Almost Holy is a documentary directed by Steve Hoover, and it’s about Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko, a rogue man of the cloth that works and lives out of Mariupol, Ukraine. In his city there was a massive influx of homeless, drug-addicted children and “Pastor Crocodile”, as Mokhnenko likes to call himself, felt it was his duty to help rehabilitate this kids any way he could. That means sometimes forcibly removing these kids from the streets in order to help them, and inevitably save their life. It’s a fine line, and an ambiguous one, but despite what you may feel about his motives Mokhnenko is doing what he feels is right. The soundtrack was written and created by brothers Atticus and Leopold Ross, as well as Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak. It’s as harrowing an experience as the film itself, but just as engaging and stands on its own as a great electronic record.
If you’re familiar with Ross’ work with Trent Reznor on David Fincher’s last few films then you will feel right at home on album opener “One Block Further” as it would feel very much at home on any of the Reznor/Ross film soundtracks. It has a more percussive feel in terms of drum programming, but the Ross brothers do a fine job of creating mood, drama, and with an 80s electronic flair. “Punching Bag” feels more sparse and gritty, with metallic whooshes and reverb-drenched guitar float above the proceedings as a jaunty rhythm appears out of the ether. Bobby Krlic’s contributions on this S/T are darker, hazier, and really more enthralling. If you’re familiar with his work as The Haxan Cloak then you know what to expect here. If you’re not then you need to get a copy of Excavation, listen to it in a dark room with headphones and get back to me. Krlic’s work is harrowing, heavy, and nightmare fuel in the best way possible. “Intervention” feels like a gothic sound ritual, and only goes to add a deeper sense of dread that is already invoked by the sad reality of these kids in Almost Holy. “Pharmacies” has a distant dread in it. It’s as if darkness is filling the peripheral as daylight screams its final charge. I don’t know how Krlic has gotten away with not working in film up to this point, but he needs to keep moving in this direction as it’s his cup of tea, to say the least.
I think at times the soundtrack may add a bit more melodrama than there needs to be in this film. With the subject matter at hand, not much is needed musically to drive home the intensity and urgency of this real life story. A simple piano score with an occasional string accompaniment or synth blurbs here and there would’ve worked well. As it is, though, Ross, Ross, and Krlic don’t disappoint even if the dramatic bar is raised as each song moves along.
“Mokhnenko” by the brothers Ross has a John Carpenter feel to it, while “Distance” howls and hisses mechanically like a shattered spirit in duress. “Graves” contains a sample of Pastor Crocodile himself, talking about the death of a kid and not being able to give him a proper burial as his body is missing. Krlic’s “Coursing” moves along like an electronic fog, it’s mist made up of circuits and warm tubes, while “The End” is as foreboding as anything on this album. It shows just how good Bobby Krlic can be at what he does, and why he needs to do more in the cinematic world.
A documentary like Almost Holy pretty much speaks for itself. As intense as the film is, an equally intense film score could be overkill. At times the “less is more” adage might’ve been the way to go with this film, but since instead the filmmakers went with the brothers Ross and Bobby Krlic then we might as well just enjoy it. As a film score this record works fine, but as a standalone electronic LP it works even better. The Ross’ do good here, but Bobby Krlic absolutely shines.