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Ghosts of Mars
Composed and Performed by:
John Carpenter

Produced by:
Bruce Robb

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
September 18th, 2001

Also See:
Mortal Kombat

Audio Clips:
2. Love Siege (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

3. Fight Train (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

9. Dismemberment Blues (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

11. Pam Grier's Head (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.


Ghosts of Mars

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Sales Rank: 283009

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Buy it... if you caught pieces of the heavy metal ramblings in the film itself and seek fuller recordings of those ideas.

Avoid it... if you expect to hear either much of Carpenter's own keyboarding from the film on this album or, in a more general sense, music that has any structural resemblance of effective film scoring technique whatsoever.

Ghosts of Mars: (John Carpenter) There is a place in Hollywood history for John Carpenter, a writer, director, and composer whose films of the 1970's and 80's had a significant impact on the plethora of B-rate horror thrillers that he inspired. Unfortunately, in the subsequent two decades, Carpenter himself became that very stereotype of schlock, creating films like Vampires and Ghosts of Mars that had completely abandoned the production values that had at least allowed his early films to straddle the line between first and second rate cinema. In fact, by Ghosts of Mars, Carpenter wasn't even trying to hide the circumstances of this own artistic demise. The film, a translation of Assault on Precinct 13 onto Mars of the future, is an absolute intellectual loss, with no redeeming qualities in its script, acting, or special effects. It's cheap, it's dumb, and it's painful to the ears. That last comment is in regards to Carpenter's intentional attempt to mask the limited success of the remaining production elements by doing something radical with his music. Rather than rely solely on his typical synthetic elements to create the ambience familiar to many of his films, he continued a trend he was exploring with Vampires, merging that traditional sound with a collection of artists in an unrelated genre of music. The purpose in the case of Ghosts of Mars was to simply crank up the intensity and volume of a heavy metal soundtrack to such an extent that it compensates for the lack of excitement inherent in the film. Unfortunately, while on an extremely basic level, that technique works for viewers aiming at getting a quick thrill out of the film, it does absolutely nothing to actually elevate that work to a higher level of artistry. Of course, if you're looking for a positive review of the Ghosts of Mars soundtrack at practically any film score website, then you're bound to be irritated by what you find, instead choosing to justify the score's effectiveness as a collection of heavy metal pieces outside of the realm of any traditional notion of film music. Let's be clear: as a metal album, it's fine. The wailing guitars aren't the problem. But in its duties as a film score, the work fails to provide any kind of structure that music has been meant to provide for film over the previous century.

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The vast array of talent that Carpenter collected for Ghosts of Mars is a partial indication of his intended deviation. In the rock and metal genres, the names of Steve Vai, Elliot Easton, Anthrax, and Buckethead (it's still difficult to imagine what Colonel Harland Sanders would have though of this guy) speak for themselves, and in Carpenter's effort to merge their electric guitars and percussion into a well balanced display of genre-specific tones, he succeeds. There can be no doubt that the ensemble offers the sound that the director desired, but the fact that so little of what you hear on the album is actually used in the film is perhaps indication that Carpenter recognized their limitations. The score in the film itself has a significant amount of the director's own keyboarded effects, and this material is for some reason largely absent from the album. Conversely, many of the harsh metal cues that ramble on for several minutes on album are mixed down to just token usage in the final edit of the film. So, in the end, what you get with the album for Ghosts of Mars is just that: a standalone album. Its relation to the film is tenuous, which explains why the product plays well to an intended audience that doesn't typically collect film scores. For soundtrack collectors specifically, and especially those who have appreciated Carpenter's music through the years, Ghosts of Mars offers nothing of interest. In fact, the only recognizable aspect of the score for that crowd will be a rhythm in "Love Siege" that emulates the opening of George S. Clinton's Wild Things. Otherwise, Carpenter's work here has no thematic development, no emotive fluctuations outside of the general difference in tone between cues like "Fight Train" and "Visions of Earth," no hard synchronization points, and no maturation of concepts from the opening to the conclusion. Other than the tone of the instrumental choices, there is no inherent style that is built gradually as the score progresses. The recordings were created in such a way that small pieces of them could be chopped up and inserted as need be in certain scenes in the film without any overarching intelligent design. As such, Ghosts of Mars may thrill metal fans, but it is a dysfunctional disgrace to Carpenter's career and should receive absolutely no interest from collectors of scores that are actually meant to develop and accentuate the finer aspects of their films. Save yourself some anguish and seek the pain pills ahead of time. * Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.32 Stars
Smart Average: 2.46 Stars*
***** 28 
**** 18 
*** 39 
** 57 
* 85 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 43:01

• 1. Ghosts of Mars (3:42)
• 2. Love Siege (4:37)
• 3. Fight Train (3:16)
• 4. Visions of Earth (4:08)
• 5. Slashing Void (2:46)
• 6. Kick Ass (6:06)
• 7. Power Station (4:37)
• 8. Can't Let You Go (2:18)
• 9. Dismemberment Blues (2:53)
• 10. Fightin' Mad (2:41)
• 11. Pam Grier's Head (2:35)
• 12. Ghost Poppin' (3:20)

 Notes and Quotes:  

  All artwork and sound clips from Ghosts of Mars are Copyright © 2001, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/20/03 and last updated 10/4/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.