After the Dark

Composed By: Nicholas O'Toole and Jonathan Davis

Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                In the psychological sci-fi thriller After the Dark, James D'Arcy is Mr. Zimit, a philosophy teacher at an international school located in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Throughout his stay, he has presented a number of challenging thought exercises to prepare his students for their futures.  Their final exercise deals with the possibility of an atomic apocalypse.  Positing that there is a bunker readily available as shelter, Mr. Zimit decides to set the stakes higher, asking the students to imagine that the shelter only has enough supplies for ten.  With a class total of twenty students, Zimit asks them which of the students they will shelter and which will be left to perish.

                The musical score of After the Dark was created by Nicholas O'Toole and Jonathan Davis with additional music by Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket.  Nicholas O'Toole is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who began his relationship with music at the age of seven, studying piano and guitar.  Graduating with a degree in film scoring from Berklee College of Music in 2003, O'Toole moved to Los Angeles where he began scoring independent films and ghostwriting scores for television.  His styles range from traditional orchestral scoring to a hybrid of traditional and modern electronic, utilizing his specialty in computer music technology and sound design to create a unique score.  Some of O'Toole's movie score credits include Fast Girl, How to Be A Serial Killer and Nothing Left to Fear.

                Nicholas O'Toole's co-composer on this project, Jonathan Davis is a writer, composer and performer who is possibly best known as lead singer and bagpipe player for the rock band known as KoЯn.  Becoming interested in film composition in 2002, Davis' first foray into the field was co-composing the musical score of Queen of the Damned.  He hadn't worked on a full-length film score since then, submitting songs for various film soundtracks, until he was approached to co-compose After the Dark.

                Set in Indonesia and featuring incredibly dark subject matter, After the Dark fairly begged for a score that would be heavily influenced by the film's locale while also depicting the darkness behind decisions made for survival during an apocalyptic event.  According to the film's director John Huddles, "We settled on a fusion approach that combines a synth soundscape with very sparing use of gamelan [a traditional Indonesian music ensemble]. We gave ourselves the musical freedom to hybridize sounds that originate from very different cultural sources."  The resulting soundtrack is a mix of electronic and ambient sound created by synths and an orchestra consisting of strings and ethnic instruments from Indonesia.  According to O'Toole, "Some of the synths are very gritty and harsh and almost passes as percussion or some intense bowed metal sound.  There were a variety of organic elements that were used prominently and sparingly. For example, there are undertones of Tuvan harmonic throat singing beneath oddly played cello and bassi. There is one cue with Tibetan horns blaring over minimal synthetic beats in a very alerting moment. We used Gamelan instruments, which are familiar and native to the region the film is set in. It was very fun and effective mixing these elements together in a way where they complemented each other."

                Some of the tracks on this 31-track album appear stunted, cutting off just as the music really gets going, perhaps as if the music was describing a scenario that gets cut off in the midst of thought in the film.  These moments can be rather frustrating as you just start getting into a particular theme and lose it just as quickly.  But this is the biggest complaint I have with the After the Dark Soundtrack.  The musical score created for this film is uniquely beautiful in its darkness.  There are some quite harrowing moments in the score, harsh, adrenaline pumping moments that will leave you wondering what just happened in the film.  There are also some tracks that are so spooky in nature, featuring ambient sounds and dark, ominous undertones, they will leave you with the hair on the back of your neck standing on end.

                All-in-all, the After the Dark Soundtrack has a unique sound thanks to the blending of styles of Nicholas O'Toole and Jonathan Davis combining with the ethnic sound of traditional instruments from Indonesia.  A definite must-hear album that enhances the emotional and visual aspects of the film while still making for an interesting stand alone album.


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