Greyhound – Soundtrack Review

Blake Neely’s Greyhound score features a genuinely brilliant main theme and excellently-crafted action segments, while also rather superbly capturing the tension and sorrow of the film and events it represents.

Greyhound is a war movie directed by Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks as a U.S. Navy commander in charge of protecting a convoy of ships from enemy submarines during World War II. It’s one of scarcely few films to come out during the current world events, and is scored by Blake Neely – a composer best known for his rather excellent work on various CW superhero shows including Arrow and The Flash.

The score begins with First Crossing, where pulsing low-pitched electronics create a particularly eerie tone to start things off. Tense percussion then starts to build in the background, starting quietly before then building into a nerve-wracking crescendo alongside loud punches of brass. After this the music begins to settle, with solemn strings then introducing Neely’s main theme for the film. As motifs for a war movie go its pretty standard – being quite melancholic with a touch of heroism – but that doesn’t stop it from being a pretty enjoyable and genuinely rather memorable piece overall. It doesn’t get much of an appearance here though, disappearing just a few seconds after its sombre debut.

Quiet brass opens I’ll Always Be Looking For You, with a few solemn notes from the main theme playing through first on said brass and then on slightly more hopeful-sounding strings. Deep, ominous electronics then cut right through the hope in Huff Duff – if you relaxed a bit with the orchestration of the previous track, you’ll definitely be awake now –  accompanied by worrisome strings these electronics form a kind-of-sort-of villain motif for the enemy submarines in the film, recognisable not in terms of memorable notes but more in the tone and style they put across. They get quite a fleshing out here, as Huff Duff lasts for just over six particularly tense minutes. From Beneath is then similarly dramatic, though what it does differently is feature a really innovative musical idea; sonar (or at least, that’s what it sounds like). Weird, rather creepy-sounding sonar-like electronics feature across much of the cue, alluding of course to the submarine warfare in the film, and somehow (despite being sound effect-like) fitting in really well with the music – overall adding another level of tension to the already nerve-wracking track. First Kill then closes out the action with brass breathing a solemn sigh of musical relief while electronics also lurk in the background, quietly letting you know that it’s not nearly over yet.

The calm is ended by the storm in Distress Signal, where worried strings open the piece accompanied by the occasional rumble of anxious percussion. The electronic motif for the enemy submarines also surfaces frequently throughout the cue, keeping tensions high particularly in the middle of the track alongside frantic bursts of brass. Things then quieten down slightly with serene strings for the opening of Nightfall Dangers, before the creepy electronic motif arrives once again to signal the return of the enemy with musical danger then ensuing with rapid percussion and agitated strings. The action then takes a short melancholic break in the forty-second strings-based Dog Watch before returning in full percussive force in Surrounded, with particularly frenzied brass building into a very tense crescendo within the first minute of the cue. The music then continues in a similarly rapid vein for much of the track, calming only in the final minute for a rather mournful ending on strings. Hope then begins to break through at the start of It’s Not Enough with several almost heroic-sounding brass notes, before eerie electronics and imposing percussion kick the spark right out with solemn strings also returning in the back half to hammer home the musical defeat.

Low-pitched electronics start off Here They Come with the enemy submarine motif lurking quietly in the background before dramatic brass then bursts into the fray, playing a loud and particularly catastrophic sequence of action score before fading out as ominously as the track arrived. Out Of Depth then gives us another much-needed break from the ferocious action attacks, with slow and rather pensive brass notes setting a pretty downbeat tone for much of the cue’s two minute runtime – bar a little bit of strings-based optimism in the back half. The composer then throws us right back into the deep with the six-minute Torpedoes, where rapid horror-like strings kick things off alongside the creepy electronic enemy motif. Dramatic percussion and fast-paced brass then take over for several relentless action minutes before things begin to stabilise a little with strings towards the end of the cue. Lost Souls then offers something a little musically different, with extraordinary results – a beautifully-crafted mournful strings piece playing a new theme for those lost at sea. It’s a great piece, though hampered slightly by the reappearance of ominous enemy electronics in the back half, which sort of kills the tone. The first half though – it really is fantastic.

A tonal mixture of tension and solemnity is at the forefront of Ships Passing Through The Night, with quiet electronics providing the former and slow strings the latter. About halfway through a few sorrowful notes of the main theme also play – a motif that we now haven’t heard for quite some time – though it sadly vanishes within a few seconds of first appearing. The electronic enemy motif then returns in particularly foreboding form at the start of Scrambled Message, with reserved strings and brass then giving way to a short-lived spark of hope in the cue’s back half. Bring Hell Down From On High starts off the finale of the score in suspenseful action mode, with the enemy motif building an ominous tone before rapid percussion and worrisome brass notes then take over and build into a loud and very edge-of-your-seat crescendo. Rapid bursts of brass and even faster percussion do battle with the electronics towards the end of the track, with the brass emerging a short while later as a quiet, solemn victor. To close the score though the composer has one final treat in store; standout cue But At What Cost?, a hopeful, proudly heroic, long-awaited and happily lengthy rendition of the main theme. It’s the moment I was waiting for pretty much the entirety of the score, and at ten minutes long – it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Overall, Blake Neely’s score for Greyhound is incredibly well done, and for the most part a genuine joy to listen to. The main theme is of course the standout piece, with the final track But At What Cost being naturally of particular highlight. The electronic motif for the enemy submarines is also really interesting, along with the tense atmosphere it created despite it not really being a proper note-based “theme”. The action score did get a little draining after a while, but Neely more than makes up for that with the much more compelling gentler pieces of the album (Lost Souls and First Crossing being key examples). Perhaps the main theme could have also featured a bit more, but then again that general absence of hope makes the epic final ten minutes of the score that much more powerful, so maybe its best that way. The score also captures the tension and sorrow of the film incredibly well, so major props there.

All-in, it’s a superb effort by Neely. Make sure you hit play on that main theme below, you won’t regret it.

 

Score: 8/10

Standout Cue: 18. But At What Cost?

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