October 27, 2007

CD Review: 30 Days of Night - Music by Brian Reitzell

On October 19, 2007 the vampire fury that was once contained safely within the pages of a graphic novel was unleashed upon the big screen in the form of a live action adaptation. How well the adaptation worked, I do not know as I chose to refrain from reading it prior to viewing the film. Now I have gotten my hands on the score, composed by Brian Reitzell, former drummer for Redd Kross and Air. I have since listened to it a few times and have come to the conclusion that it is as frustrating as the feature was. It is sad to say that this composition has not survived its extraction from the moving image all too well.

Some scores cannot be separated from the images that they accompany. Take those moving pictures away and the music loses its relevance, its cohesion. Some scores can make you relive the film in your mind, scores such as John Williams' Star Wars. Others can be listened to separate from the films completely, delivering a unique experience on their own, such as Shigeru Umebayashi's House of Flying Daggers. Then there are scores like 30 Days of Night that just do not hold together all that well outside of the movie.

The movie itself was a frustrating experience. There were sequences and moments that worked incredibly well. There was a fantastic look to the movie. However, there were large logic gaps and, on a few occasions, it seemed like there was a reel missing. It made for an agonizing experience, as I wanted to like it so much. The same can be said for the score.

I saw the film prior to listening to the score and I have to say that the music never really stood out to me. It all blended seamlessly into the cold world of the vampires, failing to offer much life of its own. The score sounded as if it were more geared to creating an atmosphere than creating a score.

When I first listened to the album I was at work. This was a mistake, as I have to keep the volume down so as not to disturb my neighbors and this album requires some volume. It is an incredibly quite collection with very few tracks offering any loud noises. It also drones on and is quite repetitive at times. Reitzell's compositions never offer up anything that could be termed a theme or motif, rather they underscore the current action. Yes, I know the music should be working in conjunction with the action, but there is not much to latch onto when you are devoid of the images.

30 Days of Night is a non-traditional score, there are no big orchestras at play here. Many of the sounds created are unique sounding as Reitzell employed a different way of capturing many of them. Here is what Brian had to say regarding his work:

"I was trying to figure out the different sounds and colors and instruments to use. I thought if someone came at me with an ax or was trying to kill me or eat me, that was going to be such a horrific experience and was going to be totally new and unfamiliar, so I didn't think what I was going to hear was something like an orchestra."

One of the ways he created the sounds was by taking a pottery wheel, and with some tubing, attach items to it, things like drum sticks and mallets. He would then put a microphone on it and record whatever sounds it made. Interesting to say the least. Some of the end result is quite intriguing, but it just does not work as a stand alone album. This music needs the movie in order to exist.

That said, there are a couple of standout cues. Among them are the percussion filled "Barrow Burns," "Ditchwiched" that has the most frenetic portion of the album, and "Vampired Johnny" has a nice, tense build. There is also a trio of cues that have portions that I like in each: the end of "You Wanna Play With Me Know?," the middle of "The Bloody Fruits of Barrow," and the beginning of "The One Who Fights."

Bottomline. There is a lot to like about this score. Some of the sounds are very cool, and reading about the use of a pottery wheel to attain them is interesting. The problem is that it does not work as a standalone album. I do not see myself slipping this in when I want to listen to a score, perhaps putting it in for a taste of the interesting pieces that were done, but not as a cohesive work.

Very Mildly Recommended.


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