I have a confession to make. I haven’t seen the movie that this score is taken from. For one reason or another Kiss of the Damned has just eluded me…
I first heard the score when director Xan Cassavetes emailed me asking if I’d like to release it. She sent me the (then unfinished) music and I instantly fell in love with it. I wanted to release it on my label, Death Waltz, but schedule-wise I couldn’t make it work.
It’s interesting to review this because I have none of the usual markers in place (the piece of music fits this scene perfectly, etc, etc) but this is a record I listen to all the way through, from start to finish, several times a month. Steven Hufsteter (Repo Man) delivers a quite frankly gorgeous, sleazy and sexy music that conjures up blue and orange-lit rooms, writhing bodies on beds viewed through fish tanks and all manner of things you shouldn’t do in public – in fact, Jess Franco would most definitely be using this if he was still alive. It’s beautifully orchestrated and delicate too, with flashes of Bruno Nicolai and Ennio Morricone, and some very cool smokey jazz stylings thrown in there for good measure. This alone is enough to recommend it, but music supervisor Dina Juntila also dropped in tracks from HTRK, Jane Weaver and German punkers Der Fluch, who all add a contemporary edge to the score, bringing it right up to date.
Its inspiration is obvious, of course, but it’s the execution that makes this a step above a simple retro nod to the great masters. The ‘KOTD Love Theme’ has a break so crisp you can imagine Ghostface Killah spitting a verse over it; ‘Vapeur’ stands proudly with any experimental electronica of the 1970s; and ‘Bath of Tears’ is a beautifully down tempo baroque piano piece.
The score works so well as a stand-alone record that I don’t know if I’ll ever see the film. When I listen I conjure up my own images and story, and it is so vivid that I’m not sure anything would live up to it. This is the perfect example of a soundtrack you can listen to without knowing anything about what it accompanies – this is no putdown of the film either; in fact, it’s testament to all the creative talent involved in it.
All in all, Kiss of the Damned is a rare instance of a contemporary score standing proudly with its inspirations and holding its own with very little effort indeed. It also manages to be very fucking cool and aloof doing it.
Spencer Hickman is the founder of Death Waltz Recording Company, the leading soundtrack label specialising in horror and cult films. Forthcoming releases include the scores to Ms. 45 and The House of the Devil.