I had read a few reviews on this score before writing my own. Many critics compared the composers style to the music that appeared in Italian westerns during the 1960’s and the 1970’s, and although I agree to a certain extent I feel that the musical score for DEAD MEN by Gerrit Wunder, is an original work, of course there are many slices of instrumentation and also sounds that will probably evoke memories of the Spaghetti western era, but honestly this is an original and innovative score for an exciting and at times unusual western. It certainly is not expansive in the sense that it has Copeland-ish, Bernstein or Moross qualities (as in the big country or the magnificent seven) and neither does it boast great sweeping themes, but there is an attraction and a quality to this score that certainly is appealing. The composer utilises an interesting percussive line up and adds to the mix driving and ominous sounding strings which move the score along at pace and add a certain amount of tension and apprehension to its overall sound. If I were to compare it to any other western score I think I would be inclined to say that DEAD MEN is more akin to HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER rather than anything that either Morricone or Nicolai penned for the Spaghetti westerns, in fact it also has affiliations with the style of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, with their folk/country sounds that were blended with a dramatic style. DEAD MEN has a dark and sinister musical persona, which is relayed via Wunder’s effective use of both percussion and woods which is utilised to underline scenes that include the Apache Indians in the storyline. The composer also makes an effective use of guitar which is featured throughout in one form or another, the instrument can at times be soft and calming and also have to it an almost bluesy or folk orientated sound, but occasionally it takes on a more sinister sound and creates an ominous or uneasy mood. I suppose it is a little like the harmonica in Once Upon A Time in the West, where Ennio Morricone takes a traditional sounding western instrument or a harmless instrument that is associated with the western genre and gives it teeth as it were, twisting and mutating its sound so that it purveys a more threatening identity. Brass too is woven into the work which is blaring and rasping at key points when the action gets into full swing, the composer combines this with percussive elements and relentlessly forthright strings to underline and support the many action sequences within the movie. DEAD MEN is an interesting score, its not your normal western soundtrack, but this by no means detracts from its quality and its effectiveness within the movie and its ability to remain entertaining away from the images on screen. Gerrit Wunder, has scored a handful of movies and each project he has been involved with has benefitted from his talent and ability to successfully enhance and support the images and the storyline without being intrusive, his scores for KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL both being wonderful examples of what many refer to as being proper film music.
For DEAD MEN the composer employs three differing styles, there is a more country music sound and the music that represents the Native Americans which is mysterious and at the same time melancholy. Then the more traditional side of things highlighted by using the strings, percussion and brass. DEAD MEN tells the story of a young man who sets off on a journey to find his Fathers killers with vengeance on his mind and at the same time finds himself trying to protect the Apache tribe that he has grown to love and cherish and fights to re-claim the land and the gold on that land that has been taken from them. It is a nonstop action western, and one that I am sure will become a firm favourite amongst audiences. The score too is an enriching and enjoyable listening experience. One for your collection, available on Spotify and also soon to be released on to compact disc by Kronos Records.