Brian LaGuardia


Composer, Orchestrator, Arranger

Fear of the Unknown, Part II!

A while back, I wrote about my friend Thomas Eliot’s new one-shot tabletop horror RPG, and the theme I wrote for it which doubled as the theme for his horror podcast “Invasion of the Pod People.” One year later, I finally had the time to realize my initial vision: to write a full-fledged companion album for the game, which of course includes the main theme.

Thomas’ initial direction was “Write a film score that’s a marriage of John Carpenter and Harry Manfredini.” For those of you horror film buffs, this provided a truly exciting opportunity to marry two very distinct styles…and also flaunt a bit of my super nerdy film score appreciation.

Everyone knows Manfredini’s score to Friday the 13th: full of orchestral aleatory, piano and crucially, of analog delay, mainly used in the series’ most noteable auditory calling card: ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma (derived from kill them, mommy).

What you may not know, though, is that Manfredini is on record stating that he owed a lot of this score’s success to Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien (1979), which happens to be one of my favorite horror scores of all time with a fascinating backstory that I’ll not get into here. What’s important is, if you take a listen to that OST, you’ll immidiately see why he made that claim: all the same stuff is here! Orchestral aleatory (albeit generally more restrained), and lots of delay, in this case on the cellos and basses playing col legno battuto. In those days, Jerry had to run everything through an echoplex rather than simply slapping a delay plugin on his stem like we do today.

So naturally, I threw in a few Alien callbacks in my album, since the goal of this album was mainly to be background for player sessions (though Confrontation does indeed go head-first into Friday the 13th action cue territory, but even there lies a pretty overt Alien nod).

Of course, the other part of this marriage was the John Carpenter influence. For that, I turned to his love of the Prophet 5 synth. He often scored whole horror films with just this one piece of equipment, and he was also the director of his films…you don’t see that very often. At any rate, I found a few Omnisphere patches that used the Prophet 5 sound directly, but I didn’t stop there…I made synth an equal partner in this album, which included embracing how far that technology has come in the modern scoring era, while simultaneously trying to hold onto the glorious analog sound of the 80s.

That said, since we were using orchestra, I couldn’t help but give a subtle nod to my favorite Carpenter film, which ironically was not scored by him. The Thing is my OTHER favorite horror film/score. That was written by the great Ennio Morricone, who did a remarkable job blending Carpenter’s love of synth with the lush palate of the orchestra. In particular, some of my string work in Inciting Incident and Epilogue are a love letter to this thorougly unsettling cue, when our heroes are investigating the Norwegion camp that has been utterly devistated by something nobody understands as yet.

And of course, The Thing’s most iconic bit of score is it’s low synth pulse, which was heavy inspiration for the three eighth note low riff in Fear of the Unknown, because that’s probably the most chilling opening to a film I’ve ever seen. Just a very subtle but inevitable sense of creeping doom.

When I asked Thomas how each game would generally go, he basically described phases of a story, since each campagin could potentially be in wildly different settings or time periods. This formed the basis of the structure of the album: Inciting Incident, Investigation, Confrontation and Epilogue. I kept the track names exactly that vauge, again given the massive range of potential settings, and tried to make the album as fitting as possible for any situation.

Keenly aware that tabletop RPGs seldom have time to switch tracks, I also took Inciting Incident, Investigation and Confrontation and made them into bonus tracks that actually loop seamlessly on any media player! So if you don’t find one track to your liking but adore, say, Investigation (easily the most minimal of the five), you can just loop that for your entire session, and it will quietly add ambience to your game without intruding.

This also marks my first album that has been properly distributed, and is now out on all major platforms! It’s also, as always, available on Bandcamp should you wish to directly support me and own high-quality audio. Links to the RPG, as well as my album are below. Happy Halloween!