistency results in a less-than-perfect soundtrack. // 7