Hellboy (2004)

Image result for hellboy soundtrackHellboy: The Deluxe Edition

Composed by: Marco Beltrami

In 2004 one of the lesser known, but still popular superheroes got his own film adaptation. Hellboy is perhaps my favorite comic book franchise, mixing elements of early 20th Century pulp elements (particularly Lovecraft and Nazis) and mythology and folklore. In both the comics and film Hellboy is the son of a demon, summoned to earth by historical character-turned super-villain Rasputin for nefarious apocalyptic purposes. Fortunately, the demonic child is picked up by supernatural expert Professor Bruttenholm and raised to be a good guy in the government organization known as the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research & Defense). On Hellboy’s side are other misfits and freaks such as the fire wielding Liz Sherman and amphibious Abe Sapien and against him are Rasputin, a collection of Nazis, and other odd terrors determined to unleash elder gods of chaos and usher in a new world.

The film is pretty good, though as a Guillermo del Toro film its visuals tend to be a little stronger than the actual story. The film was scored by Marco Beltrami. Beltrami is well liked today by film music fans, but at the time most of his works were for dumb horror flicks and comedies. Hellboy provided him with a rich and varied source of characters and ideas to work with and he delivers, creating an eclectic but thematically driven score with bits of wackiness. The amount of themes and motifs is impressive and many are remarkably effective despite their simplicity.

Hellboy has two themes. The first is a simple gothic motif which appears in the first track, but doesn’t get a large appearance until “Main Title”. In this track it is accompanied by a cool guitar-driven rhythm for the BPRD. The opening of the original album is done quite well. The first track is ominous underscore while the second starts to build up with some choir at the end. Also towards the end of this track is a nobler theme for the titular character, which appears quite often in the film, but only twice on album, its second appearance in the climatic “Stand by Your Man”.

Pyrokinetic Liz Sherman’s theme, one of the more developed melodies, doubles as a love piece. It receives full treatment in “Liz Sherman” and “Hellboy & Liz”, though it never really swells to any great heights until the end credits. The other motifs for Hellboy’s allies are under-represented on the original album and can be heard to discern as character identities. Fish-man Abe Sapien has a slightly ethereal motif to simulate his aquatic nature. It comes off as a bit sinister and on the deluxe album track “For the Rotten Eggs” gets used as a suspense piece. Hellboy’s father Professor Bruttenholm receives a noble motif heard in the spoiler-titled “Father’s Funeral”.

The villains get quite a lot of motifs on their side and it’s slightly harder to separate the individual purpose of each one. Rasputin’s motif gets several interesting moments of instrumentation. Theremin gives it an otherworldly quality at the beginning of “Stand by Your Man” and its initial appearances on the complete score are scored with a Russian balalaika. There’s a basic villain theme which most memorably appears in the operatic “Kroenen’s Lied”. Kroenen himself gets a grim and simplistic motif at the start of “Nazis”. There’s a fourth and final evil theme labeled “Evil Doers”. It’s a simple yet engaging villain motif which keeps building. Its use in the film indicates that it represents Rasputin’s doomsday scheme.

As said before the album is eclectic. There’s tango in “Rooftop Tango” and “B.P.R.D.”, the aforementioned opera in “Kroenen’s Lied”, standard loud action fare in “Fireproof”, and theremin for weird effect in “Stand by Your Man”. While the themes don’t really get to the great level of other superhero scores, the style in which they are presented really elevates the listening experience. What’s amazing is that the music is cohesive despite all these elements, probably because of the slightly odd nature of the film.

There are other tracks that should be noted. “Father’s Funeral” presents Professor Bruttenholm’s theme as a sweepingly emotional cue, a definite highlight. “Kroenen’s Lied” is a melodramatic opera piece based on the villains’ theme. Curiously the film version is led by a woman and joined by a man while the opposite happens on album. I think I like the album version better, perhaps because my frequent listens to the original album etched it in my mind. I’ve read two different translations of this song. My preferred one has the singer complaining about his hypocritical and whiny lover and hoping she would just die. “Alley Fight” contains the most raucous action, while “Stand by Your Man” presents Hellboy’s two themes at their most heroic. “B.P.R.D.” closes out the listening experience in a wacky style with bits of tango, odd choir, and Hellboy’s theme.

Marco Beltrami really raised the bar for himself with Hellboy and I do not believe he has ever matched this score. The material of the film must have been more inspiring than the B-movie fare he’s usually saddled with. He devised a great multitude of (albeit short and mostly simple) themes and motifs and created a fun listening experience. This is highly recommended. The complete score is worth it for those who love the music as much as I do. It also will allow listeners to get a better grasp of the various themes and motifs. It looks like album’s producers aimed for a chronological presentation, but for some reason the tracks from the middle section of the film are jumbled. The forty-five minute original album is a solid compilation and has my preferred version of “Kroenen’s Lied”.

Rating: 9/10

Original Album

  1. 7th, 1944
  2. Meet Hellboy
  3. Main Title
  4. Snow Walkers
  5. Liz Sherman
  6. Fireproof
  7. Rooftop Tango
  8. Wake Up Dead
  9. Evil Doers
  10. Kroenen’s Lied
  11. Father’s Funeral
  12. Alley Fight 8/10
  13. Nazis 5/10
  14. Investigating Liz
  15. Abe Sapien
  16. Mechanical Mausoleum
  17. Soul Sucker
  18. Stand by Your Man
  19. Hellboy & Liz
  20. B.P.R.D.

Two-Disc Deluxe Edition

1. Broom Sets Us Up (2:44)
2. Evil Doers (3:55)
3. Fight (2:04)
4. Meet Hellboy (3:41)
5. Main Title (1:09)
6. Snow Walkers (2:24)
7. Brooms Fate (:40)
8. B.P.R.D. (1:00)
9. Meeting Abe (:52)
10. Where Am I (1:43)
11. Hellboy’s Lair (2:14)
12. Hellboy Meets Sam (4:17)
13. Alley Fight (3:17)
14. Fireproof (2:47)
15. Hellboy Stalks Liz (1:10)
16. Fishsticks Flashback (5:24)
17. Hellboy And Liz (2:36)
18. Investigating Liz (2:07)
19. Fire In The Hole (1:29)
20. Pure Of Heart (1:14)
21. For The Rotten Eggs (3:57)
22. John And Liz (1:28)
23. Sam Sees Fishsticks (1:29)
24. Sam Gets Ahead (1:07)
25. Horny (1:50)
26. It Will Be Quick (:32)
27. Hellboy Vs. Sam The 2nd (6:36)

1. Fish Boil (2:02)
2. Autopsy Music (1:23)
3. Rooftop Tango (2:31)
4. Kroenen Arise (:53)
5. Cookies And Stones (1:20)
6. Tango With Milk And Cookies And Small Rocks (1:24)
7. Feelings (2:09)
8. Abe’s Advice (3:05)
9. Live Cargo (:35)
10. Wake Up Dead (3:28)
11. Mechanical Mausoleum (3:09)
12. Kroenen’s Lied (2:00)
13. Kroenen Korner (2:50)
14. Light My Fire (4:22)
15. Soul Sucker (3:42)
16. Aw, Crap (4:04)
17. Stand By Your Man (1:20)
18. Gut Grenade (2:54)
19. A Hot Kiss (2:45)
20. B.P.R.D. Suite (6:57)
21. Oompa (2:58)
22. Evil Dewars (2:45)

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