Christopher Young’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II is the more action-oriented, thunderous Aliens-esque sequel score to Hellraiser’s more atmospheric, original Alien, but dialed to an incredible orchestral hundred, and if that doesn’t sell you on just how… mightily incredible Young’s score here is, then simply nothing will. The Hellbound theme is in an actual league of its own.
Of course, I couldn’t review Hellraiser without also diving into a review for Christopher Young’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II score. The easiest initial way to describe it is as I’ve said above, as a rather Aliens-esque sequel to the iconic original, delivering a much louder and more ferocious, even operatic orchestral experience versus the first score’s much more horror-like, strings-heavy focus. There’s also a big emphasis on themes here (which the original also had in fairness, but this one simply has more), with the iconic main motifs from the first Hellraiser reprising together with some frankly brilliant new ones, and it’s there that we begin with the sequel, in it’s opening and brilliantly standout cue; “Hellbound/Second Sight Seance”. The first two minutes of this almost eight minute setpiece underscore the film’s main title, introducing the brand new “Hellbound” main theme as it plays in a nearly deafeningly malevolent manner on crashing percussion, ominous vocals and loud bursts of emphatic, epic brass. The theme builds dramatically as the first two minutes progress, becoming somehow even grander and more intense until a crashing percussive crescendo is then finally reached. From here things then quieten, with another new theme making itself known on quietly ethereal woodwinds; Tiffany’s theme, a motif for the little girl who (unknowingly) solves the puzzle box and unleashes the Cenobites once again in the sequel film.
Tiffany’s gentle theme plays through a few renditions in its introductory segment here, firstly on the aforementioned strings before then building quietly on hopeful strings for several unusually lighter (for Hellraiser, anyway) minutes. After this however, another much more dramatic but also rather mysterious new motif then debuts; a loudly brass and vocal-heavy new theme for the Cenobites. Much like with the main Hellbound theme at the beginning of the cue, this new Cenobite motif simply takes over for several breathtaking minutes, with the orchestra holding it proudly high. This is however until the original Hellraiser theme then comes crashing into the fray towards the end of the track, lovingly reprising on loud choral vocals and followed swiftly by an equally emphatic rendition of Tiffany’s theme, with the new Hellbound motif then closing out the cue and all-in delivering a particularly explosive, vocal-heavy finale to the already spectacular track. Overall, don’t get me wrong, I love Young’s Hellraiser theme and score, but Hellbound‘s opening cue here, for me, simply blows it out of the water. An absolutely spectacular setpiece, and frankly one of Young’s best composed pieces of music (at least, in my opinion anyway).
With a high bar now firmly and rather spectacularly established, “Looking Through A Woman” then reprises the new Hellbound theme on emphatic brass, with tense percussion amping up a chase until the ninety second mark. From here, deafening vocals crash then back into the fray with the Hellbound theme sweeping back through, which overall leaves a decidedly impactful impression on the rest of the track as it then cowers back into tense, horror-like distorted piano notes and sound effects. Towards the end though, a particularly unnerving rendition of the resurrection theme from the first Hellraiser score also plays rather ominously on a music box, fading the cue out a few seconds later on pretty much as creepy a musical note as I think you can get. Tiffany’s gentle woodwind theme then reprises in “Something To Think About”, playing quietly on said woodwinds to start with additional, calming strings then building as the track progresses, alongside quietly worrisome brass. This rather uneasy orchestration then continues for the track’s four minute runtime, with the Hellbound theme also infrequently reprising. The two minute “Skin Her Alive” then ups the tonal ante, with long notes of worrisome brass playing alongside flurries of frantic strings. Much like with the “Resurrection” cue from the original Hellraiser score, the orchestra then builds throughout this new piece, becoming louder and more dramatic until a particularly grandiose, frightening crescendo is reached just before the track comes to a close.
A distorted, unnerving percussive note opens “Stringing The Puppet”, with a dramatic crash of brass and creepy strings furthering this increasingly eerie tone alongside increasingly in-your-face choral vocals. Once this crescendos, the creepily downtrodden mood continues for several minutes with horror-like strings, until a rather out of tune music box then plays a few ominous notes from Tiffany’s theme with strings then building to another truly horror-like crescendo just as the track hits its five minute finishing mark. “Hall Of Mirrors” then offers a particularly creepy-sounding insight into the music of a fairground ride for its first two minutes, before this then gradually fades away in favour of moodily ominous strings. An unsettling ambience then takes over for much of the remainder of the piece, with eerie sound effects and brief reprisals from the earlier fairground music all helping to cement a particularly unsettling tone. A burst of brass then returns the orchestra to action in “Dead Or Living”, with frenetic strings and tense vocals occupying the background with the main Hellbound theme then thundering through on increasingly dramatic, malevolent brass notes. “Leviathan” then pulls the tone straight down into Hell for three decidedly sinister-sounding minutes, representing the somewhat oddly-shaped Cenobite God with low-pitched, distorted brass notes, moodily malevolent vocals and echoing music box notes.
Frantic strings and bursts of deafening brass kick off “Sketch With Fire” with a very grandiose rendition of the main Hellbound theme, before the orchestra then builds to a particularly villainous crescendo to end the two minute cue. The distorted music box then returns in “Chemical Entertainment”, with the unsettling ambience from the first film’s “The Cenobites” cue reprising in as creepily malevolent an appearance as ever, this time though in a much lengthier, more ghostly rendition as the new track lasts for nearly seven goosebump-inducing (and not in a good way) minutes. With the finale of the score starting to build, “Obscene Kiss” then kicks off the action again with a crash of villainous brass and deafening percussive notes. This loudly emphatic horror music then briefly takes a break in favour of unsettling music box notes for a few minutes before the orchestra then picks back up in the back half, leading straight into standout action setpiece; “Headless Wizard”. Tiffany’s theme kicks this near-masterpiece cue off with an unusually epic orchestral rendition, with crashes of percussion and thunderous brass then leading the charge for five masterful action minutes as both the new Hellbound and Cenobite themes thunder through in breathtaking orchestral fashion. To close out the album “What’s Your Pleasure” then returns the score to quiet solemnity initially, before then reprising the original Hellraiser theme on quiet, almost soothing vocals, bringing the score full circle in a manner much akin to that of the first one.
Overall, Christopher Young’s utterly spectacular score for Hellbound: Hellraiser II is quite simply in a league of its own. Where the first score focused heavily on moody, gothic horror and establishing its firmly iconic Hellraiser themes, Hellbound then takes this exquisite orchestral base and dials it up to a hundred, resulting in some unapologetically grandiose and at times truly incredible film music. Throughout the score, the immense main themes from the first film – Hellraiser, resurrection and creepy Cenobite music box – return alongside several equally (and in some cases even surpassingly – see the Hellbound theme) fantastic new ones, which are then all wrapped up in a meticulously-crafted, explosively orchestral compositional style. Opening and standout cue “Hellbound/Second Sight Seance” is the perfect example of all this, as the composer hits the ground running right off the bat in dramatically introducing a wide array of exquisitely enjoyable new motifs – Hellbound, Cenobite and Tiffany – on thunderous brass, percussion and vocals while also reprising the iconic original Hellraiser theme for an emphatic, almost victoriously malevolent return. Amazingly, this orchestral brilliance then continues throughout the entire album, as the action is incredible (“Headless Wizard”), the sheer atmosphere is amazing (“Chemical Entertainment”) and as such, overall I honestly think the world of this horror score. And I heard it for the first time only just a week ago.
“Hellbound/Second Sight Seance”. Just… hit play. Right now. You won’t regret it.
Standout Cue: 1. Hellbound/Second Sight Seance
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