AMN Reviews: Various Artists – The Body Of Horror – Music Inspired By The Cinema Of David Cronenberg (2022; Eighth Tower Records)

David Cronenberg is a director and screenwriter whose career spans nearly six decades. He is most well-known for his depictions of “body horror” – the grotesque transformation of human bodies through mutation, violence, technology, or infection. While also involved in more mainstream productions, his extreme and jarring take on the horror genre has won him both praise and criticism.

This hour-long compilation pulls together tracks contributed by a number of artists who were asked to compose new works inspired by Cronenberg. They include Sigillum S, Desiderii Marginis, Sonologyst, Mario Lino Stancati, Schloss Tegal, dodenskald, UNCODIFIED, Jarl, Mortar Devotions, Kloob, about half of whom are from Italy, though other European countries, the U.S., and Iran are also represented. Unsurprisingly, these pieces are largely cinematic in nature, though in unmitigated forms that match that of their muse.

While drawing on dark ambient as a jumping-off point, the pieces herein employ markedly more experimental sound palettes. For instance, Sigillum S uses electronics in a post-industrial fashion while Desiderii Marginis accentuates background drones with a spoken word loop and irregular percussion elements. Schloss Tegal takes a similar approach, combining snippets of processed spoken word but with suffocating layers of noise.

Sonologyst provides a disturbing lilt of synths to a heartbeat rhythm. Mario Lino Stancati, Jarl, and dodenskald also take softer, more cosmic directions, though if anything this makes the listening even more trepidatious. Mortar Devotions heads in a similar direction with synths layered atop a slowly-moving sequenced rhythm that eventually pairs up with another of a higher speed. In contrast, UNCODIFIED sculps walled noise with rough textures accompanied by sweeping synths. Kloob caps off the album with a piece that uses ominous chord progressions combined with guttural animal / human vocalizations.

In line with Cronenberg’s vision, this music is not just haunting – it hints at much more disturbing human-inflicted, alien, or supernatural origins. Analogous to the subjects of the films, the artists have created, mutated, and transformed various conventional and unconventional sound sources into new forms. Whether these forms are terrifying, perversely compelling, or just strangely enjoyable as abstract music is up to the listener.