Artist: Sulphur Nurse
Album: The Thing
Label: Trepanation Recordings
Release Date: December 19, 2022
Sulphur Nurse is a project that was born out of experimentation and a willingness to push past genre boundaries and musical norms. Given this fact it should come as no surprise that the band have chosen to make an entire album dedicated to the soundtrack, concepts, and themes behind John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing.
Before I get into the album itself, I want to talk a little about the film’s soundtrack, because it’s a topic that I’m fairly passionate about. Ennio Morricone is a name that should need no introduction to many of you. His legacy is monumental and at the time of making The Thing, John Carpenter had been creating soundtracks for his films on his own, such as the classic Halloween soundtrack. However, he knew that on he could never create something as powerful as Ennio. It was for this reason that he stepped back and brought him on to handle the score for what would be regarded as one of his greatest films; and a large part of that success came from the movie’s soundtrack.
This is definitely a score that creates a sense of isolation, anxiety and dread in the listener. This was done to match these same feelings that the research team in Antarctica felt in the film. Even without aliens involved, these emotions are already there to some extent. However once things get ugly, they realise how very alone they really are, and this crushing isolation is perfectly captured in audio form.
Carpenter gave Ennio little guidance on what he wanted for the film other than to request that it be minimalistic (as is his style). To work in this scope Ennio created a score that is simultaneously complex and stunning but still minimalistic. This right here shows the level of his talent. Morricone actually wrote completely separate orchestral and synthesizer scores and a combined score for Carpenter to select from. Ultimately Carpenter chose the one closest to his own style and then had Ennio bring in influences from Escape from New York and after several attempts we ended up with what we have today.
With that understanding this album should make a lot more sense to the listener. What makes this so very special is that the album manages to maintain the tension and atmosphere of the original soundtrack but elevates it in complexity and tension. This is a modern, evolved adaptation of what Ennio created over 40 years ago. It manages to maintain that sense of isolation, uncertainty and terror of the original, but lays it on even thicker.
The band weave together a rich tapestry of complex and haunting dark ambient and industrial textures. At points the music feels suffocating in its denseness and with the level of tension it achieves, then at other times its pulls back and builds a sense of isolation and loneliness. This is crucial to the film soundtrack as that sense of isolation is a huge factor in the horror aspect of the movie, knowing that there is nowhere to run and that no help is coming. There’s a sense of paranoia worked into the mix, a sense that nobody can be trusted, that you’re never truly safe. Again, this is integral to the film’s soundtrack as anyone could be compromised/infected and you would potentially never know until it was too late.
Across all four tracks you’ll find tense pulsing beats layered over menacing deep rumbling industrial style electronics. There’s a swooning pulsing energy that underlies the music and this is where a great deal of that tension originates. Every so often haunting monstrous noises, echoes, crackles and what feels almost like wailing wind effects will enter the mix to further develop the tension. The one track that really changes things up is the fourth and final song And then its won. which hits us with a high tempo 80s synthwave style energy and tone. For anyone not so familiar with music of this era and don’t know what I’m talking about, think the Stranger Things intro.
I think what’s most impressive about the album is that everything that the listener hears is original audio created by the trio. What makes this so impressive is that it manages to capture so much of the energy, tone, and essence of the original soundtrack, but purely from a point of inspiration. I often think that creating something as a tribute to an original classic is more difficult than creating something brand new. There’s an expectation that it will honour the source material and still feel similar enough to bring up those emotions and feelings, but at the same time it has to be different enough and innovative enough to grab and maintain people’s attention.
Another great thing about the album is that it can be listened to in multiple different settings. You can either give it your full attention and soak in all of subtle detail worked into the mix or you can put it on in the background while working or cooking or whatever else you cse to do. Whichever option you choose makes for a very different listening experience.
Overall this is a fantastic album and a very interesting interpretation of one of my all-time favourite soundtracks for one of my all-time favourite movies. I genuinely think that the band did it justice, they managed to make it their own but without straying too far from the source material. If you enjoy dark ambient or horror sound tracks, then don’t miss this.
Listen to and order the album: