As one of the original members of prog stalwarts The Flower Kings, keysman Tomas Bodin was perpetually in the shadow of bandleader Roine Stolt when it came to composition. Beginning with Retropolis, Bodin was credited with several short pieces which effectively acted as bridges to, or musical placeholders for, the Stolt epics. For all their brevity, though, these instrumental pieces were nevertheless intriguing. Bodin learned to capture the listener in a minute or two with quirky, atmospheric pieces which announced themselves as definitively not having been composed by the bandleader, and that was a good thing. He was creating his own identity within the band, not just instrumentally but conceptually as well. With 1998’s Flowerpower, Bodin (and other members of the band) helped democratise the writing process, contributing to the epics too.
Bodin released his debut solo album, An Ordinary Night in My Ordinary Life, in 1996. It would be another six years before Pinup Guru began a run of four classic solo records that showed he could compete in the big time. After that, his recorded output slowed down considerably. Nosferatu 2022 is only his third album since 2009, in a manner bringing the artist full-circle to his early Flower King days. Imagine, if you will, ninety minutes of brief, haunting, impressionistic instrumentals, and you have Nosferatu 2022, the soundtrack to the classic 1922 German black and white silent horror film starring Max Schreck.
If you are looking for a prog masterpiece, look elsewhere. If you are willing to open your mind and your ears to something different from what you have come to expect from Tomas Bodin, there are treasures to be found. Beginning with the Prologue, Bodin makes his intentions perfectly clear. A gong ushers in orchestral sounds which could easily have come from the 1920s (but for the clarity and modern recording techniques). Harps, theremins, synthesisers and eerie crescendos place this in no particular time frame, but firmly within the soundtrack genre. Look no further than the title of each piece for an idea of the emotion or action the composer is attempting to convey. For example, The Night at the Inn uses appropriately creepy, almost out-of-tune player piano sounds to introduce a dark, heavily orchestrated section that segues into ominous synth sounds and neighing horses and back again. You can almost picture the action of the film without seeing it, so evocative is the music.
The Crypt is as spooky and spare as you might expect, wind effects adding to the chill the piece conjures. Then, as Everyone Leaves the Castle, the attempts at stealth that end up in a hurried race to escape are represented by gentle piano and frenzied keys/orchestration respectively. Much of what you hear thematically is from ‘Horror Movie Soundtracks 101’. What makes it a worthwhile listen is the way Bodin straddles the sounds of silent movie tropes and modern keyboards. The aforementioned player piano sound acts as a leit motif throughout the soundtrack, bringing the listener back to a safe space every so often, just as the theremin cues your hand to grip the seat in anticipation. Meanwhile Back Home lightens the mood briefly without ever letting you forget the horrors that wait just around the corner.
The Great Race revels in its sense of movement, slowing down and speeding up, simultaneously sounding formulaic and adventurous. Most of the pieces on Nosferatu 2022 are between one and three minutes long, so when you arrive at the five minutes of We Are Not Alone on This Ship, you might expect Bodin to stretch out a bit. Instead, it acts as a distillation of all that came before, repurposing ideas with some twists. The prog comes out in the way the disparate ideas are joined together in a unified whole. On its own, it would be a standout track, but in context I found myself wondering “what if you did that instead?”. About two thirds of the way through the soundtrack, Bodin seems to have run out of fresh ideas. Everything begins to sound like something you’ve heard before. While his enthusiasm never flags, the spark seems increasingly elusive. Finally, on the penultimate track, Death of Nosferatu, Bodin recovers his muse and employs it to present a moving and sympathetic requiem for the titular anti-hero. That sentiment is carried through to the final piece, the elegiac Ellen’s Death and Epilogue.
Nosferatu 2022 will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Because of the strictures the soundtrack format presents, particularly with a 1922 silent film, Bodin’s latest is not the prog extravaganza you might hope for. That said, he acquits himself beautifully with the music he has created. It must be difficult to have to fill every one of the film’s ninety minutes with representative music, so give the man credit. There are enough moments of imaginative and playful, spine-tingling and eerie, beautiful and dark music to interest the listener and take that person into a world that exists simultaneously in the 1920s and the 2020s. No small feat.
01. Prologue (2:33)
02. First Morning in Wisborg (2:16)
03. Knock Receives A Letter (2:57)
04. The Departure (4:35)
05. The Night at the Inn (3:35)
06. Morning and the Journey Continues (3:25)
07. To Cross A Bridge (3:38)
08. First Night at the Castle (2:08)
09. The Awakening (2:22)
10. Hutter Decides to Write A Letter (1:34)
11. Second Night at the Castle (2:21)
12. Hinger (3:58)
13. The Crypt (1:39)
14. Everyone Leaves the Castle (2:13)
15. The Monastery (1:12)
16. The Port (1:39)
17. Men Who Think, Part One (1:23)
18. Madness (1:19)
19. Men Who Think, Part Two (0:46)
20. More Madness (0:51)
21. Meanwhile Back Home (2:31)
22. The Great Race (3:17)
23. We Are Not Alone on This Ship (5:03)
24. Desire (3:58)
25. Some Mice, The Count and His Coffin (4:09)
26. The Abandoned Ship (2:38)
27. Men Who Think, Part Three (1:09)
28. Panic in the City (1:53)
29. Death, Lust and Shame (3:42)
30. Death Ravages Wisborg (2:39)
31. The Hunt for Knock (1:29)
32. The Hunt Continues (1:45)
33. Ellen’s Invitation (2:44)
34. Death of Nosferatu (2:57)
35. Ellen’s Death and Epilogue (4:02)
Total Time – 90:20
Tomas Bodin – All Instruments
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 26th March 2023