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Fall of Gods (Francois Jolin)

April 22, 2016


François Jolin, 2016, Lakeshore Records
13 tracks, 57:21

Forget movies. Books are the future! François Jolin presents a score based on an illustrated book based on Norse mythology. And by Thor’s hammer… it’s good!

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Fall of Gods” is an illustrated book inspired by Norse mythology, following Vali, a warrior haunted by his past, but who has found peace in the arms of a woman. For years he has lived far from society, tending to his farm and trying to forget the battles he fought…and the crimes he committed. But one day his love disappears, and he must set out to find her. He will once again have to face the creatures of Jotunheim and the powerful Aesir. Suddenly, the man he thought he had buried deep down inside has risen to the surface once more…and he comes seeking vengeance. “Fall of Gods” was created by “Mood” concept designer Rasmus Berggreen and “Hitman” video-game writer Michael Vogt.  The book will be turned into a feature film by director Wes Ball (“The Maze Runner”).

Composer François Jolin has provided soundtracks to local and international clients such as Le Cirque du Soleil, Funcom, Digital Dimension, Mood Visuals, Bell Media, Procedural Reality and many more. Some of his recent and upcoming projects include “The Genex”, “Winnetou”, “Hard Right”, as well as the VR video game “Limit Theory”.

What does it sound like?

For score references, I was instructed to look towards films like “Apocalypto”, “Braveheart” and “Noah”“, Jolin says. “This helped a lot to establish an initial sound palette. One key part of the sound palette was getting in all these textures so that it never sounded too clean. Using synths and off­-played strings helped give a real sense of grit while maintaining a modern approach.

This approach is evident from the get-go, as the album opens to the sound of piano and harp over a bed of dissonant strings. There’s some rattling percussion as the violins continue to scrape. During the second half of the opening track, “Hunt”, the strings straighten out and begin to form a melody. Jolin continues to combine a dulcimer-like sound with electric guitar notes (more like ambient pads), growling brass (think Goldenthal) and terrifying wind instruments (think Silvestri’s “Predator 2”).

“Panic” contains some melodic elements, but largely relies on musical effects. There are plucked strings, dissonant strings, something that sounds like laboured breathing… and then percussion, ostinato strings and a ‘braaaam’-type sound enter the fray. I know it doesn’t read particularly interesting, but it sounds really good. It reminds me of Goldenthal, not least because of a faint organ that can just be heard in background. The chaos does die down and make way for melancholy strings, with guitar and cello only just taking the lead.

“Drangavik” sees the score move towards Horner’s “Apocalypto” as dense strings are accompanied by guttural vocal pads, chants and exotic (but unnerving) wind instruments. This continues in cues like “Forest”, “Trap” and “Duel”. They really sound like a combination of Horner’s exotic experimentations, Mansell’s curious orchestrations and some slightly more straight-forward ostinatos. The result is harsh, uneasy, but absolutely fascinating. Jolin does a great job at keeping it sounding natural, in spite of the many sound manipulations. Any description won’t do it justice. There are so many layers to the music; so much to explore.

In contrast “I Need Alcohol” is an upbeat and fast-paced cue which sounds like an ancient, if somewhat off-kilter, folk song with light percussion and a pleasant melody. The pleasantries don’t last too long as “Ambush” sees the return of strings ostinatos and lively percussion; and it took me a while to fully realise that Jolin’s put a big fat synth pad on top of it… it mixes so well, I think I thought it was brass for a little while. What I like about the percussion is how light but energetic it is. Rather than apply tons of thundering drums (there are some, but not much), Jolin predominantly relies on light, stick-like sounds.

Jolin says of the score: “I see “Fall of Gods” as being more than a huge monsters, Norse action piece. It contains many elements that have a strong meaning, affliction, duality, hope amidst chaos, whilst remaining viable and true to its epic stage. It’s not the same sort of Norse inspired story that we’ve all come to know, there are no superheroes with red capes, and washboard abs. It has a gritty naturalistic approach that brings something new to the mythos.

“Wolf’s Lair” combines a deliberately paced percussive rhythm with strings and female vocal. The result is a cue that feels determined, yet melancholy. A bit like a sacrifice. “Pyre” is largely musical sound design, but again is strangely fascinating. And again, once the ‘noise’ settles down, deep strings come to the fore. A breathy flute perform a Horner-like melody, accompanied by soft guitar plucks and what sounds like a child’s voice. Again, Jolin’s sound design is very engaging. It draws you into the story and won’t let you go.

The album concludes with a song, yup an actual song with lyrics and stuff, called “The Call” performed by Delhia de France (and written by Jolin and De France). It’s amazing how well it works with the score, considering is much more modern in nature. But it seems to many of the sounds (percussion, guitar, synths) that were used in the score. It’s a great song. I really love the warm, fat sound of it.

Is it any good?

François Jolin’s “Fall of Gods” makes for a dark and guttural listening experience. It’s not the easiest thing to sit through, but I find it (surprisingly) rewarding. When Jolin says he took his inspiration from scores like “Apocalypto” and “Noah” he wasn’t kidding. It relies heavily on dissonant sounds, throaty vocal effects and forest-inspired percussion. At times the music borders on sound design, though elsewhere melodies and harmonies are allowed to materialise to great effect. If you enjoy the aforementioned scores, you are likely to enjoy “Fall of Gods” and appreciate its many layers and complex sound palette. Others may be declined to dismiss most of it as noisy, or even plain noise. There’s something utterly intriguing about “Fall of Gods”. I think it’s partly due to the mixing, as it sounds really warm and deceptively inviting; and partly due to the orchestrations which sound really natural despite the presence of synths, electric guitars and plenty of electronic tinkering. It’s absolutely fascinating; and I love it a lot.

Rating [4/5]


01. Hunt (5.20)
02. Panic (4.54)
03. Drangavik (4.34)
04. I Need Alcohol (2.50)
05. Ambush (3.57)
06. Troll (3.02)
07. Forest (2.14)
08. Walking In Circles (3.41)
09. Trap (2.45)
10. Duel (1.57)
11. Wolf’s Lair (4.00)
12. Pyre (4.04)
13. The Call – Featuring Delhia de France (4.03)

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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