The Last Action Hero: best soundtrack ever

These days it’s common – nay, expected – for a big blockbuster movie to have a kickass soundtrack packed with original new tracks by the big heavy-hitters of the day. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time the ‘movie soundtrack’ section of a record store was populated largely by recordings of the actual orchestral music scores of films. If a soundtrack featured pop songs, they were often classic tracks that everybody knew. Even in the case of big blockbuster soundtracks which featured a healthy amount of original new songs – like the album which accompanied the release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 – the tracks were very much mainstream radio-friendly pop. So the 1993 release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero and its soundtrack sent shockwaves through the hard rock and heavy metal scene of the day because it was fricken loaded with crushing tracks by metal, thrash, grunge and alternative icons.

This was an album which featured new, never-before-heard tracks by some of the biggest names in heavy music at the time, including two of thrash’s Big Four. Check out this track listing:

“Big Gun” – AC/DC
“What the Hell Have I” – Alice in Chains
“Angry Again” – Megadeth
“Real World” – Michael Kamen and Queensrÿche
“Two Steps Behind” – Def Leppard
“Poison My Eyes” – Anthrax
“Dream On” [Live] – Aerosmith
“A Little Bitter” – Alice in Chains – 3:53
“Cock the Hammer” – Cypress Hill – 4:11
“Swim” – Fishbone – 4:13
“Last Action Hero” – Tesla – 5:44
“Jack and the Ripper” – Michael Kamen & Buckethead – 3:43

AC/DC’s “Big Gun” kicks off the album, and although they’ve never played the track at a concert, it was heavily visible at the time of its release, particularly due to the pervasive presence of Arnie himself in the video. A classic driving AC/DC twelve-bar-blues-based track with a monster single note riff punctuated by a slinky, bendy melody, the song is classic Acca Dacca. Check out the video, and watch for Arnie doing his own version of Angus Young’s famous duck walk, complete with Gibson SG. While the SG looks huge on Angus’s diminutive frame, it looks like a ukulele in Arnie’s hands.

Alice In Chains’ two contributions, “What The Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter,” are especially noteworthy entries in the band’s catalog because they represent the first tracks recorded with bass player Mike Inez, who was fresh from Ozzy Osbourne’s band at the time, replacing the departed Mike Starr. (Trivia buffs will know that Inez wrote the bass riff to Ozzy’s “No More Tears”). The two songs were mixed by Andy Wallace, although both were remixed by Toby Wright for the band’s 1999 Music Bank box set.

Three of the soundtrack’s songs continued to be played live regularly by their respective creators for quite a while afterwards. Def Leppard’s “Two Steps Behind” was released in two versions: an electric version from the band’s Retro Active compilation of rare and unreleased tracks (the song was also a B-side to the “Make Love Like A Man” single) and a stripped-back acoustic version. It’s the acoustic rendition that was used for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and this is the version of the song that the band still plays live to this day.

Another enduring live track is Megadeth’s “Angry Again.” Written specifically for the film and later appearing on Megadeth’s Hidden Treasures rarity EP, the song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards. Apart from Marty Friedman’s brilliant guitar solo and the impressive handlebar moustache sported by Dave Mustaine in the video, the song is particularly interesting for a neat little songwriting trick used in the verses. During the first verse, Mustaine sings over the second half of a two-bar riff, but in the second verse he sings over the first half. It’s a great way of creating a sense of movement from one verse to the next, and probably one of the reasons it’s such a fan favourite.

The album’s other thrash legends, Anthrax, contributed a song leftover from the sessions for their 1993 album Sound of White Noise, their first with Armoured Saint vocalist John Bush and last with lead guitarist Danny Spitz. While the song features the same big riffage as the Sound of White Noise tracks, it has a much more adventurous arrangement, including the use of record scratching.

Queensrÿche and composer Michael Kamen collaborated on “Real World,” a sweeping epic in the vein of their previous work together, “Silent Lucidity.” In fact, “Real World” represents a step beyond “Silent Lucidity,” with Kamen set free to push the Pink Floyd-esque progressive elements of the band’s sound even further. Like “Angry Again” and “Two Steps Behind,” “Real World” was performed live on many Queensryche tours.

A few of the album’s tracks had been released previously, including Fishbone’s “Swim” (from their album Give A Monkey A Brain And He’ll Swear He’s The Center Of The Universe). Cypress Hill’s “Cock The Hammer” is from their 1993 classic Black Sunday. And of course Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” presented here as a live version with orchestration by Michael Kamen. Tesla’s “Last Action Hero” is a powerful 80s rocker, although it felt a little out of place in the grunge-friendly climate of 1993, even on an album with such 80s megastars as Def Leppard and Queensryche. But it’s a rockin’ song with some very cool Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar harmony work.

The album is closed out in spectacular fashion with another collaboration between Michael Kamen and unlikely partner: Buckethead, whose alternatingly haunting and rocking guitar weaves through orchestral ambience and electronica. Although Buckethead was already known to hard-core guitar fans, this was probably his first ‘big time’ exposure, and as an introduction to the world at large it’s a very impressive one.

There have been plenty of innovative soundtrack albums since Last Action Hero – the rap/rock collaborations of Judgment Night later in 1993 being a particularly noteworthy example, pairing Dinosaur Jr. and Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Helmet and House of Pain, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Living Colour and Run DMC, Slayer and Ice-T, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill, Mudhoney and Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill, Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and more. In fact the Judgment Night soundtrack may have been a big factor in the rise of rap-rock and nu metal a few years later. But perhaps that’s a story for another time.

Geoff Tate Releases Queensryche F.U. Remix

queensryche-frequencyunknown-deluxeHuh. This is interesting. Look, there’s no doubt that of the two recent Queensryche albums, the Todd LaTorre-fronted version was the better-sounding and more consistent of the two. But the Geoff Tate one had a couple of really good songs. “Life Without You” in particular would fit quite well on Empire, Promised Land or Tribe. (And I don’t think it’s exactly common knowledge that Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero plays rhythm guitar throughout the album – not to mention there are guitar solos by Ty Tabor, KK Downing, Brad Gillis, Dave Meniketti, Chris Poland and more). But the mix of the album sucks. Tate realised this even before the album was released, so Billy Sherwood was enlisted to remix it, but that was never finished, and the original mix was released instead. Well now the Sherwood mix has been completed and will be released on a deluxe edition of the album. I guess there must be some clause that allows this to be released under the Queensryche name since it’s an already-existing album. Either that or Tate’s going to get a very interesting phone call. Anyway, here’s the press release. Read More …

Stream The New Queensryche Album Now!

queensrycheWhoa! With week left until its release, Queensryche (that’s the version featuring the mighty Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson, Parker Lundgren and new vocalist Todd La Torre), have put their new self-titled album up online for all to crank. And it’s killer. I especially like In This Light: with all the talk of how heavy this album was going to be, I was hoping they’d still find room for more melodic stuff. And they have! This album feels like a very, very good start indeed for this new era of Queensryche as a recording entity (they’ve already proven themselves on the stage) and I hope they make it down here to Oz on tour some time soon. You can listen on the band’s site here.

New Queensryche Song – Where Dreams Go To Die

QueensrycheAah, now this is cool! Check out the video below to hear another new Queensryche song, called Where Dreams Go To Die, which features a classic QR twin-guitar attack, complete with cool clean-toned verses, harmony lines and all that other fun stuff you expect from a Queensryche track. And of course it’s always great to hear Michael Wilton’s heavy rhythm work, but I’m really digging the renewed sense of vigour in Scott Rockenfield’s drumming. Scott Rock has long been one of my favourite drummers and he sounds really free and energised here. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album! Queensryche’s self-titled album – the first with Todd La Torre on vocals – will be released on June 25. Pre-order it here. Read More …

REVIEW: Queensryche – Frequency Unknown

Queensryche_with_Geoff_Tate_-_Frequency_UnknownFrequency Unknown is a missed opportunity.

It’s a missed opportunity because despite all the controversy over joining and departing band members, shoddy mixes, official contests to post the most extreme hate video and of course that provocative album cover, there a few songs on here that are so good that they transcend all that stuff, if you let them do so, and they would have been utterly killer if performed by the Queensryche line-up that existed a year and a half ago. These songs – Life Without You, In The Hands Of God and to a slightly lesser degree Cold – show Geoff Tate making the most of his talents (which include dramatic vocal delivery and a confessional lyrical style) while staying relatively faithful to the established Queensryche style, at least as it existed on later recordings. (It’s interesting to note that Cold and In The Hands Of God were co-written with Lukas Rossi from Rockstar: Supernova).  Read More …

New Queensryche song – ‘Redemption’

Check out the new song ‘Redemption,’ the first full track released by Queensryche from their forthcoming album in the video below. Just to be clear, that’s the Todd La Torre-fronted version of the band featuring original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson along with Parker Lundgren. Geoff Tate’s version of Queensryche is also releasing an album soon, but… okay, Geoff, I quite liked both your solo albums, but… preview clips from the Tate version’s forthcoming album Frequency Unknown are available on iTunes, and how do I say this…

no-sir-I-dont-like-it

The Wilton/Rockenfield/Jackson/Lundgren/La Torre version’s new stuff though… well… let’s let it speak for itself. Turn up yer speakers and dig into this:

Geoff Tate announces new Queensryche line-up

Geoff Tate has just announced the line-up for his version of Queensrÿche in a post on the newly redesigned Queenryche website and it includes some pretty surprising names. Tate says, in part:

“Today is a new day and I am thrilled to announce the new Queensrÿche.

Joining me are: Rudy Sarzo, Bobby Blotzer, Glen Drover, Kelly Gray and Randy Gane.
Together we shall embark on a new musical journey that will be a greater extension of where Queensrÿche has ever been.”

Click here to read the rest.

So what do you think? Is there room in the world for two Queensrÿches? The core band – Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson – are already working on the next Queensrÿche album with Parker Lundgren and Todd La Torre and have already played gigs under the Queensrÿche name, so this is probably gonna get a bit messy before it all gets resolved in court in November 2013.

Leave your thoughts below or on Facebook here.

INTERVIEW: Queensryche’s Geoff Tate

Queensryche have never done what was expected of them. They pioneered progressive metal with the legendary concept album Operation: Mindcrime but followed it up with the pop-metal blockbuster Empire. Then they followed Empire with the dark, moody Promised Land. They finally released a sequel to Operation: Mindcrime in 2006, and followed that up with American Soldier, a heavy, intense journey into to horrors of war, both physical and emotional, culled from interviews with actual returned servicemen. New album Dedicated To Chaos (Roadrunner) is a complete about-face from American Soldier, a rhythm-driven, kaleidoscopic examination of modern attention spans (or the lack thereof).

Drummer Scott Rockenfield and bass player Eddie Jackson kickstarted the direction of the album when they turned in a series of riffs and jams that were a world away from the guitar-driven darkness of American Soldier. “That’s what makes it interesting and keeps us coming back for more as musicians,” says singer Geoff Tate, down the line at 2am Melbourne time. “In fact, one of the things that drew us together years ago when we first started out was the ability for almost everyone in the band to really communicate their thoughts on music, and to share their musical influences, which are pretty vast. I think if you look at all of our record collections we probably own every record ever made! I personally own seven or eight thousand records!”

Read More …