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CD + MP3: Punisher - War Zone, The (2008)
Review Rating:   Excellent
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December 11, 2008

Tracks / Album Length:

21 tracks / (48:59)


Composer: Michael Wandmacher

Special Notes:

Comments :    

Michael Wandmacher’s Punisher: War Zone is one of the gems of 2008 that’s slowly getting a bit more notice as the music is finally available as a CD and downloadable album via iTunes. Typical of studio marketing ploys, the song CD was first released, and the follow-up score album features 49 mins. of the 65 min. score, with a decent array of robust, brassy cues, as well as very sombre compositions meant to add a bit more psychological depth to a deeply conflicted character.

The title theme is an expected blend of grand fanfare and orchestral might, but the design is a fine integration of heavy brass, techno rhythms shared by brass and electronic instruments, and a few waves of lush strings that introduced a sense of inner torment. “The Burden,” for example, is a great example of interweaving heroism, brutality, and sadness, although “Rich in Mercy” is a more formal cue where the strings are more dominant in conveying that weight, and capturing the Punisher’s sense of isolation.

“A Pretty Face” is also indicative of Wandmacher’s sonic design that has small touches reverberating in the distance – sometimes echoing, shimmering, or caught in a circular pattern – and giving those cues an eerie dimension where some snarling menace is poised to erupt. Whether it’s orchestral modernism or subtle sound design, it’s arguably the quieter cues that stand out, conveying some of the consequences the character is unwilling to acknowledge.

Most of the cues shift between moods, so there’s few straight theme restatements, and Wandmacher’s emphasis on atmosphere gives the score an emotional grounding. “A Wish for Death” is very Barryesque with the emphasis on slow building harmonics using low brass moving towards an unresolved cresting. The action cuts are also derived from the score’s palette of orchestra and electronic sounds, and Wandmacher smoothly integrates pulses and percussive hits, as well as grungy electric guitar and buzz-saw textures in “Joyful Mayhem.”

Some cues are very short – running just under two minutes – and one wishes Wandmacher had written lengthier cues (including “Aftermath,” the CD’s final track), but the album is dramatically satisfying, and should please fans wanting a restrained approach to comic book heroes and anti-heroes where the music is more emotionally descriptive than a familiar collection of theme and action hits.

To read an interview with the composer, click HERE.


© 2009 Mark R. Hasan

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