Marco Beltrani's relationship with director Guillermo Del Torro is developing very nicely indeed. Their inaugural work together on Mimic (1997) was well above average for the horror/fantasy genre, while the follow-up Blade II (2002) was both dynamic and stylish. Now with Hellboy the collaboration hits new heights with Beltrami really establishing himself as a composer of note.
This is a score that benefits from repeat plays; there is so much colour and depth to the work that it could conceivably be overlooked the first few times around. Usually, for most of us, it is melody that initially commands our attention and there is plenty of that on offer here, but it is the more subtle thematic writing that ultimately gives the work cohesion.
The opening piece, 'Oct 7th, 1944', is insidiously atmospheric and the motif that signifies the character of Hellboy develops quietly, almost delicately here, then more decisively on 'Meet Hellboy' before segueing into its major statement on the 'Main Title'. The quirky 'Rooftop Tango' and 'B.P.R.D.' add even more musical shading and the use of the Theremin on pieces like 'Snow Walkers' and 'Wake Up Dead' give the work a sense of otherworldly menace and gravity. In fact the orchestrations on the score overall are extremely effective with some striking brass and string writing on tracks such as 'Evil Doers', incorporating a variation on Hellboy's signature theme. Further to this is the operatic male and female duet on 'Kroenen's Lied' which does not seem in the least bit out of place within this grandiose, gothic-tinged musical canvass.
There are so many highlights I could go through each track and praise it, but a special mention must be made for the heartfelt, elegiac 'Father's Funeral' which possesses true emotional weight along with the powerfully emotive and finally heroic 'Stand by Your Man'. Both are highlights among a abundance of wonderful stuff! This is a score that has a real thematic structure and the music has been very well assembled for this release, but finally the element that takes this work onto a much higher artistic plane is the beautiful, moving theme introduced on 'Liz Sherman' and elevates the entire score, giving the work a true heart amidst the darkness and danger. When this motif is used at the climax on 'Hellboy & Liz' it creates a moment of significant pathos and resonance. Of course, a score like this would not be complete without its share of action writing and there is enough here to satisfy with brass led, frantic paced pieces like 'Allley Fight' and in particular the boisterous 'Fireproof', both of which keep the pulse racing.
Marco Beltrami continues to write scores in the tradition of the Godfather of modern film music, Bernard Herrmann and he is going from strength to strength. I think after several listens to Hellboy that this soundtrack will become a firm favourite with not only fans of horror/fantasy scores but all admirers of outstanding film music. A major leap up the A-list ladder for Marco and here's hoping that he continues to climb to the very top.