- Composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera
- Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 30m
Written and directed by Scott Frank, A Walk Among the Tombstones is an action thriller starring Liam Neeson as a private investigator investigating a woman’s kidnap and murder, hired by her husband (who happens to be a drug lord). The film has been described in early reviews as being particularly dark and edgy and the same could be said of its score, by a composer new to me (and writing his first film score), Carlos Rafael Rivera, described in the press release as a protégé of Randy Newman, who is thanked in the album credits. But (in the unlikely event you thought it was a possibility), don’t expect music that sounds like Newman’s – this is bleak, gritty stuff, reminding me at times of Marco Beltrami (think In the Electric Mist in particular). The opening cue, “Main Street”, opens with a passage of dark strings and distant choir before the main theme begins – a deliberately-paced, somewhat mean and moody and very serious melody – it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s certainly got a depth of character to it.
It forms the basis of much of the relatively brief score, whose mood alternates between varying shades of black. There are occasional Herrmannesque passages for strings, sometimes a choir, but mostly the score is performed by a small instrumental ensemble and has a more directly personal feel as a result – as a listener, it feels like being part of something. Indeed, that depth of character I mentioned is very important and those things come together to create a rather immersive experience. All of that is very positive and I’ve little doubt that it will function very well as a film score, but as an album the thing that prevents it being one I can imagine wanting to return to particularly often is that it is in fact so successful at creating a bleak atmosphere, it quickly just becomes a bit tiring – it is deliberately joyless (to put it bluntly, it’s music to slit your wrists by) and that’s something that requires the listener to be in a particular frame of mind to really appreciate. It’s an impressive debut though, one that leaves me intrigued to hear more from Rivera, and there’s no doubting the impressiveness of the composition and dramatic vision.