October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Christopher YOUNG
Bless The Child  
  GNP CRESCENDO GNPD 8066   [53:30]

A no-holds barred musical journey into the dark world of supernatural religious terror.

Five long pieces (between six and fourteen minutes) support a tale of a young child at the centre of a cataclysmic battle between the forces of darkness and light. Of course, we are very much in the territory that Jerry Goldsmith made his own with his truly brilliant, certainly trend setting work on the Omen trilogy, but fortunately Christopher Young is talented enough to make it all sound relatively fresh and exciting.

'Introitus (Entrance)' is incredibly atmospheric, with various exotic references (including nods to both the Middle East and the Middle Ages). Growling, bass voices vie with angelic counterparts in a powerful evocation of good versus evil and there's a veritable hotchpotch of everything we have come to associate with this particular genre. To some it may seem somewhat clichéd, but for myself, I found it all vastly enjoyable and entertaining.

'Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy Upon Us)' opens again with guttural male voices supported by swirling, insistent strings. Mid-way through the first real melody presents itself, a typically catchy, boldly dramatic Young motif that has a strong sense of nobility, adding weight to the entire score. Later, the growling vocals return in what almost sounds like some kind of Viking war chant! Much of this long track though is dedicated to low-key mood setting, punctuated by bursts of energy and ending with a choral, overtly religious crescendo.

'Dies Irae (Day of Wrath)' is more of a percussive, driving onslaught, although there are quieter, ominous moments to add to the sense of disquiet. Some nice off-kilter piano late in the track is followed by surges of manic, desperate cacophony. Finally, angelic voices return to briefly suggest hope against the darkness.

'Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)' has church organ used to subtle effect to accentuate the religious aspects of the story, again with the choral embellishments and the inclusion of echoing, whispered voices and shrill strings create an almost palpable quality of foreboding. There's a brief reprise of that noble motif introduced in 'Kyrie Eleison', although much of the time tense atmospherics dominate. Thankfully though they never drag on long enough to become tiresome and Young always manages a sudden change of pace and tone to keep you interested.

Lastly, 'Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light)' features solo soprano voice announcing a gentle, hesitantly hopeful motif, still with undercurrents of unease. The choral works dominates this entire track in an understated finale that is seductively effective, until it finally takes flight and reuses the compelling conclusion from 'Dies Irae'.

A very serious piece of work, sometimes grandiose, often rather subtle, perhaps less driving and more ambient than Goldsmith's The Omen, this is an insidiously persuasive and impressive score. And while it is perhaps a little intense for all tastes, for those who like their film music dark, disturbing and dangerous, Bless the Child will not disappoint.

Mark Hockley


Gary S. Dalkin adds:-

With disaster movies everywhere over the last few years, a new Star Wars film in the cinemas last summer and I Love the 70's on the TV every Saturday night, one might be forgiven for thinking we'd done the timewarp and were trapped in 1979. That other big 70's fad hasn't been forgotten, with supernatural horror movies currently falling over their own plot-holes in the mad dash to beat one another into the local multiplex. The cover art for this latest contender, Bless the Child, suggests a highly derivative mix of The Exorcist, The Omen and Carrie, while hot on the heels of Robert Zemeckis' What Lies Beneath, Chuck D. Russell (The Mask, Eraser) is the latest 'name' director to hitch a lift on the supernatural bandwagon. The film has had mixed reviews, but at least received praise for taking an apparently respectful and accurate portrayal of Christianity, and of being unusual in according not just Satan, but also God with supernatural power. Will miracles in Hollywood never cease?

The album of Christopher Young's score is divided into just five tracks with titles drawn from the requiem: Introitus, Kyrie Eleison, Dies Irae, Agnus Dei and Lux Aeterna, but make no mistake, this isn't a requiem. The whole thing might as easily have been edited into one long track, or left in many separate short cues, because the result is, the finale excepted, simply one long formless mass (pun intended). A big score, with orchestra, choir, electronics, vocal soloists, and one of the same world music signature instruments as featured on John Debney's End of Days, this is typical post-Omen God vs the Devil Hollywood film music. We get lots of portentous suspense music, lots of unsettling atmospheres, doom laden bells, 'evil' sounding choral passages, and some music in the actual requiem tradition. It's better crafted than usual, and doubtless will work up a storm with the accompanying images. As an album only the hymnal Lux Aeterna as much in the way of real interest, and this is the sort of piece one might imagine coming from a collaboration between Howard Hanson and Alan Hovhaness. It is actually very striking, and would be a prime candidate for inclusion should Silva Screen decide to record a follow-up to their recent A History of Horror. The sound is excellent and if you particularly like horror scores I imagine this will go down a treat.

Gary S. Dalkin


Ian Lace concludes with:-

Gary has stolen most of the words from my mouth, A mix of some originality with lots of the usual writhing, slithering and jangling (that's the satanic bit), and heavenly pomp but given a much more interesting spin than the norm. The opening Introitus impresses but from there the pit yawns (pun intended). At least Agnus Dei and Lux Aeterna offers some heavenly respite (pun half intended) and Mr Young will have done film music and music lovers a service in embracing the style of Gabriel Fauré whose lovely Requiem is wholeheartedly recommended (outrageous PR for Fauré intended; any perceived slight to Mr Young unintended).

Ian Lace



Mark Hockley

Gary S. Dalkin

Ian Lace

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