CD review: Telarc's "Chiller".

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Rock&Roll Ninja

Rock&Roll Ninja

Audioholic Field Marshall

Label: Telarc International (1989)
Genre: Symphonic sampler w/ additional effects tracks.
Conductor: Erich Kunzel
Orchestra: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
Sound Effects: Michael Bishop

*BEWARE! Track (1) Opening Sequence contains the Highest level Sound Effects that Telarc has recorded to date. Tracks (8) Synthesizer Effects & (15) Murder were also recorded at realistically high levels. Damage could result to speakers or other components if this disc is played back at excessively high levels. (Emphasis theirs)

When the aforemention warning is read in a CD's booklet, how can you, or any self-respecting audiophile/enthusiast possibly resist the urge to run, not walk,run to your home stereo and hear what the good people of Telarc have created, seemingly to cause mass destruction of expensive electronic gear and cause many hard feelings to be felt by your fellow apartment building dwellers? For those of you, like me who haven't heard this ridiculously good CD yet, heres my review.

Track 1."Opening Sequence" [0:48].

The album opens with thunder. Not just any thunder, but thunder with bass so low that I was suprised. I didn't even know a CD could have such low bass, I though such was the sole property of an agressive DVD soundtrack. But whats shocking is the detail. The effects seem to perfectly capture thunder, footsteps, the cat. I'll admit the monster and the squeaky door sound really hokey.

Track 2."Overture to The Phantom of the Opera" [2:11].

Of course right after the monster eats the woman and slams the front door shut, your ears are assaulted with the opening "Duhn-Duhn-Duhn-Duhn-Duhhhhn" of the phantom's pipe organ. Fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber's awesome musical adaptation of the silent-film will instantly recognize this piece, and you will too after you've heard this track. The pipes sound 100 feet tall and what was cheesey electronic synthesizer bits for the Broadway musical are now brought to life by a living, breathing orchestra.
This is, in my opinion, the most energetic piece on the album, and along with the opening tracks "thunder" special sound effects make this album as good a system demo as any DVD.

Track 3."Night on Bald Mountain" [10:38]

Most people will remember this piece from Walt Disney's animated Fantasia. As the music tells the story of a lonely night on a mountain during a storm, you're imagination will be hard pressed not to envision the goblins and ghosts, and the lightning during the dynamic peformance. But when the aggressive musical "storm" has passed and the mellow "morning" takes over, you'll be amazed at what you heard. An awesome dynamic range with an incredible soundstage. I was beginning to think my AVR may have been secretly switching to Pro*Logic surround when i wasn't looking. :D

Track 4."Danse Macabre, Op. 40" [7:40]

When the clock strikes midnight (signified by a harp),Death plays a fiddle in a graveyard so that the skeletons may dance around till morning. What makes for an excellant premise to a modern gothic heavy metal music video was actually written about 130 years ago. The violin plays its call, which is answered by a differnet section of the orchestra, Xylophones clacking as the "skeletons" dance in different tempos. While not as extreme decibel-wise as the previous tracks, the clarity of the strings (especially the drop-tuned "grim reaper") and brassyness of the horns are hallmarks of a superior recording.

Track 5."March to the Scaffold from Symphonie fantastique" [4:58]

I'll admit that I am not familiar with the material of this, or the following track. And I'm not even certain that I'd even put it on an album of supposedly "chilling" music. I would have put Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor somewhere on this album. To leave of Dracula's (Universal 1932) trademark organ piece is just a gross oversite for an album of symphonic horrors.
The symphony leads from a slow "refrain" into a faster dynamic "verse" and back to refrain, into a verse, et cetera. Supposedly mimicking the life reflections of a condemned murderer as he makes his way to the gallows (I just skimmed the album notes :eek: )

Track 6."Pandemonium from The Damnation of Faust" [3:22]

Again, this is the first time I'd heard this work, so I am not sure which part, if any, I should have been listening for a dynamic "signature" of the conductor (which I understand he is prone to making "changes" when he conducts). With no specifics to look for, and no notes scratched-out while listening, I can only say that this track continues with the albums stellar sound quality. Someone more familiar with the material may be able to comment on this better than I.

Track 7."In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt" [2:30]

Most people already know this short work. Its been used in numerous television shows, movies, cartoons, and was a staple of both my elementary and high schools music classes. Starting with a single instruments 13 note run and building until the whole symphony is running through the work at breakneck speed is interesting to say the least. Whats really amazing about this is, the first original instrument can still be heard during the cacaphony of the whole symphony at the end.

Track 8."Synthesizer Effects" [0.52]

The album makes mention that this is one of the "dangerous" tracks that can supposedly destroy your stereo and opne a gate to Hell or something. Its just a synthesizer going "wheeeeoooooooooowheeeeeeooooooo". I don't even recall it as being very bassy.

Track 9."Theme from The Twilight Zone" [0:48]

Yes, it certainly is.

Track 10."12,000 Volts" [0:12]

This is a very short sound effect of electricity that leads into....

Track 11."The Bride of Frankenstein" [5:08]

With some carryover electrical effects the orchestra attempts to bring this old B-movies theme to life! (tough crowd, tough crowd.....)
The Cincinnati Pops deserve some credit for putting the energy into a shlocky movies schlocky soundtrack and getting something thats actually listenable. I guess maybe you can polish a piece of crap. :)

Track 12."Sleigh Ride from The Devil and Daniel Webster" [1:51]

At first I mistook this for some sort of misplaced Christmas song, sleighbells can do that to a song I guess. But closer listening reveals a more sinister song. There is an underlying layer of horns that are just this side of imposing, and many of the woodwind instruments are playing slightly off-key. Its a very strange acoustic effect that I would say reminds me of an instrument playing backwards or a some other type of subliminal musical message.

Track 13, 14, and 15."Three Selections from Psycho" [4:56]

I'm not sure why the back of the album group these three together. The liner notes differentiate them as Prelude from Psycho, The Mad House from Psycho, and Muder from Psycho. Nonetheless they are suitably "chilling" with their high pitched strings and imposing deep bassy horns.

Track 16."Overture to Sleuth" [2:48]

This is actually a bit of an upbeat song with a very Elfman-esque introduction.

Track 17."Television Noise" [0:17]

Sound effect, nothing special about. Its static that leads into....

Track 18."The Light from Poltergeist" [2:37]

Again, I'm not finding this very "chilling" music. I suppose that yes, the movie that spawned it was chilling, but this is a rather ho-hum piece that doesn't really call any attention to itself. A kind of "audio wallpaper" as Frank Zappa would explain it.

Track 19."Super Sleuth from Without a Clue" [2:03]

Ok, whoever was choosing what to put on this album obviously ran out of ideas. Here is another ho-hum, unchilling piece that belongs on a different CD. A CD that nobody with a pulse would listen to more than once.

Track 20."Funeral March of a Marionette" [3:35]

The CD booklet would have you beleive that a French composer named Charles Gounod wrote this piece as a musial F.U. to one of his critics. Otherwise 'Nick at Nite' buffs will recoginise this as "The theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents". Its nice to hear it as a full-length song and not cut to 27 seconds for once. I'll admit that it does have a chilling title, but the actual song is pretty whimsical. There are some deep bass notes in the song however.

And that, dear readers, is my review of the CD "Chiller" as performed by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. The final results are:

Soundstage: Very wide, very deep. A+
Dynamic range: A good display of dynamic rangedness would be comparing the barely audible harp signaling the beginning of Track 4, and the sonic blast that is the organ from track 2. This CD is a very good reason to invest in a quality subwoofer. I am shocked that the primitive cave-men who inhabited our world in 1989 could have created such a CD.
Other Audiophile terms I'm not familar with:This Cd has a very squishy outer hull that go's well with a transparent grapefruit cocktail. Not moist but very triksdektophobic in its disestablishmentarianism. (I can use big words just like a Stereophile reviewer!)
Chill-ability: On a scale of "Chill you to your bones" - through - "So un-chili its made without beef" this album rates a solid "Stephen King". if the decidedly un-chilling Tracks 5, 16, 18, 19 & the worthless sound effects tracks were replaced by better choices: The afor' mentioned Bach toccata and maybe the cellos from JAWS, this album would move up a notch or three and become a very chilling "Lovecraft bedtime story".
Clint DeBoer

Clint DeBoer

857 3
Nice review... Now are you interested in doing this more often and having us put it up on the site?
Rock&Roll Ninja

Rock&Roll Ninja

Audioholic Field Marshall
Do more? Sure. I'm currently working on Telarc's Great Fantasy Adventure Album and Symphonic Star Trek right now anyway.

and having us put it up on the site?
Am I not on the discussion forum already?

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