I never really liked Halloween II. Not that it's been vastly praised, but it always seemed to get a bit of a free pass where other better sequels didn't, namely the much better Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Also the whole sister thing lessened the series for me; Michael Myers was much scarier when he was just being psychotic rather than a psychotic with family issues.
The score to Halloween II however... that's a bit different. Essentially, it's an adaptation of the first, which we all know was brilliant. But here Carpenter employed the help of Alan "In Association With" Howarth due to his commitment to The Thing, and Howarth recorded parts of the original score through his synths and made something a lot crazier, more intense, and generally a bit more frayed around the edges.This is Michael Myers' brain on acid and turned up to eleven.
It all starts, of course, with the Halloween theme. Here it begins slowly, with a low pulsing carrying fragmented bits of the theme like firing synapses. Then it all starts to layer up into madness before that singular riff emerges, now fully electronic and even madder before. The long notes behind it jump out at you, gothic as ever, and it just all comes out as a great fresh take on what was an instant classic. Two other themes also return, the somewhat tragic (even more now) and evocative 'Laurie's Theme' and 'The Shape Stalks', which is as tense as ever.
The album is well put-together, and its harshness climbs at a steady incline on side one, but starts to really cook at the beginning of side two with 'The Shape Enters Laurie's Room'. and 'Mrs. Alves', the latter of which is a beefed-up version of Laurie's theme. Howarth uses the opportunity brought about by an upgrade in equipment to layer up the music more and give it a sonic tune-up, which leaves it with a rougher sound as well as the creepy music he added, such as the little tense jingling bits inserted between the heavy notes in 'The Shape Stalks Again'.
It all gets quite harrowing really, and thankfully Death Waltz have retained the original album program which runs just under half an hour (an expanded version was released a few years ago but is a bit too long). It's a great presentation and really gives you the core of the material without anything extraneous, and since there's frequent repetition the length is appreciated. The score is topped off with The Chordettes' recording of 'Mr. Sandman', which in itself is a relatively harmless song but has an eerier feel within this context.
This LP, a reissue of the earlier release during DW's nascent days, has been pressed on 180 gram with an orange and black splatter colourway. The record sounds great - I A/B'd it with the previous issue and it sounds like it has a tad more depth, and the lower-end sounds beefier - and it really brings out that great sound of the Prophet synth. Halloween II is probably an underrated work in Carpenter's canon due to it being somewhat of an adaptation, but don't let that sway you: it's an excellent score, and due to Howarth's electronic heroics, it's scarier than the original.
Halloween II is out now from Death Waltz Recording Co.