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EXCLUSIVE: Hellboy composer Benjamin Wallfisch debuts track from reboot

By Matthew Jackson
Hellboy David Harbour

In just one week, Hellboy will storm his way into theaters, as Neil Marshall and star David Harbour bring some R-rated horror-fantasy power to the comic book franchise originated 25 years ago by writer and artist Mike Mignola.

Everything about Hellboy that we've seen so far screams over the top, from Harbour's big red prosthetics to the monsters Hellboy's expected to fight — all the way down to the epic score by BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Grammy-nominated composer Benjamin Wallfisch. And according to Wallfisch, "over the top" was part of the mission statement for the film from the moment he started working on it.

"Well, it was a really collaborative situation," Wallfisch told SYFY WIRE. "I had a lot of contact also with the producers, Lloyd Levin, and also the editor, Martin Bernfeld. We all just sort of worked together as a big team. They gave me a lot of freedom to really just go nuts, really, and experiment. They deliberately wanted something that didn’t sound like anything else for a kind of action film like this. When I sent in sketches, the note I normally got was just 'Go further. Go bigger. Go more aggressive.' That’s always a lot of fun to answer that feedback. Often, it’s kind of, 'Oh, it’s a bit too much. Let’s dial it in sometimes.' But for a movie like Hellboy, it was never going to be that way. We all wanted it just to be a very kind of exciting and loud and irreverent, punk rock kind of attitude in the score. So, yeah. You know, 'Go big or go home' was the kind of attitude."

For Wallfisch, whose recent acclaimed work includes composing for Hidden FiguresIT, and Blade Runner 2049, the "go big or go home" edict was a freeing creative experience, one that allowed him to pull from a variety of musical influences and styles to craft a score that's both haunting and exciting, melodic and intense. As fans will soon hear, Wallfisch's score is similar to Hellboy himself: A blending of genres and styles which come together to create something new and compelling. It all began with a simple question which led to a very complex answer: What does a Hellboy adventure sound like?

"Well, that was kind of the first question we really examined, myself and the filmmakers, because we wanted to do something which really reflected David Harbour’s interpretation of the character. He brought this incredible depth, and also just such a kind of irreverence and a punk attitude to his performance," Wallfisch said. "All those things we wanted to reflect in the feeling and sound of the music, and also it’s much more intense, in terms of it’s an R-rated movie. There’s a lot more violence. The filmmakers didn’t hold back from the horror aspects and showing the underworld in a really terrifying way. So, the score had to kind of reflect all those things, both the irreverence and punk attitude and humor, as well, of David Harbor’s Hellboy, and also just the idea of 'What does the underworld sound like in its most terrifying sense?' And the answer in the end was to kind of do a crazy hybrid of very aggressive EDM with punk rock with an orchestra that was mostly the lower instruments. There were very few violins and flutes. It was mostly cellos and huge contrabass trombones."

Though he considers himself a fan of the original Hellboy films by director Guillermo del Toro, Wallfisch deliberately avoided revisiting them while working on the score for this version. What he drew from instead were the original Hellboy comics, as well as musical styles ranging from EDM to metal to classical.

"Well, a good friend of mine is a British guitarist, and he has always been into djent music, which is this incredibly complex style of metal. It’s just extraordinarily virtuosic and very dense and very aggressive. I found myself listening to bands like Meshuggah and other people in that zone just to kind of absorb that attitude of that music," he said. "Also, I have always been a huge fan of EDM as well, and I did a deep dive into what’s out there in the underground scene, not necessarily the more commercial EDM, but just what’s being produced. Also, kind of going back to my staple, in the orchestral sense, of [Dmitri] Shostakovich, who sounds like a crazy mashup, I know. But his later symphonies were just so intense and dark and heavy, and I just listened to a bunch of late Shostakovich symphonies, too, to get into that mode. But as ever, with any film, you listen to all this stuff but you have got to kind of start with a real blank page and just look at the story and the character and just see what that needed. In the end, it was as blank a page as it always is."

So, now that you've heard Wallfisch's approach to Hellboy's metal-laden, haunting score, SYFY WIRE is pleased to reveal an exclusive track from the film's soundtrack (found above). Titled "Cathedral Fight," it's taken from what Wallfisch considers one of the climactic moments of the film, and it's full of the various influences he pulled from for the score.

Hellboy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available April 5 from Sony Music Masterworks. Hellboy arrives in theaters a week later, on April 12.