“Rob wanted the world of The Northman to feel harsh and uncomfortable, and for everything to feel like it was caked in mud and dry blood, so it was crucial for the score to mirror that.” Composers Robin Carolan (Tri-Angle Records) and Sebastian Gainsborough (Vessel) were given a task of epic proportions when director Rob Eggers (The VVitch, The Lighthouse) asked them to create the score for his ambitious and highly anticipated new film The Northman. They needed to make a score that both honoured the immense research that had gone into the authenticity of this Viking era period piece and complimented the cinematic maximalism of the film for a modern audience. The artists stretched themselves to the depths of their creativity and the resulting album is a gorgeous sonic tableaux that places the listener right in the center of the film.
While arranging the score the composers consulted musician and ethnographer Poul Høxbro for inspiration and insight into the history of Viking music. Having backgrounds in left field electronic music, Robin and Sebastian felt liberated by the constraint of using a small selection of musical tools for this piece. “Electronic music has almost limitless potential when it comes to making sounds and that’s obviously an incredible thing, but you can also go down the wormhole and get lost in it sometimes. There’s no risk of that happening when you only have a few primary instruments to draw upon.” Robin remarked.
They utilized traditional instruments such as the tagelharpa, langspil, kravik lyre, and säckpip to build the cinematic world of The Northman but they also took creative freedoms in adding instruments likes drums, which some academics believe wouldn’t have played a big part in Viking musical culture, simply due to the lack of archaeological evidence of actual drums. “One of the pieces we wrote was intended to emulate the sound of a bullroarer; an ancient instrument used in sacred rituals or in battle to intimidate enemies. It makes a really disorienting roaring vibrato sound and low frequencies capable of traveling insane distances.” Robin says when asked about one of the more unique aspects of the score. Everyone involved put so much effort into both their research and their creativity and this richness is evident in every track. The album as a whole is a cinematic masterpiece of sound and ambiance, both gorgeous and disturbing, like the film it so beautifully accompanies.