Brad Fiedel: The Terminator (Original Music)
Milan Records

One important thing to note right away about this resurrection of The Terminator score: first, it's been re-mastered, not re-created, by Brad Fiedel from the original tapes, which means that the music as presented, while it sounds sleeker than before, still retains that cheesy, low-budget synthesizer sound so critical to the character of the original film and so emblematic of the era in which the soundtrack was produced. Issued as a red-and-blue splattered double-vinyl set (CD and digital, too) as part of the “Nicolas Winding Refn Presents” series (Refn the acclaimed director of Drive), the score has been sequenced for the first time as Fiedel, at the time of its creation a keyboard player with Hall & Oates, intended.

Though the ‘80s film is a cult favourite to many, anyone who hasn't seen it would get a clear sense of its tone from listening to the score alone. That's helped considerably by the sequencing of the tracks, which, as now ordered by Fiedel, mirror James Cameron's film narrative. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars, of course, as the titular killing machine sent to the past (‘80s Los Angeles, to be precise) by machines in the future to destroy Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and thereby prevent her from giving birth to humanity's last hope, her son John. In simplest terms, her survival is abetted by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), who helps Sarah thwart the Terminator. A simple read-through of the soundtrack's track titles also brings the story to life, given how suggestive they are of the story details.

As synth-heavy as the score is, Fiedel also works in a few acoustic sequences featuring piano, and clanking percussion and electric guitar sounds also surface. But such instances are rare, and one comes away from the soundtrack remembering its raw electronic dramatics and stabbing percussion more than anything else. The wiry synth patterns and martial drumming rolling through “Matt & Ginger Killed / Sarah Calls Detectives” and “Tunnel Chase” are representative of the sound design in play. And though the intense score is designed to mirror the Terminator's relentless tracking of Sarah, interludes of calm also surface to provide contrast; let's not forget, for example, that one of the film's most pivotal moments is the love scene involving Sarah and Reese, which results in her pregnancy. Often, however, those quieter interludes are suffused with sci-fi gloom and foreboding (e.g., “Arm & Eye Surgery,” the gothic-tinged “Future Flashback”) and are often breath-catchers that fall in between sequences featuring the Terminator in full pursuit.

The consumer is anything but shortchanged by a release that includes seventeen tracks, the penultimate one being the ten-minute “End Credits: Final Suite”; there's even an extended version of “The Terminator Theme” tacked on as a bonus, and for anyone wanting a shorter version of the score, “End Credits: Final Suite” functions as a dynamic, multi-scene distillation of the entire soundtrack.

April 2016