Clive Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, was the springboard for what has become the ever decreasingly worthwhile ‘Hellraiser’ series of movies. But despite the fact that over the years the films have degenerated into an exploitative mess, at the very beginning there was indeed some definite class and quality and this was best exemplified by the wonderful musical contributions of the very talented Christopher Young. His orchestral score for the original Hellraiser in 1987 elevated what was a relatively low-budget production to a much higher level than the originally planned. Industrial-styled music would have ever been able to achieve and created a cabalistic ambience that has permeated all the subsequent movies. His music set a tone of sinister carnival and conveyed perfectly the lofty concepts of twisted morality that were central to the first few films. But even allowing for how effective Young’s music was for the first movie, his true masterpiece came with the second instalment, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), an absolute tour-de-force of choral bombast and powerhouse strings and brass. Without any doubt this score is a must have for anyone who appreciates dramatic film scoring, with just about every track deserving praise and admiration. But the true distinction of both of Young’s scores is his ability to colour his writing with subtle shifts in approach, offsetting all of the intensity with more intimate moments and creating a grand canvass of both worldly and otherworldly passion and seductiveness. I really can’t recommend his work here strongly enough. It is simply required listening.
As an extra bonus, Randy Miller’s follow-up score for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) is also included on this cleverly produced 3 CD set, with the puzzle-like packaging in keeping with the Hellraiser storyline and while Miller’s work does not stand up alongside the majesty of Young’s contributions (some of which is incorporated), there is still a fair amount of gothic pomp to carry it along at a brisk pace and entertain those who value and enjoy this kind of larger than life film music.
A really wonderful collection of exceptional material, although Hellbound:Hellraiser II is the unquestionable highlight. I have no hesitation at all in wholeheartedly recommending this to all but those who only enjoy the quieter side of film music and those who may wish to avoid a delectable, decadent descent into the musical bowels of hell itself.
Gary Dalkin adds:-
I confess, I was going to write a full review of this set, then Mark came a long and rendered anything I might have to say at length entirely redundant. This is indeed a fantastic release, with the original Hellraiser album being merely excellent, but the second disc representing not just Christopher Young's finest film work to date, not just one of the finest horror scores ever penned, but simply one of the greatest film scores ever written. Its as simple as that. Far removed from electronic drones which littered the soundtracks of many a Halloween rip-off in the 1980's, and equally removed from the standard atonal bang-crash-wallop everything-and-the-kitchen-sink orchestra, choir and weird samples approach of so much current horror scoring, Young's work is in the epic Gothic tradition of Bernard Herrmann, with a passing nod to the elegant classical grandeur of such great John Williams' scores as The Fury (1978) and Dracula (1979). For those who don't normally like horror film music but love the sweeping, Wagnarian, darkly melodic musical drama of Herrmann and Williams this is a real inventive treat. As Mark says, the album for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, is not in the class of the first two, but is still a superior horror score drawing on Young's thematic material. Not only that, but in this set, imaginatively designed like the Lamont Configuration puzzle box from the films themselves, you get all three discs for the price of one full price new release. The remastered sound is excellent. Not worth selling your soul for, but otherwise the most essential reissue of the year so far. As this issue is limited to 3000 copies I'd recommend snapping one up before they all fly off the shelves. Now how about Daniel Licht's score for Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)?