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UNDER THE MOUNTAIN
Dark fantasy score full of menace, chills
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Red Head Films; review copyright (c) 2010 James Southall.
A fantasy/horror adventure, Under the Mountain is a New Zealand film directed by Jonathan King and starring Sam Neill. The score was written by Victoria Kelly, who scored the director's previous film Black Sheep. She's written a few scores in her native land over the last few years, but I believe this is the first one to see an album release - and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last.
The first part of the album is full of a strong sense of foreboding. Growling, snarling, menacing - but the tension never quite explodes. It's clever stuff, strongly-orchestrated - that type of suspense music can easily be dull in the hands of less-skilled composers, but Kelly doesn't allow that to happen. Then, suddenly, in the middle, things do explode - "One Will Be Enough" introduces some thunderous action music, exciting and energetic.
For the most part, this is very dark music - low brass, low strings - I haven't heard any of Kelly's music before, so to create a frame of reference I might suggest little snippets of Bernard Herrmann and Elliot Goldenthal's styles are detectable. The album's press release mentions David Arnold's Godzilla and that's also a fair comparison (though this score doesn't have a big theme and isn't quite so extravagant). To be honest, apart from the few pieces of huge action music (check out "The Beast in the Jungle"!) this isn't the type of score which will leap out and grab you - you need to pay attention to it. If you do, it manages to cast a spell and create a chilling atmosphere which is really very impressive.
There are more concessions to the kind of music one might think of when hearing the phrase "fantasy adventure" towards the conclusion of the album, such as the sweeping "End of the Road" or ground-shaking "Now You Run". There's a really good theme in "The Gargantua Rise", with a sense of the epic. I'm sure this score will attract a lot of listeners - it's the sort of thing which appeals to many film music fans, intelligent music which is simply well-composed and leaves an impression. It's not easy-listening, that's for sure, but I've found it very satisfying.