3 out of 5
Produced by: Ludwig Goransson
Label: Sony Classical
There’s conflict within the Venom soundtrack. Not so much within the music itself, or rather not purposefully so, but rather regarding the conceptualization: Ludwig Goransson, having brought some mash-up swagger to the Creed soundtracks, finds himself on a Marvel movie – a minor tentpole-type film – and so tried (to my ears) to compose a balance between an independent, more nuanced ethic and crowd pleasing bombast. He leans into the movie’s horror aspect in an attempt to accomplish this, focusing on the jump scare BLARE noise that’s popular in 2010-era horror flicks – a disconcerting smash of strings or keys – but throughout most of the album, Goransson often curtails himself before a track or cue is really allowed to open up, circling back around to BLAREs to try some new affectation on his theme. That affectation is fascinatingly varied, and appreciably subtle at different points, using multiple pitches and including many instrumental additions to a few core beats, so that Venom is generally very interesting, but it’s fussy: it gets in its own way. That’s the conflict: between an album that finds cues that are worth pursuing, and a composer who seems frustrated by when such cues seem too generic.
Tellingly, though, when Goransson allows a track to get more cinematic, with triumphant flourish and rockin’ guitars and horns, it’s perfect – centerpiece Pedal to the Metal is pretty much the main example of that – and helps to keep one listening for more ideas along those lines. They’re there, and emerge in moments, but you’re sort of fighting for them as the album continually readjusts itself along the way.
Definitely more layered than I was expecting, making it a worthwhile listen, but Goransson tweaks with his formula so much throughout that it’s hard to sink into the disc besides some standout tracks and moments.