Composer: Edmund Butt
Also Featuring Songs By: Keaton Henson
Label: Silva Screen Records
The brilliant and all too short-lived BBC Three zombie drama IN THE FLESH – created by Dominic Mitchell and starring Luke Newberry, Emily Bevan, and Emmett J. Scanlan – not only presented a compelling and innovative take on the zombie genre but did so with an ethereal atmosphere enhanced by a stunning musical score. After an apocalyptic event known as the Rising in which the dead returned as reanimated corpses seeking living flesh, the living discovered a medical solution that allowed zombies to return to their former personalities and resume their lives as PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers. The resulting clash of religious beliefs, prejudices, and fears – not to mention the memories of atrocities committed by the PDS citizens before their rabid behavior was brought under control – leads to daily challenges in the lives of the Risen (or “Rotters”), their families and friends, and those that would gladly see them return to the cold ground.
After two excellent series (or seasons in American terms), IN THE FLESH came to an abrupt end with many plot lines left unresolved. We may never see the beleaguered Welsh village of Roarton again, but we can return to its gray and strangely romantic environs with this soundtrack. Featuring instrumental work from throughout the series as well as songs by Keaton Henson, it’s an aural tribute that should be in any fan’s playlist.
The IN THE FLESH soundtrack is an aural tribute that should be in any fan’s playlist.
I’ve often commented on the DOCTOR OF THE DEAD podcast about what I think is a certain musical sound that seems appropriate to the zombie genre, but it’s hard to dissect. The alternating use of propulsive percussion and string-heavy soundscapes that seem to wash over you and around you, enveloping you in a dark but somehow enticing world, not to mention the occasional shift toward synthesized rather than real instrumentation and driving rock, all feel right in the context of a zombie movie or TV show. IN THE FLESH has it all, beginning with tracks like “The Prophet” and “Kieren Turns,” which slowly bring you into this post-PDS world with a combination of wafting, wailing, and insistent melodies. In its quieter moments, the album captures the stark landscape and timelessness of Kieren’s hometown; “Back to Roarton” is at times a note-for-note reinvention of Howard Shore’s “Concerning Hobbits,” the Shire theme from the LORD OF THE RINGS films. That influence comes through in several other tracks, including “Read Your Bible.”
Things get a bit tenser and threatening in tracks like “Wolf,” “The Second Coming,” and “There’s Still Time,” while an almost innocent, fairy tale quality comes through in the slightly atonal “The Goddess Ishtar.” The score also weaves in tributes to other material that will surely reward the pop culture-savvy listener. From nods to the bands Consolidated and Enigma, to guitar riffs in tracks like “The Rotters” and “All Alone” that may make gamers remember adventures in the world of DIABLO, there’s a rich tapestry of thematic work that will encourage you to “stay awhile and listen!”
Every plaintive note reminds you of the beautifully bleak series we’ve lost due to BBC3’s ill-judged cancellation of a modern zombie masterpiece.
If the incredible instrumental work by composer Edmund Butt (LIFE ON MARS, ASHES TO ASHES, DOCTOR WHO: AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME) and The Chamber Orchestra of London presented in the first 19 tracks doesn’t move you to tears, you’re unlikely to resist the final three songs by musician Keaton Henson, whose thready, wavering voice virtually pleads with you to cry for the Risen. His vocals and accompanying music all sound as if they’re reaching us from another world far away, stretching out fingers from beyond to grasp at our reality one more time.
There’s an elegiac quality to the entire album, which suits the subject matter in any event but now feels particularly heightened by the loss of the series. Listening to this soundtrack may be as close as IN THE FLESH fans will ever get to revisiting Roarton (some might even wish to use this soundtrack to accompany role-playing game scenarios with similar settings), but it’s also an appropriately melancholy experience; every plaintive note reminds you of the beautifully bleak series we’ve lost due to BBC3’s ill-judged cancellation of a modern zombie masterpiece.