As a writer and director, Dario Argento has been creating his own brand of genre films for many years, and he has worked with several composers on his projects including some notable names such as Pino Donaggio on his 1993 Thriller "Trauma". To most people familiar with his films, it is the rock-synth soundtracks by Goblin which stick in the memory. He used Goblin's unique music on "Deep Red" and "Suspiria" in the 1970s, and also worked with the band on George Romero's original "Dawn of the Dead". For his latest project "Giallo" it is a pleasant surprise to see the director turn instead to classically trained composer Marco Werba. The film stars Adrian Brody, and the plot involves an American model whose sister has gone missing while the FBI are trying to track down a serial killer. Giallo means "Yellow" and refers to the suspect's skin colour but also hints at a style of Italian pulp fiction in the thriller genre, whose books had yellow covers.
The Main Titles immediately establish the score as orchestral, an ominous beat on low strings while some tutti chords and a timpani roll herald the main theme introduced by the brass. The theme is chromatic and attracts one of those unsettling dark chord progressions. Low strings continue to play an important role in the score's tone, and the suspense track "Kidnapping" plays sharp chords against this backdrop morphing into tense tremolo strings. The Main Theme returns in "Taxi Killer" though the increased tempo and insistent timpani make it more urgent in nature, before a low piano joins the orchestra. The piano returns in a completely different guise in "Love Theme" with a simple lyrical melody constrasting with the previous material but with an air of melancholy. Brief phrases on cello and a string accompaniment establish some important instrumentation colours for the remainder of the score. The first of several "Killer" tracks firmly reminds the listener of the composer's experience in horror films with quick glissando effects on strings. The different moods of the "Taxi" and "Killer" tracks alternate as the story unfolds.
As you might expect with a horror/thriller there are some further effects heard on the soundtrack, although these are understated rather than gimmicky. Most effects are orchestral in nature: glissandi and vocal effects in some of the "Killer" tracks and "The Butcher", "col legno" effects in "The Victim Talks", a breathy low flute in "Killer 4" and some hard to identify effects in "Killer 2" which may or may not have an orchestral basis. Nevertheless most of the score is firmly in the orchestral tradition with established melodic fragments and figures being deployed and developed in a logical way creating a coherent score. "Avolvi's Theme" sees the main theme return as a piano piece with some solo strings introducing an important chromatic motif. "The Killer's House" is the longest track at 6:42 long and flows through a number of moods from suspense to urgent action and back, before turning into an evolving development of the main themes. "Flashback" then brings some welcome but very brief relief from the tension with a jazz track on piano, before the main theme returns on dreamy celeste and marimba against the omnipresent low strings. There are further roles for tuned percussion and harp in tracks such as "Enzo And Linda" and solo strings in "The Killer's Childhood", with some disconnected notes on solo cello punctuating the return of the piano love theme in "The House".
Giallo is the first major film by Argento for a few years, and certainly one of the highest-profile projects by Marco Werba. Werba has clearly demonstrated his creative abilities with the horror/suspense genres while still retaining credibility as a traditional classical composer. His choice of an orchestral palette for Giallo instantly removes the film from the slasher genre expected of an Argento film and gives it a certain class. Unfortunately the soundtrack is not available for sale - it has been created by Kronos Records as a promotional item only. You will find details on the Kronos Records Catalogue Page under the catalogue number "KRONPROMOCD001", where you can listen to portions of selected tracks. However there are 2 versions of the DVD available: The English language version at Amazon.co.uk (region 2) and Amazon.com (region 1); and the Italian import version at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (though note this is Region 2 only).
Bonus Tracks (Not Used in the Film):
I am pleased to report that a further promotional CD album released in 2021 used this score review above as its liner notes. This CD had the album cover shown alongside and included two further bonus tracks, while re-ordering the original bonus tracks. The Piano Version is played by Claire Delerue the daughter of film composer Georges Delerue, and you can see her playing this track here on her youtube channel: