What if you were given a canvas that was an alternate history, lush set design, rich characters, vivid cinematography, extremely well-structured plot and a genre that blends war-time drama and espionage. That’s what was handed over to Dominic Lewis who didn’t take the task lightly and was able to craft some of the most engrossing television scoring in recent memory. The show never saw a proper Season 1 score release (but that will change soon), and thankfully Amazon teamed up with Varѐse Sarabande to give us this fantastic Season 2 release of the score.
So a little backstory behind the music of the show. A lot of people may notice that Henry Jackman is credited for the music throughout Season 1, but in reality his involvement stopped after the pilot, and the rest of the series was left to Dominic Lewis on his own. Henry and Dom have a wonderful history of collaborating in the past, so it was great to hear them work together again on the pilot and then for Henry to step down and let Dom take the show to an incredible height with his focused voice as a storyteller. Season 2 is just a pure amplification of what made Season 1 so great. The score really comes into its own here and becomes this fantastic ever-progressing force of melodic engrossment, thematic arcs, character emotions and enveloping espionage suspense.
This album is a great taster of some of the best themes and motifs of the show, and the tracks included here do a fantastic job of representing the forward progression of the arcs in the series. The music is never overtly complicated in structure and it builds upon itself throughout the season. Plus the show makes amazing room for music while never over-saturating. Season 2 features a good 6-6.5 hours of score throughout the 10 episodes, which is a healthy amount of score for a series. And the best part is that it’s not filler. What the album is missing is of course the more atmospheric and textural side to the score, which you can experience while watching the series. But when music appears it’s never “just because”. You’ll notice some very deeply emotional tracks that tap into the characters like “Juliana’s Letter” and “Hitler Youth”. It’s in these moments that Lewis demonstrates his abilities to tap into that emotional realm that can only be communicated through melodic structure. The music does utilize a great clock-ticking build that is frequently used by Hans Zimmer in scores such as Sherlock Holmes and Interstellar. But in this case, it’s merely used as a brilliant device to build tension. The ticking is never used as a crutch or to signal that time is running out, but more as a foundation. And after Dom layers on all his amazing goodness over it, it becomes its own unique thing. By the time you reach the finale that comes to this perfect climax in tracks like “Verrater” and “Hitler Youth”, you’ll find that the album wraps up in a haunting fashion with Lewis’ chilling rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”. What makes this score so arresting and engaging is the confidence of the music, and you can feel the confidence behind Lewis' voice as a storyteller behind every note.
The Man In The High Castle is a perfect example of how to craft a resonating television series score. The music has a forward momentum that is enriched by composer Dominic Lewis’ talents of building thematic arcs and melodic structures that actually payoff in fantastic ways. Season 1 allowed Lewis to set a pretty strong groundwork for what the show was, and with Season 2 he fleshes everything out to make the score so engaging in both plot and emotion. As a narrative tool, the score does everything it needs to do. While there is lots of great television music out there, many series will usually use score as a seasoning to pepper and flavor throughout the season. Here, the score is the strong skeletal structure of the narrative, and it delivers an experience that will bring many moments of goosebumps and tears. If Dominic Lewis wasn’t on your radar before with his great scores for Free Birds, Spooks and Money Monster, he should be now. Also, the best part is that if you’re an Amazon Prime member then this score is free to listen to. Keep a lookout for a 2-CD set of Season 1 and Season 2's scores from Varѐse Sarabande.
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