Soundtracks are usually a hit-or-miss proposition. Usually the collection is too diverse and thus listeners buy them for one or two tracks and end up skipping the rest. A strong collection can do a good job of using established bands to lure in people and get them to check out the lesser-known bands. There’s also the lure of obscure tracks or collaborations (for example, last year’s “Freddy Vs. Jason” featuring a previously unavailable song from Slipknot along with an anticipated new track from Killswitch Engage featuring a new lead singer). When the collection falls flat, the few high points are overcome by tracks that feel too out-of-place (for example, last year’s “Underworld” with anticipated Page Hamilton and Wes Borland tracks, but little else to offer).
Featuring a whopping 19 tracks, “The Punisher” soundtrack features five standouts and a slew of supporting players.
Leading off the collection is the first taste of the new Drowning Pool lineup featuring ex-Built-XL frontman Jason “Gong” Jones on vocals. While the band’s previous efforts sounded angry, “Step Up” is a straight-up rock/metal track. And it sounds mean. Not angry, mean. The band feels retrofitted, like a throw back to early 90s metal (early Pantera or Skid Row), complete with guitar solos. Jones’ vocals at times have a hint of Drowning Pool’s prior lead singer to them, but also sound like a mix of John Bush (from Anthrax) and Max Cavelera (ex-Sepultura, Soulfly).
One of the more interesting tracks off the soundtrack is the anticipated collaboration of Damageplan and Jerry Cantrell. The song, “Ashes to Ashes,” was recorded last Thanksgiving while Damageplan were still finishing off its debut album. The song has a old school Alice in Chains (Cantrell’s former band) feel to it, and features Cantrell and Damageplan vocalist Patrick Lachman trading off singing duties between verses and choruses. This song is definitely one of the album’s high-points.
Edgewater’s debut single, “Eyes Wired Shut,” is another standout track. The band’s melodic rock is reminiscent of mellow Staind mixed with a more pop-centric rock sensibility (think Three Doors Down or The Calling). The guitars are driving during the verses and catchy during the chorus and the band seems destined for heavy rotation on commercial rock radio.
The soundtrack also features an almost-reunion of Evanescence bandmates Amy Lee and Ben Moody, albeit on different tracks.
Moody teams up with Jason Miller and Drowning Pool frontman Jones for “The End Has Come,” a slow-burning rock track that has a definite Evanescence feel to it (especially the band’s earlier work), complete with ethereal guitar during the opening and verses, and driving riffs during the chorus.
Lee teams up with Seether on the re-recorded “Broken” (off Seether’s 2002 release “Disclaimer”). While the song kicks off like the original, Lee joins in on the chorus and takes over the second verse alone. Lee adds a pleasant dimension to Seether’s sound without taking the track over and making it sound like an Evanescence tune.
Rounding out the rest of the soundtrack is an astounding collection of tracks from well-known — Nickelback, Hatebreed, Puddle of Mud, Queens of the Stone Age, Trapt — and more obscure — Strata, Submersed, Seven Wiser, Atomship — bands. And the collection runs the gamut from heavier tracks (Drowning Pool, Hatebreed, Chevelle) to more mellow rock offerings (Seether w/ Lee, Smile Empty Soul, Mark Collie’s acoustic closing track). In all, it seems there’s something for all your rock needs.