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Black Mass by Tom Holkenborg (Review)

posted Oct 11, 2015, 10:04 PM by Kaya Savas

Tom Holkenborg has quickly become Warner Bros.’ golden composer, and has gotten to collaborate with some top-tier directors in the process. Holkenborg is still feeling the glow off his majorly successful effort for Mad Max: Fury Road, and of course has Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice coming up with Hans. The best thing abut Tom, is his range. He is quickly trying to shed the “Junkie XL” image in his new career as a composer. Tom has always had talent, but I guess stage names seem to inhibit some closed-minded people out there from seeing that. Anyway, if you’ve heard his score to Run All Night and even some of the string-based stuff from Mad Max that was inspired by Bernard Herrmann then you know there is a dark brooding side to Holkenborg’s music that is ripe with emotion. That side of Tom is what is featured here in Black Mass, and the score is a rich and elegant portrait that carries drama and tension throughout.

The dark yet flowing and elegant main theme of the score does a great job of anchoring the listener into the narrative, and it’s something that Holkenborg relies on throughout the journey. The approach of the score is very old-fashioned. In fact, it reminds me more of that late golden age Hollywood style that sort of painted everything as an elegant mystery. The score is soaked in dramatic tension and is foreboding without ever being too overly dramatic or melodramatic. There is something Hitchcockian going on here musically for sure, and given that we know Tom is a huge Bernard Herrmann fan it makes sense. You’ll find that even though the music is painting this dark portrait of a notorious gangster, that there is still a huge human element in the music. You can feel the humanity and the emotional resonance flowing throughout. In that sense, the score becomes very “real” and even eerie at times. The score gives the audience these emotional checkpoints and emotional lifelines, and then slowly but surely shows that they get sucked into this (forgive the pun) “black mass” that is our central character. Or I guess the humanity and all morality “is taken over” by the black mass. In the end the score swells into this rich and powerful finale that isn’t necessarily pessimistic but rather haunting.

Black Mass should prove how well Tom Holkenborg can handle this overwhelmingly haunting yet elegant string-based approach. There is a core humanity to the music that can’t seem to escape the “black mass” that is our central character. Rich strings really resonate deep, especially with the simple yet effective main theme. The Hitchcock flavoring and Bernard Herrmann influences can be felt, but the boldness and edge of the score is pure Holkenborg.