Composer/keyboardist Caleb Sampson passed away on June 8th 1998 prior to the release of filmmaker Errol Morris’ documentary titled Mr. Death – The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.. Not having seen the movie, I believe Mr. Leuchter was responsible for either developing or maintaining execution apparatus or “machines of death”. In any event, this film has received much praise since it’s release, as Errol Morris possesses an estimable track record for previous documentaries and films for TV. Caleb Sampson commenced with the construction of this soundtrack during the film’s infancy as the liners also reveal that Sampson composed and recorded this altogether endearing project while utilizing only a few snippets of the film for reference, which coincides with his untimely passing.
A member of the marvelous “Alloy Orchestra” (see AAJ April 2000 reviews), Sampson’s soundtrack is one that imparts a lasting impression for it’s compactness and illustrious conveyance of sequential themes and animated flow along with the beautiful and at times haunting melodies. Pieces such as the opener, “Heroics” features Sampson’s commanding – militaristic – style orchestrations and “Ghost Waltz” where Sampson and his bandmates implement somber strings and dark arrangements that emit an air of tragedy or dejection. Apparently, Mr. Leuchter was consumed by his work while also purveying some fairly odd ideologies and dogmas. Many of the compositions here invoke gorgeous waltz-like themes, majestic flutes and an overall distinct sense of nobility along with peaks and valleys of an often probing or inquiring nature. Despite the morose or moribund inferences, Mr. Death is a magnificent score that stands on its own in towering fashion! Highly recommended....... * * * * *
Caleb Sampson; Piano, Synthesizers: John Kusiak; Additional Synthesizers: Terry Donahue; Accordion, Percussion: Ken Winokur; Percussion: Hawthorne Quartet; Strings: Billy Novick; Clarinet: Donald Berman; Piano on