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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Fernando Velazquez)

January 31, 2016

Cover_PridePrejudiceZombiesPRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

Fernando Velazquez, 2016, Varese Sarabande
23 tracks, 58:03

It sounds like a lot of fun this “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, but will Fernando Velazquez’s score be anywhere near as good as “Crimson Peak”, his other recent exploration of Gothic horror?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

From director Burr Steers (of “17 Again” and “Charlie St. Cloud”) comes a new adaption of the literary classic “Pride & Prejudice… and Zombies”. Jane Austen’s classic story of tangled relationships between different classes in 19th century England, is combined with a battle against zombies. The result looks rather sexy and fun. In the past Steers has worked with ‘quirky’ composer Rolfe Kent, but for this gorey chick-flick he turns to Fernando Velazquez, who is a master when it comes to both horror and drama. Following “Crimson Peak“, may we expect another excellent exploration of Gothic horror?

What does it sound like?

The album opens with ostinato strings and a brass-lead theme for “Darcy”. It conveys urgency and nobility, and for a moment is really exciting; yet it just sort-of fizzles out. Suspenseful tremolo strings fill out the remainder of this opening cue. It feels like it’s missing the punch-line. And that’s really how I feel about the entire album. Darcy’s theme and ostinato do return several times throughout the score, but I feel it’s not quite strong enough to really hold it all together.

Fernandez offers a few ‘dances’ and cues that border on being ‘source music’ (for lack of a better description). “An Illustrated History of England 1700-1800”, for example, has a chamber-like orchestration and features, amongst others, “Rule Britannia”. It’s quite a fast-paced, whacky cue (even with an Asian passage), but it’s not really my cup of Earl Grey. Elsewhere, “The Man From Uribe” is an Irish-sounding piece for flute and bodhran. It sounds authentic, I can’t fault it, but it quickly gets on my nerves. It is immediately followed by the similarly-orchestrated “Dance of the Ponderous Distaff”. The composer also serves up a few lovely, very classical sounding dances and waltzes, that may remind one of Patrick Doyle or Maurizio Malagnini. These include “Dressing for the Dance”, “The Soldiers of Meryton”, “Menuet des Mortes Vivants” and “Rosings Park”. Strings take the lead during these cues, with the occasional brass harmonies.

The composer’s dramatic writing is fabulous, as always. “Carriage Ride”, “Midnight Walk”, “The Letter – Siege of London”, “Darcy Is Saved”, “After the Explosion” and closing track “Happy Ending” rely heavily on lush, romantic, string-driven writing. “Happy Ending” in particular is a wonderful cue, as lush as anything by the composer.

And then there are several horror cues. “We Are Under Attack” is the first of the action-packed tracks. Staccato strings and percussion create a rhythm, with lush string lines on top of that. The percussion seems to combine toms and taikos, whilst the strings (again) are infused with an Asian flavour. It’s a well executed cue, though the percussive crescendo does sound like every piece of trailer music you’ve ever heard.

“Orphan Attack”, “The In-Between”, “Back to St. Lazarus” and “Zombies Are Fed – Attack – Showdown” all rely on racing strings, tremolo strings, snarling brass, dissonant clusters and thundering percussion. There are some exciting moments here, and with Velazquez’s sentiments you know it’s not going to be your run-off-the-mill action music (though I do believe this is probably Velazquez’s most ‘Hollywood’-sounding score to date). Parts of “The In-between”, “Back to St Lazarus” and “Zombies Are Fed” are terribly exciting, with a powerful rhythmic drive and wonderful harmonies! Yet, on the whole… I want to like it a lot more than I do.

Is it any good?

Fernando Velazquez has established himself as somewhat as an expert when it comes to beautifully melodic horror scores. “El Orfanato” and “Mama” are two excellent examples. Most listeners will undoubtedly be tempted to compare his latest score to “Crimson Peak”, a Gothic horror score from only a few months ago. Compared to that one, I’m inclined to conclude that “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” is technically just as good, arguably a bit more aggressive and more action-packed, probably a little more diverse (with the inclusion of various dances and that ‘classic’ sense of romance)… and yet, for me it’s missing a strong, all-embracing theme like “Edith’s Theme”.

To me, “Pride…” feels a little incoherent. There’s a fair amount of action material, lots of creepy strings and snarling brass. Technically it’s phenomenal, as you’d expect, but beyond that there’s little here that really grabs and holds my attention (and yeah, I’m talking ‘themes’ or even ‘motifs’). Whilst the music is playing I am impressed – the writing is great, the orchestrations are great; and the recording is great. And when the music does momentarily capture me, it is truly terribly exciting and makes me get up from my chair. And “Happy Ending” is an absolute killer cue. Yet, as soon as the music stops, I’ve forgotten what I just heard. I do like this score – but I think I like the idea behind the music more than the actual end result.

Rating [3.5/5]

Trackslist:

01. Darcy (4:00)
02. An Illustrated History Of England 1700-1800 (2:20)
03. Dressing For The Dance (0:36)
04. The Man From Uribe (2:11)
05. Dance Of The Ponderous Distaff (1:29)
06. We Are Under Attack!! (2:27)
07. Carriage Ride (1:05)
08. Orphans (1:47)
09. The Soldiers Of Meryton (1:10)
10. Menuet Des Mortes Vivants (1:35)
11. Orphan Attack (3:34)
12. Don’t Go Into The Woods Alone (1:29)
13. St Lazarus (2:43)
14. Rosings Park (1:15)
15. Midnight Walk (1:08)
16. Flirt Lovers Fight (2:45)
17. The Letter / Siege Of London (4:09)
18. The In-Between (5:36)
19. Darcy Is Saved (1:59)
20. Back To St Lazarus (2:13)
21. Zombies Are Fed / Attack / Showdown (5:13)
22. After The Explosion (2:40)
23. Happy Ending? (4:42)


Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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