Cinefamily has been celebrating both Halloween and their four-year anniversary with a month-long festival of horror movies and events at their home base, the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax. Last Wednesday featured a rare musical performance by horror movie soundtrack cover band Nilbog.
In a city clogged with hopeful young bands vying for the spotlight, Nilbog has found a unique niche to pursue. Their mutual love for horror films of the 70s and 80s is apparent in the meticulous attention to detail these musicians display when performing the works of Goblin, Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter, and Giorgio Moroder.
The show kicked off with a clip from Carpenter’s The Thing, after which the band launched into a performance of Ennio Morricone’s minimalist “Humanity II” from that film, which ran seamlessly into the more upbeat “Trioxin Theme” from Return of the Living Dead. Each musical selection was prefaced by a clip from the corresponding movie, allowing the audience to revel in classic scenes from Friday the 13th Part 3 and the tinted Metropolis re-release from 1984.
To paraphrase Cinefamily founder Hadrian Belove, the existence of Nilbog is itself a rare thing, as each band member needed to be equal parts movie nerd, music nerd, and skilled musician for the project to work. The band not only captured the feel of each song, but mimicked every detail from the vocoder part in Goblin’s Tenebrae to the Arp synthesizer melody in John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. Granted, these details would be lost on all but the most astute horror movie nerds; luckily, there were plenty of us in the audience that night.
A rare musical hiccup occurred when the band refused to play the theme to Phantasm until one of the keyboardists had secured the correct MIDI sound for the opening melody. Every musical selection received the same reverent treatment, whether the composer was Morricone or “Hot Ice.”
The influence of progressive rock/fusion giants Goblin loomed heavily over the proceedings, and rightly so. Not only is the name “Nilbog” a direct reference to that band (and Troll 2, but sadly not a film called “Goblin” – sorry L.A. Times), but it’s doubtful that anyone in attendance had ever seen the Italian soundtrack titans perform live. Fittingly, the band closed their set with a performance of one of Goblin’s non–soundtrack works, “Un Ragazzo D’Argento,” an upbeat mixture of disco and prog.
Nilbog performances are a rare event, as the musicians are busy with several other projects (including the bands Captain Ahab and Anavan). Here’s hoping they manage to do at least do one Halloween show every year. There are plenty more soundtrack nuggets for them to overturn; we’re still waiting for them to tackle some Tangerine Dream and Fabio Frizzi themes.
Photos by Cecilia Orvis