When Jóhann Jóhannsson died in February of this year, he was only 48, but the prolific Icelandic composer—famous for his film scores—left behind a body of unheard work. One of the last films he scored was Mandy, an action horror film from director Panos Cosmatos starring Nicolas Cage. Paste has an exclusive first listen to one track from the score, titled “Forging the Beast.”
Best known for his work with director Denis Villeneuve, Jóhannsson scored films like Prisoners, Arrival and Sicario. He was twice nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score, for Villeneuve’s Sicario and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything. His solo albums were frequently haunting and minimalist experiments—one critic hailed his fourth album IBM 1401, A User’s Manual, which was recorded using sounds created by the electromagnetic emissions of the IBM 1401, as a “chillingly close” computer simulation of the human soul.
“Forging the Beast” is similarly unsettling. Heavy synthesizer builds throughout, evoking a sense of pursuit that’s all too fitting for a film with a plot described as “set in the primal wilderness of 1983, Red Miller, a broken and haunted man, hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.” As the film’s score was one of Jóhannsson’s last projects, the album was posthumously assembled in March 2018 by his co-producers. One other track, titled “Children of the Dawn,” was released in July.
“Jóhann went above and beyond, and I suspect to the limits of his sanity, to make the music for this movie,” says Cosmatos in a statement. “His words and his actions made him more than a great collaborator, they made him like a brother to me. I’m sad our time together was so brief but I’m very proud of what he accomplished on Mandy and I believe he was too.”
Download “Forging the Beast” starting on Aug. 3 here. Mandy hits theaters Sept. 14, with Jóhannsson’s Mandy—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack available the same day. Once preorders for digital copies of the album go live on Thursday, Aug. 2 at midnight, you can place yours here, and be sure to watch the trailer for Mandy and hear “Forging the Beast,” both below. You can find out more about the legacy Jóhannsson has left behind via his foundation here.