No matter how chameleon-like Chris Young attempts to be, he always finds himself returning to the horror genre. This is not without reason - scores like Urban Legend, Species, and his masterpiece Hellraiser II have fashioned him into a maestro of suspense. Ironically, endeavors into the broader spectrum of cinema have traditionally failed to pique his creativity, resulting in several duds like In Too Deep and Entrapment (with The Hurricane and Murder in the First being notable exceptions). Thus, I approached Bless the Child with trepidation, blindly hoping for a return to form. Fortunately, the horror genre has again inspired Young to compose a masterwork. I would like to think that the score's thrashing dissonances only served as a mindless scare tactic, a reminder of the hackneyed sound of the typical suspense movie, but Young somehow manages to transcend the genre, presenting an audacious, exhilarating work of intense modernism and religious inspiration. Indeed, GNP Crescendo's album presents the music as a concert suite, with the movements designated by portions of the Requiem Mass. Luckily, the lengthy tracks, running between 7 and 14 minutes, rarely bog down into pointless underscore, and Young usually manages to keep the music interesting throughout. Unfortunately, Crescendo disappoints with the liner notes, which only contain a brief note from the director of this ludicrous movie and a mindless "biography" that sounds like it was taken from a press release. Performance by the London Metropolitan Orchestra and chorus is laudable, and the sound quality remains clear throughout. I definitely would not recommend Bless the Child to more conservative collectors, but fans of the composer and horror scores in general will have an exciting, almost unforgettable romp into the darkest abyss of human consciousness.
Track by Track Analysis:
1. Introitus (8:28)
Young's first suite remains somewhat subdued throughout its running time. The score opens with the black tones of the lowest registers of the strings and clarinets, combined with massive chimes. Young introduces the main theme of the piece next - an ominous series of two-note patterns on chimes and xylophone followed by diabolical chants in the choral basses. This theme will reappear throughout the track in the chorus, sometimes backed by an unusual wailing ethnic instrument. Much of this piece (and the score in general) is comprised of gloomy settings of the Requiem Mass - highlights of this track include a setting of Dona Nobis Pacem for boy soprano followed by shimmering, ominous passages for chimes and piano. Modernism rears its head in the midsection of the track with intense bitonality in strings and winds, climaxing in an impossibly shrill violin glissando. For the remainder, Young reprises the dark main theme and provides several meandering, uncertain string passages. A final Latin recitative by a solo bass occurs in the final minute, later backed by the entire male chorus and an ominous solo violin.
2. Kyrie Eleison (11:53)
The first of Young's genuinely disturbing moments occurs in the opening of this track, comprised of a grating, dissonant chant for impossibly deep male chorus, boy soprano, the solo violin from "Introitus" and otherworldly, Herrmannesque muted horns. After this come obsessively modernistic passages for strings and bitonal screeching woodwinds, still backed at points by the muted horns - this sounds like a Penderecki piece! Moments like this continue throughout the track, at points accompanied by the malevolent chorus or dissonant piano. Other cues contained here revert to the main theme, presented in a full orchestral arrangement for tremolo strings, piano, and brass, climaxing in a huge victory fanfare that plummets back to cluster chords in the strings. Young comprises the majority of this cue with intensely disturbing, subtle dissonances, although several outbursts occur with the deep male choral main theme, Ligeti-like screaming chorus reminiscent of Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs, and Orchestra, and general modernistic chaos that will have the unwashed cowering next to their speakers. Near the end of the cue, Young inserts by far the most disturbing choral setting of Kyrie Eleison to ever grace a film score, later set to the majestic fanfare that occurred earlier in the cue - these moments of grandeur make Bless the Child immeasurably addictive.
3. Dies Irae (12:48)
Basically every musical moment in the score to this point could be called a Dies Irae, but the actual movement manages to usurp most of the other tracks in general malevolence and monstrosity. The rest of the score couldn't really be called action material, but here Young adds a driving beat to the dissonances, forming an atonal action suite worthy of any composer. Fortissimo low orchestra and timpani blasts serve as a short introduction before becoming the basis of the most intense material in the score. Young begins with a driving action ostinato in the celli, but inserts over it unimaginably excruciating bitonal woodwind and brass fanfares. After a short calm, the choir yells itself into existence, yet is almost buried behind an intense miasma of cacophony in the woodwinds. A percussion ostinato takes over, and Young mutates the previous material into a monster of action material, subtly intertwined with chanting chorus. A respite occurs with only mildly disturbing orchestral underscore and an ethereal piano solo, but Young soon conjures the maelstrom once again with furious woodwind glissandi, brass fanfares, a percussion beat reminiscent of Goldsmith's Total Recall, and syncopated bursts of dissonance. This sequence eventually repeats itself, now with satanic male chorus, after another quieter interlude for piano. After a final burst of atonality, a triumphant choral anthem seizes the music and presents a brilliant, yet uneasy finale to the suite, finally being usurped by intense orchestral cacophony.
4. Agnus Dei (13:22)
Following the tumult of Dies Irae, Young provides a more subdued catharsis with Agnus Dei, which begins with Baroque-styled church music for piano, strings, and pipe organ, soon modulating into an uneasy yet tranquil anthem for four-part chorus. Following an edgy section for dissonant strings and whispering bursts of chorus, another aria begins for solo boy soprano backed by the melody that opened the track on piano. After another lengthy choral section, the score attempts to burst back into the dissonant action music of the "Dies Irae," only to be overtaken again by the ominous piano melody, quieter strings, and a cello solo. Grotesque, shrill, dissonant glissandi for woodwinds make a short appearance before leading into another cathartic string elegy. The next few minutes seem to ooze dissonances, but climax in an almost bucolic cello solo and hints of the choir. After another threatening passage of dissonance combined with a setting of what sounds like Ave Maria for chorus, the score finally eases into the main theme with the grotesque ethnic instrument, chimes, and deep choral anthem from "Introitus".
5. Lux Aeterna (6:44)
Somehow, Young manages to mold the final cue into a soaring miasma of victory and triumph, serving as the ultimate apotheosis of the score. Following an ominous moment with the muted French horns from track 2, an aria for solo boy soprano begins, leading into a large cadence in the orchestra. The proceeding cue transfers the melody of the previous aria into a full chorus and a setting of "Gloria in Excelsis," lending the music an air of credibility that almost legitimizes it into a true Mass. This Gloria chorus continues to crescendo, becoming the most sublime music of the album, finally climaxing in an absolutely glorious major cadence.
In scoring Bless the Child, Christopher Young has managed to elevate a truly uninspired and tepid film into a terrifying, yet sublime album that manages to stand on its own as a large concert work. The completely malevolent atonality will undoubtedly drive away many potential buyers, but a select group of aficionados will undoubtedly find it of great value.