The Devil's Candy Album Review
Written by Richie Corelli
Released by Death Waltz Recording Company
Composed by Michael Yezerski
2017, 38 minutes
Released Digitally on March 17th, 2017
It was closing in on 2am, October 25th, 2015. The Music Box, Chicago, had just finished an advanced showing of The Devil's Candy. As the credits rolled, the film's lead, Ethan Embry, took to the stage in front of the screen. "That was so fucking metal!" He didn't say metal. He screamed it. Hundreds of people were in attendance. They all screamed with him. Embry raised his arm in a salute, his fingers twisted into devil horns. As the crowd cheered and chanted, it felt more like a concert than a movie screening. Embry was right: It really was metal.
The Devil's Candy is a tense and terrifying blend of occult supernatural horror and realistic family drama. Embry's character is a metalhead. He plays an artist who struggles to find balance between his family and his passion. To bring the audience in, the movie pays equal attention to both. It's a character study, but it's also a film on music and painting. Writer / director Sean Byrne plays on heavy metal's satanic stereotypes and incorporates them into his script. This adds narrative weight to the music. It give the music responsibility. The songs played during The Devil's Candy are not just backing tracks. They are a piece of the story itself.
There are two parts to the music; the soundtrack and the score. The first of these plays it safe. The movie's soundtrack is made up of tracks by already established artists performing already established songs. Artists like Sunn 0))), Slayer, Ghost, and Machine Head snap into the story with ease. The second part of the musical equation is where The Devil's Candy takes a bigger risk. Licensed tracks are one thing, but new and original compositions that are written specifically for a movie like this one are more of a gamble. Luckily, composer Michael Yezerski is up to the task.
He opens the album on with a crash. The thirty-eight second opener, which features guest musician Vivek Maddala, is a series of increasingly threatening guitar brushes. Each strum bleeds crackling distortion. The track immediately lets the listener know that this soundtrack is going to have bite.
But "Devil's music" is more than loud guitar. "Diabolus in musica (the devil in music)" has been documented since the 18th century, way before Spinal Tap turned the dials on their speakers to 11. "Devil's music" comes from a long musical tradition of tritones and dissonance that has worked it's way into contemporary culture and has spread into different sub-genres of music and sound. Yezerski understands and celebrates this. His soundtrack doesn't flash mindless distortion. It creates mood and menace.
The undercurrent of the album is built on a bottom-heavy drone, like a thunderstorm slowly rolling in from the distance. Fans of the artist Haxan Cloak – especially his 2013 release, Excavation – will appreciate some of Yezerski's more atmospheric pauses. Tracks like "Ray Checks In" and "Gas Can" display this sort of dark beauty.
Other tracks are more threatening. Throughout the album, soft moments give way to loud ones. It's a format that makes The Devil's Candy an uneasy listen by design. Audiences are lulled by the easier moments and then shaken by the harder pieces. Occasionally, the formula gets a little repetitive, but Yezerski's overall use of space and sound, and his attention to volume and flow, works.
Tracks like "Murder Paint" and "Mara Calls" see the ambience disrupted with rhythmic bass drum or building strings. "The Churge"" floats soft for forty-nine seconds and then erupts with a loud and intrusive noise. "TBIMFT" is an industrial powerhouse, loud and thick. "Back to School" shows how effective patience could be as builds and rests, builds and rests, and ultimately climaxes with slow, hard beats. "Consumed By Fire", which hits toward the end of the score, is piece that reprises earlier elements and puts them alongside a hand-banging thrash metal guitar lick. Yezerski doesn't over-use guitar in his score, but when it does slide in, it evokes imagery from the movie.
Guitar is prominent in the film. Byrne romanticized the instrument, dedicating key shots to a cherry-red flying V. This same guitar is used on the album cover. Unfortunately, the cover art doesn't work as well as the music. The art is made to look like metal albums from the 1970s and 1980s. The flying V is positioned upside down, dripping glossy blood. It is depicted with a level of detail that calls back old air-brushing techniques. The album's title, complete with an unnecessary umlaut, nods to a time when high school students would meticulously write Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on their schoolbooks. The digital image is made to look physical. A reverse crescent-moon of dust and scratches hints at a package containing an old LP.
The spatial layout and design is solid, but the cover looks more of a parody of metal than a tribute to it. The image plays on all of metal's clichés. It also feels strange to see an image of an old record while listening to a digital-only release. (It should be noted, however, that the vinyl version of the score comes out in May. Perhaps the physical product will better fit this album's aesthetic.)
Most listeners don't download music for the visual art. They download for the music. And Yezerski's score is strong enough to carry any minor visual flaws. It is recommended for anyone who appreciates cinematic horror scores that shift tone and volume, anyone who appreciates unpredictability in their music, and anyone who likes their sounds a little scary. The Devil's Candy is a wonderful, tinnitus-inducing nightmare.