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The Alienist by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Review)

posted Mar 9, 2018, 1:37 PM by Kaya Savas

The Alienist follows a criminal psychologist who is conducting an investigation on a series of murders on boy prostitutes in 1896 New York City. The score comes to us from Rupert Gregson-Williams who is delivering a lot of great work recently. The Alienist is no exception, the score is a wonderfully crafted dramatic thriller with a style that makes it stand out.

Rupert does a wonderful job of setting up a feel and tone for 1896 New York. The Celtic touch to the music is just enough to give it a personality to start, and then using those same instruments we are plunged into the darkness. The score is actually incredibly effective structurally. The music will grip you very tightly. The use of deep cello notes create such an effective sense of danger and dread. The gentle plucking of a banjo can be used very effectively to create even more uneasiness and tension. Throw in some rhythmic hits, claps and taps and you get tracks that build with incredible precision. The overall effect is something that is always sonically pleasing to the ear but always creates this unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach. If there is anything lacking it’s probably a sense of character progression, there is a bit of a human void in all of it. With a pretty great ensemble cast we never feel too much character presence in the music. In the end though, the stylistic and melodic approach of the score are so strong that it carries the weight of the series with ease.

The Alienist could have easily been a boring and droning score, but with Rupert Gregson-Williams at the helm we instead get something that has much more impact. Devising a Celtic thriller score that is pure suspense was a great approach for this story. The way the instruments were used were wholly effective in making you feel uneasy while still retaining a unique stylistic feel. The Alienist is definitely worth the price of admission to hear another side of Rupert Gregson-Williams that many may not be familiar with.