For those unfamiliar with the origins of the series, back in 1990 "Good Omens" the novel was first published. This was a collaboration between two acclaimed writers of fantasy, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Their story is a comedy based around the antichrist and the coming of the Apocalypse but two characters, one an angel and the other a demon (who have enjoyed earthly pleasures while meddling with its history over many centuries) aim to avert this final disaster. The story is awash with colourful characters, surprising plot twists and a great many jokes. The novel won a number of Fantasy Awards in 1991, quickly gained a fan following, and there have been a number of attempts to adapt the book to other media. However a screen adaptation has proven difficult for a number of reasons including its complexity, until after Pratchett's death in 2015 leaving a dying wish to Gaiman to adapt it himself. "Good Omens" the series is the result and has been realised as a 6-episode series co-produced by Amazon and the BBC.
In some ways a series such as this must be a gift to a composer, but with a large fan-base there is always the risk of not meeting expectations. Thankfully the series composer David Arnold has totally got into the spirit of the novel and series, delivering a score which expertly balances tone and drama with many subtle and some not-so-subtle nuances thrown in. The result not only meets but exceeds those fan expectations. In fact there is so much good music across the 6 episodes (about 5 hours of screen time) that it demands a double album providing a total running time of about 1 hours 30 minutes. The double album is nicely packaged with Michael Sheen as the angel Aziraphale adorning disc 1 and David Tennant as the demon Crowley on the other. The accompanying booklet has the novel's full title/subtitle of "Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch" and the introduction by Neil Gaiman gives some background to the music choices across the series.
The "Opening Title" sets the scene nicely, accompanying an animation giving some plot highlights from across the series. This main theme also lays the foundation for the whole score as it returns throughout in a variety of different guises. The tone is initially off-kilter and quirky but it quickly settles to a melody with distinctive bass and accompaniment, all of which have comic potential and are instantly recognisable when they recur at various points across the score. The next few tracks established some key plot moments with the birth and development of the antichrist known as Adam, with tracks like "Lullaby" on tuned percussion and the dramatic "We're Doomed". Then we have "End Titles - The Theme that got Left in the Car" which is a shorter rock version of the main theme. The rock music is important later in the score to help depict certain characters but it also fits with the Queen tracks, a point we will come back to later.
The album then introduces some additional characters in the form of "Witch" Agnes Nutter, her descendent Anathema to a folk ballad on guitar, and Newt who is destined to meet Anathema as prophesied by Agnes. "The Them" is the name of Adam's gang of chums and their track is a homely baroque melody not unlike Pachelbel's Canon. By this point Arnold's musical pallet is all laid out with quirky orchestration including voices, and styles ranging from classical to folk to rock. The overriding tone is one of pure fun, sometimes laid back and enjoying the characterisation, and sometimes driving the story forward. Having said that there is plenty of emotional variety as the story unfolds with time for moments of pure horror and more intimate moments of love. In character terms we see in flashback Aziraphale and Crowley at various points in history including at the "Globe" with supporting Renaissance music, we find the lost island of "Atlantis" accompanied by music in the style of a hollywood biblical epic, we meet the "Four Horsemen" of the apocalypse including "Death" and "Pollution" riding motorbikes, and we meet other Demons and Angels including "Gabriel" (to an upbeat whistled version of the main theme). Other examples of musical fun include a quick meeting with "Aliens!" with a spooky mock-theremin, some mock-pompous Americana when the "Ambassador Arrives", and some on-hold musak in the track "Ansaphone".
It should be noted that the series soundtrack also fearures a number of tracks by Queen, and the reason for this will be obvious to those who have read the book or seen the series. However these are not included on the album, whose only song track is the closing standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square", as described in the book and sung by Gaiman's long-term friend Tori Amos. Other than this the album is exclusively down to David Arnold and you will need to listen to the score yourself to hear the full range of the composer's inventiveness. David Arnold's score for "Good Omens" is absolutely perfect for the series and provides a feast of aural fun. The soundtrack album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
While we would not want to detract from David Arnold's achievements on the series score, it seems appropriate to add this footnote to his score review. So for those who would want to hear more music associated with "Good Omens" a number of tracks have been released by "The Chattering Order of St. Beryl" in a digital-only album called "Unholy Night (Music Inspired by Good Omens)". The albums has 8 tracks and is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. As a taster here is the promo video of their track "Brand New Baby Smell" on youtube (where you can also hear Somebody to Love):