3 out of 5
Label: Sony Classical
Produced by: Ludwig Göransson
This feels like a lot of work for not very much music.
To get out front of that, Ludwig Göransson really goes above and beyond for this score: not to denigrate the slew of Marvel composers working under Dave Jordan’s supervision across various projects, but most of those flicks’ scores, to my eye, tend to fall into a semi-generic pile of heroic themes and bombast. The same could be said for a lot of notable blockbuster composers: the era of sweeping themes like that of Star Wars’ are past us, and now a lot of things follow suit, with temporary trends like giganto Hans Zimmer string stings taking hold here and there. There are so, so many great composers working out there – I don’t want to skip over that – but I also think there are plenty that (and surely at least partially at the behest of studios or inherited from audience expectations) tend to kinda sorta just sound alike.
So Venom may not be a blockbuster, or a “typical” hero movie, but it has a lot of effects, a Marvel banner, action, and a name star, so I wouldn’t be surprised by a soundalike score. And instead, Ludwig digs deep, and finds a pretty haunting tone that’s rather contrary to the somewhat humorous pitch the movie was given; much more in line with the anti-hero / tragedy attributes of its main character. That’s notable from the start of the score, all the way through the end, when we get to climactic musical sequences.
And the depth of the compositions are also impressive. Looking at the list of instrumentation, that again doesn’t have to mean anything in itself – give a movie an orchestral score and you’ll see something similar – but how about that, an orchestral score for a flick about a gooey-suited comedy villain? It’s already kinda odd in a fun way, but the deep bench can also be heard in the tracks: it’s not just that the sound is “full,” but also quite varied, with touches here and there crafting a rather complex sound.
However, it feels like all of this effort is applied within a very limited scope. I appreciate when a composer winds a theme throughout a score, but Venom – Ludwig – is almost ratcheted to that theme. The tracks that can push past 3 or 4 minutes is where we get to hear some of the above mentioned affectations, and that is a fair amount of them, but we still constantly circle back to the same exact theme, at the same exact cadence, “told” in the same way, which unfortunately gives the impression of a track on loop when there’s actually a ton of music here. I start to question if I’m expecting too much, but then we get to ‘Venom Rampage’ in the album’s final third, and it all opens up: Göransson actually starts to toy with that theme instead of just repeating it, breaking it down and rebuilding it from different, exciting approaches. This makes the times when we circle back to the theme proper – like the climactic Battle On The Launch Pad – intense, and earned.
More attuned ears than mine can probably tell you how I’m missing further nuances Ludwig inserted along the way, but the only ears I have, alas, are mine, and despite how impressed I am by the unexpected depth and quality of this, several listens haven’t been able to wring much out of the majority of its tracks. However, that initial impression and the final section help to liven things up significantly and definitely still set the album in a much smaller pile of memorable scores, even if within that memory, there’s quite a bit of repetition.