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Soundtrack review: Penny Dreadful (season 2) (Abel Korzeniowski – 2016)

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Soundtrack review: Penny Dreadful (season 2) (Abel Korzeniowski – 2016)


“Penny Dreadful” is a British-American horror drama television series created for Showtime and Sky by John Logan, who also acts as executive producer alongside Sam Mendes. The title refers to the penny dreadfuls, a type of 19th-century British fiction publication with lurid and sensational subject matter. The series draws upon many public domain characters from 19th-century British and Irish fiction, including Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray; Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Renfield, and Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Victor Frankenstein and his monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; and Dr. Henry Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Abel Korzeniowski wrote the score and I remember how much I loved the music of the first season. This is a review of the second season score.

I haven’t watched the show yet but man can Abel create a buzz for me with his dark and richly textured score. It’s just the second cue “Memento mori” and the gothic sound complete with organ and chants feels like my favourite opening credits sequence inviting me into a familiar place. I don’t get scores like this one very often and I welcome its darkness with open arms and ears and embrace every choir section and incantation and every string motif enchants me. There’s nothing generic or filler about this score; Abel Korzeniowski, as usual, infuses every cue with meaning and every slip of the bow on the chords of the violin resonates inside me. I listen to a cue like “Poison” and I mentally peel of every layer it has and discover more and more things I like. It’s like the big revelation cue of the most surprising end of am movie and it’s just the beginning of the score. This is horror gothic music done right, it touches me and inspires me and I am trying to remember the last time I didn’t give an Abel Korzeniowski cue 5 stars.

I have a very strange sensation as the score progresses: I feel as if I’m descending down a spiral that gets bigger and bigger as I pick up speed and the world that opens up beneath me is vast and rich and I want to discover it all. Every cue charms me with melody or emotion and I am still surprised at how good of a composer Abel is. I know I should be used by now to this level of excellence, to this meaning in the music, to the way it makes me feel but there really are very few composers in the world who can make me feel like this. Whether it’s strings or piano or his trademark waltzes, Abel Korzeniowski is a wizard in writing music and I am just grateful that this album is 75 minutes long and that I still have season 3 to listen to. For me every cue from “Penny dreadful” has the weight of an end credits cue from a regular movie or TV show and at the end of it I feel emotionally drained and then we start all over again.

There’s no darkness more seductive and complex than this one. The music has a velvety quality and I find myself moving fold after fold from this grandiose drape and chasing the most comfortable place inside it so I can feel it all. “Penny dreadful season 2” is quieter than season 1 but as perfect a composition and I can’t wait to hear season 3. Abel Korzeniowski gets another 100% score from me.

Cue rating: 100 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 72 / 72
Album excellence: 100%
The Unquiet Grave
Memento Mori
Verbis Diablo
We Are Dangerous
Vanessa’s Dream
Ethan’s Waltz
Until The Storm’s Past
The Cutwife of Ballentree Moor
Joan Clayton
Killing Sir Geoffrey Hawkes
Dolls Have Hearts
Melting Waltz
Little Deceptions
Gossamer Tennis
House Of Wax
Weapon. Ritual. Superstition.
Ghost Waltz
Breaking The Spell
Entering The Castle
Know Your Master
Little Scorpion
Be True

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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