Gotta get back, back to the past! Samurai J-wait, no, wrong show.
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening everyone, and welcome to something of a throwback review. Today we’re going to be taking a look back at Marco Beltrami’s soundtrack to the classic 2004 Guillermo Del Toro movie Hellboy. Why would we be looking at a fourteen year old soundtrack? Because for the first time ever it’s getting a release on vinyl!
Coming to us from Varese Sarabande records you can pick this up in either “Blue Smoke” or “Red Right Hand” versions and both of them look really quite fetching.
Before we go any further, there is one thing that needs to be made plain here to any potential purchasers. Despite this release sharing the same cover art as the 2016 “Deluxe Edition” CD release, this is not the 49 track long Deluxe Edition soundtrack. This is a re-release of the original 20 track version so if you already have that on CD, you might want to hold off on purchasing unless you desperately need to have the vinyl in your life. There is nothing new to be found here.
So who or what is Hellboy? Hellboy is the creation of Mike Mignola and is a comic about the adventures of the titular Hellboy, a demon summoned during an occult Nazi ritual who now works for the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) in combating ghosts, ghouls, vampires and all manners of Cthulu-mythos inspired nasties. One of the key things about Hellboy is that he never goes out of his way to presents himself in a heroic light. In the comics he goes about his job in the same way you might if you were a plumber or a builder. He does the things he does because that’s his training and what he’s good at. Hellboy is the perfect example of a blue-collar hero and this attitude was carried over into the movie, with Ron Perlman’s performance perfectly capturing Hellboy’s attempts to fit into the world around him while at the same time battling seemingly immortal Nazis and demons alike.
So how do you write a score that fits with that? With themes of the occult, demons, fistfights as well as alienation and romance?
With mixed success, at least in this case. The Hellboy score is one that fits well within the confines of the film, fulfilling the primary role of a soundtrack very well.. When compared to some of Beltrami’s other work, notably A Quiet Place and Logan, then this soundtrack does not stand out as one that lends itself to being listened to on its own. There are a few standout tracks on offer here, but there are also a great many forgettable ones.
Of particular note are “Main Title” with its lovely walking bassline, a motif that’s returned to in more than one track. “Snow Fiends” is another interesting track. The opening, thoughtful strings suddenly begin to rise in pitch and then hold that note, fading away to nothing before the percussion crashes in and the tone becomes far more menacing. “Wake up Dead” veers into something almost Danny Elfman-ish, the more quirky themes being continued in the tracks “Rooftop Tango” and “B.P.R.D”.
“Father’s Funeral” is another fine track, managing to walk that fine line of being emotional without being overbearing. Some films are guilty of using the music as a crutch, bashing the audience around the head with demands to feel sad or happy. The score for Black Panther, as fine as it is, commits that sin more than once. Luckily this soundtrack is never guilty of that.
All in all, this is a decent enough soundtrack, but not something that needs to be a must-purchase. The vinyl release will, hopefully, remind people that this gem of a film exists before the remake with David Harbour comes out, but taken on its own as a standalone piece of music this soundtrack is just “okay”. If you want to enjoy the music properly, watch the movie again. It works so much better there.
Hellboy: Red Vinyl is now available from Varese Sarabande.