From Hell is a fictionalised account of the Jack the Ripper saga that terrified Victorian London, based on a graphic novel and starring Johnny Depp. It seems an odd choice after his role in Tim Burton's marvellously gothic Sleepy Hollow, where he also plays an investigator in a gloomy period film, although this time the murderer is all too human. In another coincidence, Jones has gone on to score The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, another comic book adaptation in the same period. Unsurprisingly, the tone is dark and unrelenting. It's the sort of score that really does sound as though it could be from Hell, but after the seven impressive minutes of the opening In Memoriam, there's the slightly disturbing realisation that there's still almost an hour to go. In Memoriam is indeed a superb way to start; the first half introduces the broad, but densely orchestrated main theme while the second adds some digital percussion (which works surprisingly well) and a Kilar style chorus. I'm never sure if it's simply the orchestration, the mixing or both, but the density of sound that Jones achieves is impressive, if overbearing after a while.
As this is mainly a detective story, the music is largely low key, which as with his aforementioned League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, turns out to the album's weakness. When it has enough momentum, it works well and cues such as Whitechapel Murders and The Compass and the Ruler are impressive, building towards churning choral passages and some interesting, but entirely satisfying orchestral effects. However, Royal Connections, A Sprig of Red Grapes, Chasing the Dragon etc. are dripping with atmosphere, but lacking in appeal or interest. Of course, there are some exceptions and Portrait of a Prince is quite lovely, plus shows a flicker of light in amongst the gloom; its setting in slightly higher registers and a thinning of the orchestral texture helps immensely. The only extended action sequence is Death Coach and Jones doesn't disappoint, combining a deep chorus and a surprisingly sparse orchestral texture, but one that works well. The finale, Pennies for the Ferryman has a similar tone to Portrait of a Prince, but has a broader feel and greater scale, fading into a low sustained note for a sour close.
The album contains two songs that couldn't be further apart in style if they tried. The opening, The Nobodies, a remix of a Marilyn Manson song, is heavy metal and isn't to my taste at all, neither is the closing Bow Belle. The latter is a fake period song by Jones, made to sound as primitively recorded as possible, the sort of recording you get from the very first wax cylinders. It's not pleasant to listen to in any real sense and is best avoided. Despite some fine moments and superb playing from the Academy of St Martin in the Field (with Sir Neville Marriner is nowhere to be seen), From Hell is just too long and at times does seem to go on forever. Still there are enough highlights to make it worth recommending, but patience is required to get through the entire album to find them all.