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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Soundtrack Review: #TheFlash Season 1

The Flash Season 1 shows just how far television soundtracks have come.

Review by Matt Cummings

As a long-time lover of television soundtracks - no, not the awful rock collections that appear in shows like Vampire Diaries, etc - I had lamented their near total ignorance for the better part of the last two decades. True, the Bear McReary score for Battlestar Galactica was an epic reminder that television didn't have to go the cheap route. Luckily, Composer Blake Neely's submission for The Flash Season 1 is leading the triumphant charge to return television scores to their rightful place.

Released by WaterTower Music, the score is a great mix of electronic and symphonic. There's two CD's here - a total of 29 tracks - so a blow-by-blow rundown would take all day. Instead, let's mention several highlights, beginning with tracks 1-5.

A show always has to have a memorable theme, which is what The Fastest Man Alive/Always Late exactly does. But just like the show took bold chances in year one, Neely diversifies things with the beautiful Best Friends Since Childhood, the dark Metahumans, and the almost magical/fantasy of Dr. Wells Has Secrets. Each of these feature a mix of violins, electronic effects, and voice, all of which sound manufactured from MIDI or keyboards. That's not a bad thing - see anything by Hans Zimmer in his early period - because they're not set up pieces like we saw in Mortdecai. These are melodic, standalone pieces which add a new layer to the show's quirky-humorous-dark tone.

All of these come together in I Have to Try, a nearly 5-minute piece that's among the best in this lot. After establishing a march/assault style, the track ends with a pretty violin epilogue that quickly fades. But Barry's theme - an escalating violin pattern - repeats throughout several tracks, much in the same way John Williams utilized Indiana Jones' theme throughout Raiders of the Lost Ark. As we move towards the middle of the first CD, the formula is repeated, with the piano of Eddie and Iris, the violin pattern behind Birth of The Flash, and the vocals of Things You Can't Outrun. Each one sets up their individual stories before deeper.

Some of the best elements of Season 1 involved the story of Harrison Wells/Reverse Flash, so sampled tracks like Catch Me If You Can with his familiar 'flapping' sound appears throughout. You also get some great violin work, along with solid french horns, each given their moment before coming together with that flapping. Barry Allen's relationship with his imprisoned father is featured in the piano-violin-central Fate of My Dad. It's a stirring track, and provided really excellent mood shifts when Barry and Reverse Flash weren't palling around. Also, check out the powerful Dead to Me, which documents Reverse's killing of Cisco.

As things move towards their conclusion with the Arrow-inspired Called Some Friends for Help, Second Chance, and the epic Closing the Wormhole, Neely emphatically designs these soundscapes by allowing them to merge with the final episodes from Season 1. They never push the scene out of the way, but work to elevate the tension that Producer Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg created.

But this is only half of the value you received if you were lucky enough to snag one of these. Disc 2 features all of the Arrow-Flash crossover music, including my favorite The Flash vs Arrow. Finally, there is also a series of bonus tracks that arrived with the CD versions. So, you basically get 59 tracks, a handsome booklet with a message from Neely, and some cool stills from various episodes. No wonder that even Amazon sold out of the 3,000 limited edition copies.

With no timeline for a re-release, you might have to troll YouTube to catch The Flash Season 1 Soundtrack. Trust me, it's well worth your effort, as the Scarlet Speedster is introduced in fine form. Perhaps this and others will return television scores to their rightful place, as producers recognize its importance in setting tone as special effects and other action.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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