I remember well the TV series of DARK SHADOWS, and Bob Colbert’s eerie sounding scores and haunting theme for the show. Now the big screen version emerges and in the hands of Tim Burton I am confident that it will be even darker and more alluring than the original small screen adaptations. The television show gained a cult status and still has a following of many, which seems to grow by the day. This movie version will, I am sure, also attain notoriety and be popular among both old and new fans of the mysterious central character BARNABAS. Composer Danny Elfman has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with director Burton. Elfman’s scores being an integral and important component within Burton’s dark, off beat and often delightfully warped projects, which also at times have tinges of comedy, poignancy, melancholy and emotion. Burton’s inimitable style of film making required scores that were diverse and highly original. Elfman was certainly the individual to achieve this and he has written some fine soundtracks that not only enhance and support the storylines and escort the characters within these movies, underlining every move they make or highlighting their mannerisms and quirky behaviour, but remain entertaining as just stand alone music cues to be savoured and digested away from the movies they were intended to accompany. When it was announced that Burton would make DARK SHADOWS, it was no surprise to see Elfman’s name as composer included in the credits. In fact, many took it as something of the norm to have the composer on board even before it was officially announced – a Tim Burton movie without Elfman would be unthinkable. The buzz surrounding the music was; what type of score would Elfman etch upon the picture? What delights of impish mayhem and mischievous musicality would we be treated to and what imposing and luxurious grand theme would we hear when the project was finally finished? Well the time for waiting, cogitating and anticipating what would be is over. Released on Sony Classical records we have Elfman’s powerful and beautiful score.
In a nutshell, this is probably the most superior soundtrack of Elfman’s to date. He has written a melodic and potent work which is commanding and highly thematic. The composer combines large orchestral textures and colours, enhanced by choir and bolstered by a scattering of electronic elements to conjure up a score which delights and enthrals the listener. Right from the beginning, the composer has you hooked, his opening cue on the CD is the “Prologue”, which is in effect an overture and a combination of a number of themes both melodic and atonal, heard throughout the score. “Prologue (uncut)” begins in a mysterious, misty and shrouded fashion. Woods are utilized to create a sound and atmosphere of apprehension with a melodious and slightly steamy element, evoking the style of John Barry; being moody but tuneful. Elfman then brings low strings into the equation which are themselves underlined by subtle and fleeting use of choir. Woods then return as the composition progresses and grows, becoming a more sustained and grand affair. Organ is introduced alongside strings and horns to create a form of crescendo which is short lived as the composition moves into a lush sounding piece with strings, brass, percussion and choir. This curtails and makes way for a more subdued style of writing, until it finally builds and bursts into a full blown grand theme which is a combination of modern film scoring fused with a sound and technique which could be out of any one of the vintage Universal horrors and brought together by highly expressive and grandiose sounding flourishes from both strings and brass sections. Listening to the score over and over, one can pick out little nuances of past Elfman scores but there is also a grander additional powerful technique present, akin to the works of Kilar. Driving strings with flyaway sounding horns underlined by wistful woodwind and forceful percussive elements all combine to create and purvey a powerhouse of composition, in which the now familiar Elfman sound prevails and shines through.
Track two “Resurrection”, is at first quite a sinewy sounding cue, but this soon segues into something more substantial and driving. Searing and sliding strings whip up the proceedings into a frenzied mid track climax, which halts to the sound of a ominous blast from brass. Low strings are again brought into play and underline the use of choir and woodwinds whilst the composition is bolstered and punctuated by the use of synthesised sounds, effectively adding depth and energy to the piece. Track three “Shadows-Reprise”, is a frenzied and urgent sounding cue. It is a working of the score’s central theme performed again by booming brass, forceful strings, backed up with the utilization of synthetic elements – a short lived cue but none the less one that is commanding and exhilarating. This is one of the better scores to be released thus far in 2012 being a soundtrack which has an imposing and powerful presence. There is another CD which will be released on Warner Music. This is mainly a song compilation from the soundtrack and includes tracks from The Moody Blues, Alice Cooper, Donovan, T. Rex and Barry White, with a vocal also included from Johnny Depp entitled “The Joker”. This album also includes two cues of the original score but all of the songs apart from the Depp vocal are vintage pop and rock, so nothing new there.