Peter Peter / Peter Kyed / Douglas MacDougall / Giles Lam – Valhalla Rising

2 out of 5

Label: WeMe

Produced by: (?)

I can only imagine the effectiveness of this score during the actual movie, which I have not seen. With passing familiarity with director  Nicolas Winding Refn‘s severe visual style, and having read reviews and descriptions of the movie, the soundtrack’s song titles – which track a break from imprisonment, only to wind up descending in to Hell – the music’s bleakness is wholly appropriate. However, that does not translate into a great standalone listening experience, with that “bleakness” akin to the most minimal, uninvolving of rumbles and distortion, making the score mostly ambient… but without enough organicness to make it effective. The A-side has some flashes of mood, but is otherwise nearly silent; the B-side begins to introduce more notable guitar / electronic flourishes, for the grinding ‘Return’ and the appropriate bell-like tonality of ‘Christians,’ though these are relatively fleeting flourishes. C-side’s ‘The Boat’ has some cheap jump scares via strings (and they’re just as cheap in music as they are in a movie), but ‘Into Hell’ is when things get interesting, building into some haunting call-and-response demonic horns and unsettling distortion. This continues over to D-side’s ‘Hell,’ and then drops us into barebones ambience again on ‘Forest.’ The end credits theme brings back in the churning guitar, making sure we’d leave the theater on a high note.

There’s undeniably craft here – it’s quiet stuff, but it’s purposeful – but it just isn’t something I can imagine listening to without accompanying visuals, excepting those tracks which stand up with emotionality of their own.