Ooo! More music!
CD: Killing, The / Forbrydelsen: Season 1 (2007)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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March, 2013

Tracks / Album Length:

21 tracks / (48:49)



Frans Bak


Special Notes:

4-page colour booklet.

Comments :    

It took a few years and the international popularity of Denmark’s top TV import to prompt a soundtrack album release, and fans of The Killing / Forbrydelsen can finally hear all of the major cues from Season 1 on a CD that’s available in Europe and North America.

The twisted irony is that folks in Region 1 land can buy and hear the music for a series they’re still being denied to see on TV and home video. If you can get past the preposterousness of this situation (and just go buy the U.K. DVD or Blu-ray editions of the original Danish series), you’ve got a fine selection of cues for a terribly engrossing series that’s unrelenting in grimness, and packed withoutrageous cliffhangers and consistent misdirection to keep watchers in a state of severe longing (if not outrage for never getting much closure after every episode).

Bak’s score is almost entirely derived from his flanging main theme which layers skin drum percussion with light techno beat, over which rides a mournful female voice. The haunting vocal line is both the voice of off-screen dead girl Nanna Birk Larsen, and dogged Det. Sarah Lund. It’s also the show’s dramatic sonic motor which kicks in whenever a situation becomes tense, or more importantly, signals the end of another episode and one fresh teasing revelation designed to infuriate.

The music is part of the series’ power, and it’s also the emotional anchor which reminds viewers of how one death affects a community, including parents, best friends, lovers, and politicians who play a wicked game of empathy and outrage when it’s politically advantageous.

The main theme is also a potent emotional hammer during the end credits sequence, because as the percussion textures are blended with a bass groove, the camera pulls back from a photo of Birk Larsen, and the transition from extreme close-up to a full shot of a victim is like a plea for justice from beyond the grave, and there's something deeply compelling in the way the vocal theme matches the longing in Birk Larsen's frozen eyes.

The female voice (Josephine Cronholm) is equally powerful in “Theis and Pernille’s Theme” which similarly covers the dramatic shifts in the relationship of Nana’s parents. Unfolding as a lament without a tangible time signature, Bak’s theme covers the horror as parents absorb a deep personal loss, and their own relationship which becomes saturated in blame, hatred, regret, and ultimately horrific tragedy. “Choral Theme” is equally potent as the soft piano and muted woodwind samples underscore the funeral arrangements and protocol the parents are forced to handle, while “At the Graveyard” offers a more threadbare variation.

After the emotional cues, the bulk of the CD offers more suspenseful tracks which neatly cover the grim investigation as suspects are implicated, evade the police, are suddenly cleared, and where fresh ugly details are discovere. “Getting Ready” is the main theme’s percussion track redone with different electronic timbres, and Bak uses a metallic filter to further alter the percussion hits in “We’re Leaving,” but the most atmospheric of Bak’s cues is “Curious,” with its circular pulses and questioning piano motif. It's an oft-used cue that punctuates moments when Lund gathers clues, retraces steps, and slowly makes an important deduction. “Waiting” is essentially the main theme’s intro bars with familiar chord statements, some reverb, and an amalgam of the skin drums & circular pulses that are eventually joined by a Raga.

The score's last signature cues are the heavily percussive “The Clock is Ticking,” with a blend of knocking sounds counterpointed by synth chords; and the grimy sustained chords in “Strange Thing,” which Bak plays whenever Lund discovers a hidden clue.

Light Arabic percussion makes up the rhythmic “And We’re Off,” and the Duduk provides some melodic material in the otherwise twanging / industrial designed “Hartman’s Theme.” South Asian vocals provide another tragic theme for the lost love between two characters, and piano repeats the theme in the more intimate “Emilie’s Piano.”

The nature of most TV music is to be short, precise in dramatic hits, and to get out of a scene for the dialogue, so most of the cues tend to range around the 2 minute mark. Together they form a full dramatic portrait, but individually a cue can feel underdeveloped because it often lacks a full dramatic arc (“Theis and Pernille’s Theme” excepted).

Although “Finding the Doll and More” closes the album with one of Bak’s signature suspense cues (angled ambient tones and recurring, thickening bass pulses), the CD’s final cue really should’ve been a recap of the main theme, and one could argue the CD could’ve been longer (if not a 2-disc set) featuring the new music from Season 3 and the handful of new cues in the lackluster Season 2.

Decca’s CD is a perfectly fine album, but as fans of any series will declare, what's wanted is the most complete representation of the series's music. Lund undergoes a long and miserable character arc, and fans want to revisit that emotional journey, especially since the series’ creator and star have declared the show won’t likely be resurrected for a fourth round.

One could argue there’s something morbid in desiring a revisitation of the show’s most depressing, haunting, terrifying events, but Bak’s music is so fiercely tied to specific dramatic beats in each episode that the CD provides a bit of closure. The real coup for Bak is how the music can instill terror on its own, and leave listeners screaming for more.

Frans Bak’s other thriller scores include the U.S. version of The Killing, and the TV and film versions of the Danish crime series Those Who Kill / Den som draeber (2011).

Remixes of Bak’s Killing theme were recently released online, and Bak has a few videos on YouTube, including a featurette on The Killing music, and an unrelated piece with Bak and singer Cronholm perfoming in a small jazz combo.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

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