Paul Browne on the music of Hellsing
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The classic 2001 anime series Hellsing follows the adventures of the title organisation, also known as the Holy Order of Protestant Knights – originally led by Abraham van Helsing. Their mission is to protect Queen and Country from supernatural threats. Currently led by Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, who inherited the leadership of Hellsing after the death of her father, the organisation finds itself engaged in a titanic struggle against the Nazi forces of the Millennium outfit. In their battles, Hellsing is assisted by a variety of unusual allies, including the original, legendary vampire Alucard, who swore loyalty to the Hellsing family after being defeated by Van Helsing one hundred years previously.
Such an apocalyptic setting requires some heavy-duty tunes – and top of the list is the ominous shuffling beats of opener ‘Logos Naki World’, delivered by the talents of Yasushi Ishii. With a wide variety of musical tastes, including classical, experimental, pure rock and all points in-between, Yasushi originally began composing music in the early 1990s for artists such as Takashi Utsunomiya (TM NETWORK, T.UTU) as well as popular female singers including Misato Watanabe and Tomoe Shinohara. Yasushi also wrote music for boy band V6, one of the many Johnny & Associates outfits.
Yasushi’s talents also extended to production work, bringing him into contact with the likes of Naoto Kine (another TM NETWORK member), synth wizard Daisuke Asakura and also helped produce Japanese R&B star Crystal Kay’s first album. You can also sample Yasushi’s music abilities on the second instalment of the Darker Than BLACK anime.
Aside from Hellsing‘s classic opening track, Yasushi also scored the series itself with a selection of pieces that vary from broody gothic tunes to heavy guitar stompers. These tracks were also subsequently released on two special Hellsing soundtrack albums.
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Hellsing’s ending theme ‘Shine’ is cut from much more traditional rock material. Surprisingly, the song is actually the work of American 4-piece outfit Mr. Big. Originally formed in 1988 in Los Angeles, this rock ensemble scored a hit with their 1991 single ‘To Be With You’, which managed to reach No. 1 in 15 countries. In 2001 they released the album ‘Actual Size’ which featured the single ‘Shine’ – a release that topped the Japanese charts at the time, making it a perfect choice for inclusion on the Hellsing soundtrack.
The popularity of Hellsing spawned the OVA release Hellsing Ultimate in 2006. This 10 episode series consisted of feature-length segments and brought in the talents of classically trained composer Hayato Matsuo to provide the music.
One of Hayato’s early ventures into anime music was arranging composer Koichi Sugiyama’s music from the Dragon Quest video games for the anime adaptation. From there, Hayato worked on a variety of classic anime and game titles, such as Final Fantasy XII, Shenmue and Magic Knight Rayearth, Hayato was the perfect choice to provide an epic soundtrack for Hellsing Ultimate. The score for the early episodes saw Hayato opt for a full orchestral composition performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra.
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For later episodes in the Hellsing Ultimate series, a more unusual Japanese music outfit named Suilen was brought onboard. This 2-piece outfit, consisting of Shakuyaku and Maki (formerly of Japanese synthpop outfit Soft Ballet), started out as an alternative electronic duo capable of ambient material such as the ethereal ‘Lotus’, but later equally at home producing the powerful moody ‘Magnolia’ – a track which calls to mind the operatic rock style of bands such as Muse. ‘Magnolia’ featured as the ending theme for episode VI of Hellsing Ultimate, while Suilen also contributed the wistful string-driven melodies of ‘Shinto-Shite’ for the ending theme in episode VII (both tracks are available on Suilen’s mini-album THE DAWN).
Whether it’s epic orchestras or gothic rock, when it comes to musical variety, Hellsing certainly delivers the goods.
Hellsing Ultimate Volumes I-IV is out on 29th July from Manga Entertainment.