Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan Soundtrack Review

Another cool Midnight Syndicate album arrived in the mail! This album is much different from the last one I reviewed because it is a movie soundtrack. The movie is titled Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan. I haven't seen the movie, so I don't have movie scene references to connect with these songs. Last time, I had more of an opinion on which parts of the classic horror movies were being represented. I only know the basic premise of Axe Giant.

Not that this is the first time I've heard a soundtrack before watching the movie it goes with. I've never seen the movies that go with some CDs in my collection, and I've had those albums for over a decade! So, I don't think you need to watch a movie to enjoy the soundtrack. 

The album cover art is again very cool. There's an illustration of the monstrous Paul Bunyan emerging from the darkness, axe in hand. Behind him is a dimly lit cabin and some pine trees. The font is a good fit, because the letters look like planks of wood complete with little nails. 

Here's a view of the song list:

This is a really different album for Midnight Syndicate. It feels a little heavier, woodsy, and outdoorsy. I guess that would make sense for an album about Paul Bunyan. There's a heavy, plodding quality to it. You can almost hear Paul stomping through the woods swinging his axe in some of these tracks.

I'm going to go through the tracks the same way I did last time, giving my thoughts on each song and what I visualized while hearing it. I didn't read the song titles until after listening to the songs to see how my interpretations would match up.

1. Axe Giant Main Title: The album starts out with the sweeping orchestral style of music Midnight Syndicate is known for. The initial dramatic sounds are like something out of The Phantom of the Opera. I found the first track on YouTube, so you can listen for yourself:

2. Minnesota 1894: I like this song a lot. It's probably my favorite on the album. It's, dare I say, cheerfully upbeat. It's a quiet little banjo song. Judging by the title, the song is probably about Paul Bunyan's history. Perhaps some happier times?

3. Babe's Grave: This is a haunting sort of song. The drums and flutes remind me of Native American music. It's quiet and eerie.

4. S.T.U.M.P Medley: This is a four part medley. The first part, "The Adventure Begins", sounds exciting and dramatic and then leads into some twangy noises. These are what I'd call dark bluegrass noises. I'm picturing being in the woods at night and the twangy little noises are crickets or other little critters. I think these dark forest noises go with the next part, "Meek's Theme".

The next part is an old time military march titled "Sgt. Hoke's Theme". Then we move on to the final part, "March to Destiny". This part is dramatic, moving, and hopeful. It feels positive. I have to wonder what is happening during some of these songs, because they're surprisingly upbeat.

5. Bunyan at Babe's Grave: The positivity does not last long, however. There are what I'd describe as sinking noises, and then the sound of pitch black. I hear the noise of something sharp and metal swinging, presumably Paul Bunyan's axe. It's like that noise you hear when a guillotine drops in a movie.

6. S.T.U.M.P.s Meet Bunyan: This song is what I'd describe as confrontational. There is the sound of something heavy stomping, running, chasing. Then there are spiraling, dizzy noises. It's very tense.

7. No Escape: This song starts with the sound of fog clearing as something sneaks up on you. There's what I interpreted as the sound of insects swarming, then that dizzying feeling again and the sound of heavy footsteps marching forward.

8. The Legend of Paul Bunyan: This is my second favorite track on the album. There is a lot going on here! The songs begins with light banjo strumming. There are twangy noises with very dark undertones. You get the feeling there's something dangerous lurking under the surface of a pleasant situation. Then there is a crash as the dangerous thing is unleashed. You can almost hear Paul running and swinging his axe. There is a brief calm before the storm of sounds. Suddenly, you hear it all at once: the twangy banjo, the spiraling, the lurching forward, a bell? All these sounds reach a fever pitch. Then there is the final calm of whatever is left after this fury has passed.

9. Zach's Last Stand: This song reminded me of Hitchcock's Psycho Soundtrack, except with a few bird-like wind instruments. I say that because it's a tense song with sharp strings. There's a real build up of tension to something explosive or violent.

10. Bunyan's Cave: This is a mysterious song. You get the sense something is lurking around. It's relatively peaceful after the last few tracks, but it's still creepy.

11. Bunyan on the Move: This song title cracked me up, in part because the song really gives you the sense that something is moving. So when I checked the title after listening to the song, I had to laugh. It sounds like everything in the forest is being thrown from his path as he plows through the trees.

12. Final Showdown: This is heavy, stalking music. You can picture the giant's plodding steps as you listen. There's more military drumming scattered through this one. I liked the little pieces of percussion throughout the album. There are some similar sounds that tie the songs together.

13. Legend's End: This is a quiet lead to the conclusion. I was reminded of the haunting quiet in Laura Palmer's Theme. You get the feeling that the worst is over, but the song is still haunting. An eerie sadness remains.

14. The Ballad of Paul Bunyan (Written and Performed by Hick'ry Hawkins): This song has that classic storytelling sound. It's like you're sitting around a campfire with someone singing a ghost story while playing his guitar. You get a quick idea of the movie's plot from this song. The gist I got of the plot is that some townsfolk killed Babe the Blue Ox, and Paul Bunyan is back to exact his revenge. The way I interpreted the movie's trailer is that a group of young people who are part of a first offenders boot camp desecrate Babe's grave. This act summons an angry, ogre-like Paul Bunyan back. Back from where I don't know. He's looking pretty nasty, so maybe from the grave.

15. Meeks at the Cabin: This brief track has more of that eerie haunted woods feeling to round off the album.

What really stood out to me about this album is how big it sounds, which is fitting for a Paul Bunyan soundtrack! You get the feeling that you're at a theatrical production with a huge orchestra. There are a lot of strings, percussion, and wind instruments. So, if you're into large, dramatic songs filled with tension and a little bit of lumberjack charm, this could be just the album for your haunt.

The Axe Giant Soundtrack and the rest of Midnight Syndicate's albums are available for purchase here: Midnight Syndicate CD Shop


  1. I haven't listened to any Midnight Syndicate for so long! I have to say this album and film sounds awesome! I love the way you have described each song, it's as if you told the entire story of the film just by reviewing the sounds on the CD, genius! Now I am going to go listen to some MS, starting with Grisly Reminder and I'll definitely keep my eyes open for this film! :D ♥

    1. Sandy ~ That is such a pretty new profile pic you have! Sounds like you have some catching up to do with Midnight Syndicate. It should be fun! If you liked my descriptive style here, I have another one for you. :)

      My Monsters of Legend Review

      My impression of the film is different from the soundtrack. The movie seems kind of goofy, like something that will be a cult hit. Let me know what you think if you do see it!

  2. Thanks for this review. I'm going to have to checkout both the movie and the soundtrack!

    1. Vivienne ~ Like Sandy, you also have a pretty new profile pic! Let me know what you think of the movie and soundtrack. The soundtrack is for serious listening and the movie looks like it's for serious laughing. At least that's the impression the trailer left me with... I like getting a laugh out of campy Horror movies.

  3. I have this on my "to watch" list but haven't gotten around to it yet.

    And I completely agree. A great soundtrack can stand on its own apart from the movie. I listened to Tron: Legacy a whole lot before seeing the movie. It was a neat experience being able to recognize the music while watching the movie.

    1. Dex ~ I think the "Axe Giant" movie is out on Netflix. That seems to be where the online reviewers had watched it.

      So you could actually find where each piece of music showed up in the movie? I'm not sure what kind of music is on the "Tron: Legacy" soundtrack. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize instrumental parts in a movie. Then there's something like the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack where you can describe exactly what was happening during each song. That is maybe the most recognizable movie soundtrack for me, aside from musicals made into movies. :)

      I still haven't seen the movie "Go" and I've been listening to that soundtrack since the movie came out in 1999. Fun soundtrack, but I have very little interest in watching the movie! A favorite movie soundtrack of mine goes with "Snatch". That album is an awesome mix of music, but I doubt I'll watch that movie either. A friend burned that CD for me before I'd even heard of the movie.

  4. Really liked the soundtrack but I would like the 90 minutes of my life back from watching the movie. 1 star at best!

  5. Mark ~ Hey! Thanks for following my blog. :)

    Ha! Ouch. Yeah, the movie looks like it might be enjoyed by someone with a certain sense of humor. I'm not sure if I'm that someone or not. I like movies that are both scary and funny, but it has to be just the right mix. This movie definitely does not seem as serious as the soundtrack!

    1. Ditto Justine! I didn't find you until the other day although admittedly I'm not good at searching for blogs. The movie was just a very bad and predictable slasher type gore movie but even the gore was comical. Oh well, it was free on Netflix.

  6. Mark ~ I imagine that's a fun part of Netflix - that you can check out a lot of different movies/TV relatively risk free. All you could possible lose is time! Some day I might try out Netflix. I was tempted because "Arrested Development" came back on there.

  7. Haha, I was afraid of Paul Bunyan when I was little. Now, I wouldn't mind meeting the ax wielding giant.

  8. Julie ~ I can see why a little kid would be afraid of Paul Bunyan! Even the thought of a giant blue ox could be scary. I'm not surprised that you'd want to meet him now. After all, you've been on the search for Bigfoot, ghosts, and UFOs! Paul Bunyan might not be all that scary next to those other encounters. :)

  9. I bought the Monsters of Legend the other day. Been listening in my truck. Sounds good. Going to use it for my Halloween Radio station.

    1. Mark ~ Your Halloween radio station? Do you have a podcast? I really enjoyed Monsters of Legend. If you're driving your truck at night while listening to that, I'm sure you're having a spooky time!

    2. Sadly, no. It is just a low powered FM Radio Channel. People driving by and looking at my props and tune in to the channel and listen to the music.

    3. Mark ~ That's pretty impressive! I'm sure the neighbors appreciate it too.