As someone who discovered synthwave before watching a full John Carpenter film (stop booing me, I know I’m wrong), there’s something wonderfully affirming about a legend asserting his value all these decades after initially breaking ground. Hell, rediscovering all the wonderful 70s and 80s synth-based soundtracks and films has been a fantastic adult learning experience, but it’s Carpenter’s work in particular that has stood the test of time – both in terms of influence and fun. Even his second-tier classics like They Live and Big Trouble in Little China feel fresh and enlivened rather than dated.
That said, this isn’t a critical analysis of Carpenter’s filmography; it’s supposed to be an evaluation of his third Lost Themes record. However, it’s exactly this notion of the past that informs how and why Carpenter’s present is so invigorating and excellent.
The aspects people loved about his soundtracks are here in spades: evocative soundscapes, sonic suspense, and a bit of almost metallic fun are put on full display. Plus, I can’t help but see Carpenter’s influence on synthwave played out in this excellent record – it’s like a funhouse mirror of a legend playing in the same sandbox as his acolytes. The fact that the “band” is rounded out by his son, Cody, and Daniel Davies helps explain how these songs feel fuller and warmer than a lot of solo material.
On this third Lost Themes outing, the horror side of the spectrum is showcased wonderfully. For those, like me, who love to conjure up images with songs, Alive After Death is an undead dream. Each song carries a specific mood or ambience that easily bring a smile to the face of synth and horror fans. The zombie rave of “The Dead Walk,” the pulsing suspense of “Weeping Ghost,” and the eerie gothic undertones of “Vampire’s Touch” all coalesce into a gorgeous electronic adventure. There’s the sense that Carpenter is revelling in the synth revival, more than happy to put his spin on a sound influenced by his work.
Hell, I’d go out on a limb and say some of the songs on here are every bit the equal to, if not superior, to his most classic musical works. You don’t normally see ‘classics’ from an artist in their 70s, but Alive After Death is a wonderful showcase for a long and storied (and continuing) career.
You can order the LP at this location.