Penny Dreadful

Composed By: Abel Korzeniowski

Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The latest Showtime original hit series, Penny Dreadful stars 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. 

                When I was offered the opportunity to preview Penny Dreadful before its start date, I found myself intrigued by the storyline.  As I stated in my First Impressions review of the show, "The re-imagination of certain infamous horror characters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the promises of more literary characters to come, such as Dorian Gray, makes this show an interesting venture. The idea that the heroes are dark and appear to be hiding some rather important secrets is also intriguing."

                On August 19, 2014, Varese Sarabande Records released the soundtrack of the first season of the series, featuring a musical score 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.  He received critical acclaim and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work on A Single Man in 2009 and again in 2012 for W.E.   Korzeniowski continues to work on musical scores while creating musical identities for celebrated bands such as BMW- i Electric Vehicles and Tiffany & Co.

                For the musical score of Penny Dreadful, Korzeniowski "started looking for an expression of dark beauty, something that can be terrifying and mesmerizing at the same time -- a poisonous infatuation.   The most inspiring clue I got was John Loganís [writer, producer] description of the character of Vanessa as the Mother of Evil. Seeing her not as a victim, but as a creature of a complex dual nature, both good and evil, was a defining moment for the entire musical score."

                The Penny Dreadful score begins in a classical style, harking back to the Victorian Age.  The first track, Demimonde (Main Title), is an incredibly moving track featuring fast-paced strings, which offer up a sense of urgency, and a bit of the main theme that listeners will find scattered throughout the Penny Dreadful Soundtrack.  This theme, a soft blending of pianos and strings, is quite beautiful and brings to mind innocence of heart if not mind.  I'm not quite sure whose theme this might be - could it be one side of Vanessa's dual nature or could this be Sir Murray's sought after daughter? 

                There is an ominous undertone present throughout the score, but things really begin to get spooky around the sixteenth track, Transgression, a track that probably appeared during the fifth show of the season in which is revealed Vanessa's transgression that she believes caused Mina's kidnapping.  The listener begins to hear noises, choirs singing in low registers and shrieking violins.  Horror ploys, such as loud music played with a sense of urgency amongst violin shrieks and ominous tones, come into play in this section of the soundtrack, reminding the listener that Penny Dreadful is a gothic horror series, not some ordinary dramatic soap opera.

                I enjoyed listening to the Penny Dreadful Soundtrack and found myself trying to place each track of music, saying to myself, "What scene did that play during?" or "Who does that piece of score describe?"  What I really enjoyed is that Abel Korzeniowski created a score that was truly original and often quite beautiful.  He didn't resort to the usual horror cues that many composers of horror series/movie scores employ, but first created a background score to engage the listener before blending in horror elements.  Quite an enjoyable soundtrack and one that makes me want to go back and check out episodes in the series.


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