March 29th, 1994, The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released. Featuring tracks by 90’s alternative rock and metal bands, the album went to number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and was certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA.
Soundtracks are often potent reminders of a time and place, artifacts of an era for the ones who lived through those particular times. The early 90’s threw up a plethora of great soundtracks, each catering for a certain demographic that clung to the film it was associated with. It was however often the case that these soundtracks outstripped their associated movies in content, longevity and sales.
The Crow is one occasion where the film and its soundtrack succeed in being perfectly complementary while also capturing the zeitgeist of the time.
The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, like the movie that inspired it, drips with a moody, eye-liner smeared darkness. It’s as rich and foreboding as a trip through the mean streets of Detroit on Devil’s Night. It’s an expertly curated catalogue of a time in rock history that was far more diverse and open minded than hindsight might suggest.
By 1994 alternative rock was mainstream. 90’s alternative rock was made up of many different characters, whose taste and backgrounds stretched from Punk to Metal, from Classic Rock to Rap, from Goth to Industrial. The artists of the time used these influences to put their own spin on the 90’s sound. In doing so, the early nineties rock scene felt fresh. No band truly sounded alike and as a result, the audiences who lived through that era usually had wide ranging taste.
What The Crow Soundtrack manages to do so well is tie those influences and sounds together in one era defining collection that can proudly sit alongside Singles as one of the great musical heirlooms of the 90s.
Singles encapsulated the rise of the grunge scene in 1992. In 1994, The Crow was a place where all the misfits, weirdos and outcasts who didn’t fit on the grunge bandwagon went to play. Listening to The Crow now is a reminder that 90’s rock wasn’t all about “The Seattle Sound”
Where Singles was a superficial love story, The Crow was a gritty R-Rated comic book movie, at a time when superhero movies weren’t flooding the multiplex. Their soundtracks were very different, Singles was a must have for discerning rock fans while The Crow was a hodgepodge of various bands who, with a few exceptions, weren’t nearly as fashionable. (However, it’s worth pointing out that The Crow went triple-platinum, while Singles went double-platinum.)
The album opens with the highly evocative Burn by The Cure, immediately setting the tone of what’s to come. It’s a brooding masterpiece from a band who have straddled decades and influenced numerous alternative rock bands of every persuasion. Robert Smith’s penchant for makeup, black clothes and dramatic hair was mirrored in the look of Eric Draven, the dead musician in James O’Barr’s original Crow comic and star of the movie.
The record does a fantastic job of joining the dots between the post punk and goth bands of the 1980’s and the alternative rock and industrial bands that followed in the 90’s. Case in point, Nine Inch Nails’ masterful reading of the Joy Division track “Dead Souls”
Trent Reznor’s esthetic looms large over the entire soundtrack. From Machines of Loving Grace to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult who’s industrial nerve-shredding, hedonistic despair follows Reznor’s blueprint.
Tracks by punk veterans Violent Femmes and Henry Rollins sit side-by-side with Pantera who pay tribute to Oregon punk legends Poison Idea. Rage Against the Machine, bring a reworking of a “Killing in the Name” B-side called “Darkness,” and, at the time, a new hip hop edge to rock.
The Crow’s big radio hit was a then new Stone Temple Pilots song called Big Empty. STP’s second album Purple wouldn’t appear until June 1994 and this was the first taste of new material for fans post Core. Big Empty is a perfect time-capsule, massive guitars, massive hooks and high on emotions, The Crow wouldn’t be complete without it.
Helmet offers up the incendiary Milquetoast. A groove laden romp of epic proportions. Angular, melodic, propulsive and heavy as f**k, they were a band that crossed all musical boundaries in the 90’s, loved by the most ardent gatekeepers no matter what the genre.
And on it goes. Long lost bands like For Love Not Lisa throw rock goldust our way with “Slip Slide Melting”. The Jesus And Mary Chain, like the Cure earlier, are a thread back to the post punk and goth 1980’s that so influenced the 90’s.
The Crow Soundtrack, like Singles, Judgement Night and other soundtracks of the era, present us with a snapshot of that time. These compilations carried millions of music fans around the world through a decade, and they’ve lived in their hearts for many more.