Penny Dreadful: Seasons 2 & 3

Composed By: Abel Korzeniowski

Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The popular Showtime series known as Penny Dreadful lasted three season and featured some of literatureís darkest characters.  The series starred Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, an explorer searching for his lost daughter Mina (Olivia Llewellyn).  Aiding him in his quest are Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadway).  Throughout the journey, we learn that Victorian London is rife with monsters with a penchant for human blood, like Dracula, Dorian Gray, witches and more.  The series featured an ending that shocked many a viewer, but was, according to the creator of the series, a natural course of events. 

                The musical score of Penny Dreadful was created by Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski.  Born to a musically inclined family, Korzeniowski studied musical composition under Krzysztof Penderecki in Poland.  Korzeniowski worked on a number of musical scores for Polish films before moving to Los Angeles, California in 2006.  Since then, he has worked on the musical scores of such notable projects as A Single Man, W.E., Nocturnal Animals, Romeo & Juliet and Escape from Tomorrow.  Korzeniowski composed the musical score for all three seasons of the series. 

On December 16, 2016, Varese Sarabande Records released Penny Dreadful: Seasons 2 & 3, a two-disc album of music featured in the last two seasons of the series.  According to the composer, ďThis album completes our journey to the Demimonde. Witches and Dracula face Vanessa and her companions in the impossible battle between light and darkness. All musical themes of Penny Dreadful find their final form and conclusion.  Writing music for Penny Dreadful was a fascinating adventure, one of finding unexpected beauty in the shadows of human experience

Season 2 of Penny Dreadful opens with quite the spooky track.  The Unquiet Grave contains no music and features the background sound of a thunderstorm with the echoing vocals of an old folk song performed by a female (I believe Eva Green).  Itís enough to send chills up your spine.  The rest of the album is orchestral.  There are several waltz themes here, featuring upbeat dancing music found in tracks like Ethan's Waltz, Melting Waltz, Ghost Waltz and more.  These tracks are quite different from the rest of the album which features darker more ominous music, often coupled with a choir, perhaps denoting a battle with something of the demonic realm.  There are very few horror cues in this score Ė the ominous music and the song in the first track are enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.  That being said, the only recognizable horror cue here may be some screeching violins.  I commend the composer on creating a scary score without using the usual electronic sound tactics.

The music of Season 3 of Penny Dreadful is darker still as the characters come face to face with their most challenging enemies to date.  There are more horror cues here, like reverb and some vague electronic sound and more screeching strings, but for the most part, itís dark and ominous tones with string solos that sound incredibly sad.   You have the distinct impression that things are winding down for our team and just when the music hits its most morose tones, a break in the sadness with the final tracks featuring a light at the end of the tunnel sort of theme.  Those who watched the series to the very end will know exactly what that music means, but I donít want to spoil things for those who havenít yet seen the ending.

I love that Abel Korzeniowski was able to create a great horror score using classic elements like lower registry orchestral sound and ominous sounding choral moments.  Many composers use electronic sound and reverb to get the horror point across, but I find those scores are many sound effects rather than MUSICAL scores.  Korzeniowski is a credit to what classic horror music is all about. 


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