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Soundtrack review: Viking (Dean Valentine – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Viking (Dean Valentine – 2017)

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“Viking” (Russian: Викинг) is a 2016 Russian historical film about medieval prince Vladimir the Great, Prince of Novgorod directed by Andrei Kravchuk and starring Danila Kozlovsky and Svetlana Khodchenkova. With a budget of $20.8 million, Viking was the third most expensive Russian film. Kievan Rus, late 10th century. After the death of his father, Svyatoslav I, ruler of Kievan Rus, the young prince Vladimir (Danila Kozlovsky) is forced into exile across the frozen sea in Sweden to escape his treacherous half-brother Yaropolk (Aleksandr Ustyugov), who has murdered his other brother Oleg (Kirill Pletnyov) and conquered the territory of Kievan Rus. The old warrior Sveneld (Maksim Sukhanov) convinces Vladimir to assemble a force of Viking mercenaries led by a Swedish chieftain (Joakim Nätterqvist), hoping to reconquer Kiev from Yaropolk.

After initially being hired to write the trailer music, composer Dean Valentine later was invited to create and score the main themes of the film as well as the big action set pieces. Russian composer Igor Matvienko wrote other themes which were available on a Russian score release. This is the third Russian historic epic score I’ve heard in the past couple of months, after “Furious” and “The last knight” and judging by those two, I’m in for an epic journey. The score also contains a couple of those trailer cues and one of those “Now I take everything from you” opens this score. The vocal plays that build up from sombre and barely audible to wailing and epic are just what make trailer music work so well and I feel all heroic and ready to take arms as I’m listening to this cue. Trailer music has quite a big and devout following and for good reason.

I like the construction of the “Prologue” as it seems very connected to what goes on in the movie; this is clearly a cue written to serve the images as its pace and interruptions make me think of the way scenes develop as they are filmed. I like music that inspires my imagination and this cue evokes visions of armies riding through forests, sneaking up on their enemies, then chasing and attacking them. I would be curious to see this movie even only to check if I was right. I also like the ethnical motifs that place the story in that land. Those special string sounds never fail and with all of Trevor Morris’ work for the “Vikings” TV show they are for me now as popular as ever. Actually with those strings and its pace “Varyazhko’s Theme” could easily feature on that score.

This is what I like best about the “Viking” score: the experiments and the way the music isn’t just generically written for some random story but makes me think of Vikings and snow and cold and it often lacks melody as if to evoke the harsh and unforgiving disposition of the heroes of the story. The composer is not afraid to sample strange and ethnic instruments and the result is a captivating score also as a standalone listening experience. The melodic buildups are believable and give me the sense of a musical adventure and I think Dean Valentine’s experience in writing trailer music transcribes very well into solid film music.

The score for “Viking” evokes vast and harsh landscapes and the motivation and emotion of going to war. I like a score that tells me so much without me even seeing the movie and I also enjoy the strings and percussion that are associated with the viking sound; for me Dean Valentine did everything right in this one.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 12/ 30

Album excellence: 34%

Highlights:
Now I Take Everything from You (Trailer #1)
Varyazhko’s Theme
Vladimir’s Theme
Where Is My Home Now?
A Fire Shall Be Woken (Trailer #3)

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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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