Spawn: The Album retrospective

SPAWN is a comic book series created by Todd McFarlane, first published in May of 1992. It details the story of a US soldier Al Simmons who was murdered in the line of duty, and made a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul so that he could come back to life and spend the rest of his time with his wife. But surprise, the devil is a tricky bastard. He sends Simmons back to Earth 5 years later, as a Hellspawn (Hell’s versions of angels in this story). His wife is now married to his best friend, and the couple have a child together. So Al Simmons, now Spawn, roams the alleyways of New York fighting crime and demons and angels and cyborgs and government corruption, while secretly defending his family that isn’t his family anymore.

(Or, at least, that’s what the first 100 or so issues were about. McFarlane published the 300th issue of Spawn in 2019, so I’m a little behind on what Simmons has been up to lately. But, I digress.)

1997 was The Year of Spawn. The character was was at the height of his popularity, with an animated series on HBO, a feature film, the 60th issue of the comic series hitting, SEVERAL action figure lines from McFarlane Toys (including The Dragon Blade vs Conqueror 2-pack!)… Ol’ Toddy Mac hit big, and was one of the most successful comic book creators of all time.

As was the case with any big summer blockbuster in the 1990s, along with a feature film comes a movie soundtrack. Not satisfied with the “music from and inspired by the motion picture” tag that so many movie soundtracks have, McFarlane stamped this one with as definitive at title as possible: Spawn: The Album.

Each song is a mash-up of heavy metal and electronic music, which fits the feel of the time rather perfectly, as well as the overall mood of Spawn comics. Dark, atmospheric, and riddled with details and minutiae that didn’t need to be there for any reason other than it was cool.

And at the end of the day, that’s all Todd McFarlane has ever tried to do with Spawn and his various other spin-off projects: Make something cool. Whether or not you agree with what McFarlane’s vision of cool is will vary from person to person. I think some of it is cool, I think some of it misses the mark, and some of it is trying way too hard. And that’s okay! I don’t have to like or agree with 100% of what another creative from a different generation thinks is cool. I can just like the stuff that I like, and kind of ignore the rest.

Which is exactly how I feel about this album: Some of it I like, and some of it I just kind of ignore.

I don’t remember exactly when I found my used copy of Spawn: The Album on CD. It was probably 1998, but it may have been early 1999. Either way, I still have it. And when I’m in the right mood, these tracks can either be perfect, or just kinda skipped to go to the next one. What I DO remember is that three of the first four tracks were released as singles and were in heavy radio rotation throughout 1997 and 1998, which is absolutely why I had to pick this up whenever it was that I did.

So let’s take a look at all of these collaborations between heavy metal and electronic artists, 25 years later.

Filter & The Crystal Method: (Can’t You) Trip Like I Do
Marilyn Manson & The Sneaker Pimps: Long Hard Road Out Of Hell
Orbital & Kirk Hammett: Satan
Korn & The Dust Brothers: Kick the P.A.
The Butthole Surfers & Moby: Tiny Rubberband
Metallica & DJ Spooky: For Whom the Bell Tolls (The Irony Of It All)
Stabbing Westward & Wink: Torn Apart
Mansun & 808 State: Skin Up Pin Up
The Prodigy & Tom Morello: One Man Army
Silverchair & Vitro: Spawn
Henry Rollins & Goldie: T-4 Strain
Incubus & D.J. Greyboy: Familiar
Slayer & Atari Teenage Riot: No Remorse (I Wanna Die)
Soul Coughing & Roni Size: A Plane Scraped Its Belly On A Sooty Yellow Moon

SPAWN is created and owned by Todd McFarlane.