Score Reviews

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Destiny 2 by Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, C Paul Johnson, Rotem Moav & Pieter Schlosser (Review)

posted Sep 21, 2017, 11:33 PM by Leo Mayr

The music team responsible for the wonderful first game returns for Destiny 2. The first game featured a stunning diverse score, reflecting the different locations and enemies and featuring stunning boss battles. Two major expansions further added to the massive amount of music featured in the game, so I had high hopes for the sequel. For the most part, the ever expanding team of composers delivers a worthy sequel.

Fans of the first game will feel at home right away. A few themes from the first game make appearances in the sequel and the general feeling has remained intact. The phrase "more of the same" comes to mind, but in a good way. The score once again reflects the different alien worlds and factions, as well as the mythology behind the game's story. The mostly orchestral approach once again works wonderfully, resulting in more than a few stunning pieces, most notably the two tracks featuring the Kronos Quartet. The track "Journey" in particular stands out exceptionally. The action music is again on point, perfectly keeping the balance between heroic battles and frantic firefights at the brink of disaster. While there aren't as many memorable boss battles as in the first game, most still stand out as unique.

Destiny 2 is a fantastic sequel, both as a game and musically. Everything feels more refined and polished while new themes perfectly expand the ever growing franchise. There's nothing that I could seriously complain about and the impressive 44 track album never gets boring or repetetive.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy by Henry Jackman (Review)

posted Sep 21, 2017, 11:33 PM by Leo Mayr

The Uncharted series continues with The Lost Legacy. Henry Jackman returns, having joined the franchise with Uncharted 4, and with him a fun action adventure score that sadly fails to surpass it's predecessor.

In line with the switch in protagonist, Jackman introduces a new main theme that is effective and nicely integrated into the score, but doesn't live up to Greg Edmonson's theme that was kept in Uncharted 4.
If you listened to Jackman's score for the last game, then there's nothing here that'll surprise you. A few instrumental touches represent the game's setting in indian mythology and nicely set the music apart from its predecessor. Jackman's action writing is spectacular as always, and the more atmospheric music does a great job at engrossing you into the game's world and story. That wonderful feeling of adventure that made Uncharted 4 so special pops up here and there, wonderfully accompanying the game's gorgeous world.

The Lost Legacy, while being a stunning adventure score just doesn't live up to the franchise's previous scores. The music does a great job at keeping you invested in the action onscreen, yet there's not a lot that stands out here. If you liked Jackman's previous scores then you'll have a blast with The Lost Legacy, but at the end of the day, you probably won't remember as much as with previous games in the series.

Tooth And Tail by Austin Wintory (Review)

posted Sep 21, 2017, 11:32 PM by Leo Mayr

Tooth and Tail
 sees Austin Wintory reunite with Pocketwatch Games, the studio behind the fantastic Monaco: What's Yours is Mine which was also scored by Wintory.

The strategy game is centered around the conflict between rivalling animal factions, so you know to expect a weird score. The score opens with a fun main theme that's instantly memorable and carries through the entire score. The music is very lighthearted and often fast-paced, making for a fun and memorable experience both ingame and on the album. The score contains a lot of unusual instrumentation as should be expected by Wintory at this point. No two pieces of music sound alike, yet the same main theme carries throughout, tying the score together. Some tracks contain insane, wordless vocals accompanied by a full orchestra while others focus on violin solos. All in all, there's a lot going on.

Austin Wintory delivers yet another colourful score that beautifully defines the game musically. While some of the instrumentation may seem unusual, it makes for an all the more unique experience you definitely shouldn't miss.

Absolver by Austin Wintory (Review)

posted Sep 21, 2017, 11:31 PM by Leo Mayr

Absolver is a game centered around melee combat in a small open world. Austin Wintory delivers another strong atmospheric score that doesn't quite reach the heights of some of his previous efforts.

The score consists mainly of ambient music and occasional bursts of action. As is usual for his work, the music feels completely unique in both style and instrumentation, yet it's undoubtedly Wintory's work. The ambient music nicely breathes life into the game world and there's always a feeling that a violent outburst is just seconds away. Once the music actually does pick up the pace, we get to the score's highlights. The music is loud and aggressive, yet it never feels chaotic, instead treating the combat more like a dance. The final action piece, co-produced by Wintory with RZA, stands out from the rest, being more intense and aggressive, yet never losing that sense of a cautious dance.

Austin Wintory delivers another stunning videogame score. The ambient music works well, despite not being as emotional or memorable as some of his previous efforts. The score really stands out in the action sequences with some impressively structured music and unique instrumentation.

It by Benjamin Wallfisch (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:57 AM by Kaya Savas

With Wallfisch coming off of Annabelle: Creation, which was a wholly predictable and standard “bump in the night” movie that followed the standard “tension and release” formula, we now have It. The opening logos come up on the screen and we hear a chilling child solo vocal reciting, “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clements. You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s.” This is a verse of a well known nursery rhyme from the United Kingdom (Benjamin Wallfisch’s homeland) and quite an eerie way to start off the score. Already you can look at the definition of “farthing”, which is a former monetary unit and coin of the UK, withdrawn in 1961, equal to a quarter of an old penny. So, Penny? Pennywise? Just one example of what makes this score so layered, so engaging and so damn successful at giving us a horror drama that focuses on characters first and then layers in the scares. Benjamin Wallfisch’s It is one of the best scores of his career and the year so far.

Stephen King’s It is definitely a known property, it’s one of his most well-known novels and the miniseries adaptation of it is something most people have seen. The book itself has a lot going on in it, and the miniseries was just an over the top campy way of deciphering it. But then again how do you make a film adaption of a story about a shape-shifting inter dimensional alien that feeds off of children’s fears while main focus of the story is moving from adolescence to adulthood? Well, when Warner Bros. decided to adapt the book into 2 movies, they brought on Cary Fukunaga who co-wrote a draft of the script and was set to direct. He departed the film after him and the studio weren't seeing eye to eye. Andy Muschietti then stepped in, after directing the very successful Mama. The It we ended up with used much of the structure of Fukunaga’s script but definitely streamlined the focus of the original narrative into what ended up being a really fantastic film overall. If you're expecting this movie to have all the layers of the novel, you might be disappointed. If you wanna see a well-made coming of age story with a shape-shifting entity that feeds off children's fears then sit back and enjoy the ride.

The score itself is the backbone of this movie, and Benjamin Wallfisch really treated this as a character exploration rather than a horror score. The entire first act is really dedicated to learning who the characters are so we really connect to them as an audience. The music paints the town of Derry as this picturesque New England town, but with a dark past. You can feel the music sort of leaning on its side as it plays over establishing shots. After Georgie's demise, which is the prologue of the story, we get to grow with the kids a bit. Beverly is an amazing character that Wallfisch really sculpted with the score. We see her become the center of the loser’s club throughout the film, and in the end she is what brings the rest of the boy’s together to overcome the terror.

The horror part of this score is where Wallfisch really digs deep to try new techniques and approaches to give Pennywise a truly demonic presence. That “Oranges and lemons” motif essentially is Pennywise’s inner monologue, that motif is his presence. And you can hear it in the theme for the Loser’s Club, it has the same shape. It shows how Pennywise has infected into every corner of Derry, living in the sewers and always underneath. When it comes time to dial up the terror, the music does not hold back. Instead of doing traditional builds of tension that release with a jump scare, the score is more focused on just fucking you up sonically. In some cases the music utilizes some electronics but its mostly just warping the instruments to truly sound inhuman and unsettling. This score is never like “oh did you just hear that door creak?”, it’s more like “There he is! Fucking run!”. And that is supremely effective. Never was I following a roadmap for the scares, I was following the roadmap for the characters’ journey. It may come across as being overly aggressive at times, and while it may diminish the tension slightly, it makes up for it in just overall adrenaline.

By the time we come to the climax and resolution, we’ve not only been on a terrifying journey but also an emotional one. The way the score wraps up the thematic arcs is just perfect, and it puts a great period at the end of chapter one instead of an ellipsis. The story ends letting us know that Chapter 2 is coming, but not in some gimmicky cliffhanger way. We truly feel that this chapter of the characters’ lives has ended. The whole narrative overall is just so rich and absorbing, and Wallfisch’s score is the backbone that makes us emotionally connect to our protagonists. It’s this bond that the score creates that makes It one of the more memorable horror films in recent memory. Everything about the music was beautifully realized and perfectly executed, and it’s a terrifying world that felt so real because of Benjamin’s talents as a storyteller. Chapter 2 should be an amazing trip back to Derry as we see the adult versions of our protagonist return to defeat It once and for all.

Annabelle: Creation by Benjamin Wallfisch (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:56 AM by Kaya Savas

Benjamin Wallfisch has been having one hell of a year so far. And he still has Blade Runner coming up! Recently though he’s been flexing his horror muscles. And while A Cure For Wellness wasn’t really traditional horror, it had some wonderful storytelling elements that proved Wallfisch’s abilities to not fall into typical horror archetypes. After scoring Lights Out for novice director David F. Sandberg, Wallfisch is reuniting with him here as they seek out to expand the popular “Conjuring Universe”. Up to this point Joseph Bishara has been behind both Conjuring films and the first Annabelle spinoff. Bishara definitely has a distinct style, so it was interesting to have Wallfisch come in here and give his take on the spooky demon possession formula.

It’s important to address right off the bat that both director Sandberg and composer Wallfisch have inherited a franchise that is currently limping. Remember when Paranormal Activity was on #4? Yeah, we’re at this point in James Wan’s universe of creaky doors and jump scares. So with that in mind, Wallfisch did the best he could do with this tired formula. The score is effective if not really inspired. Descending strings and deep cello are used to make your hairs stand up and send chills down your spine, and that technique is tried and true. The score does an admirable job keeping everything wonderfully structured. It follows the film’s structure perfectly, adding moments of terror when needed and then backing off to let silence do its magic. However, the film becomes rather predictable since we’ve done this whole thing many times before. The filmmakers try all the familiar tricks to make you jump and creep you out, but none of it feels original or that engaging since the story itself is weak. That unfortunately trickles down to the score, the music inherits this lack of character development so all we’re left with is spooky and terrorizing strings that work with the film’s edit.

Annabelle: Creation is a fine distraction, but in a sea of horror movies it rarely does anything to stand out. Wallfisch does an admirable job trying to infuse this warmth at the start before plunging into hell, but the story itself is weak and uninteresting so the score has trouble pulling you in as well. All the creepy builds and terrorizing moments are there as expected, but nothing is terribly original. Wallfisch does some cool textural things during the truly terrorizing moments with this orchestral approach, but in the end we lack a true emotional investment in the characters so this score's whole purpose becomes to try and startle you rather than tell a story.

The Hitman's Bodyguard by Atli Örvarsson (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:56 AM by Kaya Savas

Atli Örvarsson has probably one of the more interesting career paths of composers working in the industry. A composer who started his career working under great composers like Mike Post and Hans Zimmer, who grew in the Hollywood system but is now making an attempt of reaching out and finding projects closer to his heart. Atli remains one of the few composers who can do something so deep and emotionally powerful as Rams and then do something super fun like The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The movie is an action-comedy with some serious undertones underneath in the vein of something like Lethal Weapon, and the score took an extremely stylistic approach that adds all the right ingredients.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard openly embraces the use of needle drops to complete the soundtrack experience here. Atli’s original score shares space with plenty of carefully curated songs that all match the tone and style of the film, but they never overtake what Atli is doing with the score. The blues approach is fun and works really well, and provides a nice way to transition into and out of some of the more popular songs that make up the soundtrack. There are also some more focused character moments here that you wouldn't expect, and you experience that later in the narrative once the bickering relationship of our dual protagonists is firmly established. The score as a whole is only complete with the other songs, and that’s the way it should be. Song and score are not pitted against each other here, and the end result is just a fun ride from start to finish.

The score and songs work in harmony together to make a fun experience form beginning to end. There is a perfectly balanced tone and style that makes this rhythm and blues jam session score work really well. The attempt of adding some reserved and emotionally driven character moments towards the final act work well too and never feel forced. All in all there’s not much to complain about as Atli Örvarsson lets loose, and that fun translates to the finished product.

Rebel In The Rye by Bear McCreary (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:56 AM by Kaya Savas

Rebel In The Rye sees the directorial debut of Danny Strong who'se mainly known for his acting, creating the TV series Empire, and writing a handful of screenplays. Rebel In The Rye is your typical misguided biopic, this time for author JD Salinger. The film takes the standard formulaic approach to paint Salinger as simply as possible. You’ll hit all the familiar story beats of every biopic you’ve ever seen, and add a bunch of melodrama in there for good measure. All of that unfortunately trickles down into the score. The score, while masterfully crafted and executed by Bear McCreary, tries to balance this world of swing music and melodramatic character building without ever feeling truly organic.

The score starts off with a great theme that paints Salinger as this innocent figure that then slowly loses his innocence to the world. And I supposed we’re supposed to go “aha! Now I get why he wrote Catcher In The Rye!”. The score’s approach does paint a character portrait well enough for us to get absorbed into the narrative, but there’s just something that prevents you from being fully immersed. The music almost doesn't feel authentic to the characters and just a tad bit forced, which is not the score’s fault. The movie itself just feels fake. The score really truly grabs a hold of you in the last 2 tracks as we conclude everything. It’s in these moments where we do start to feel this genuine rush of emotions. Everything prior to that just felt like we were looking at a supremely tailored suit or gorgeous evening gown; something meant to show off and mask the emptiness behind it. The swing music that front loads the album is actually terrific. It’s a great device to place the audience in the time and place of the story, but it serves very little narrative purpose beyond that. And it’s in the meat of the score you realize the music is trying to paint a portrait of these characters, but there’s not enough paint.

The Rebel In The Rye is a valiant effort from Bear McCreary, who truly is one of the best composers working today. His style and approach always stand out, and he knows how to crack a narrative and tell a story like no on else. However with such weakly developed characters and an overall aesthetic and approach that we’ve seen hundreds of times before in other biopics, there simply wasn’t much to inform the music. The score only feels alive when it’s pumping the air full of swing music to make us feel like we’re there in the 1930’s and 1940’s. When it comes to actual storytelling, the score doesn't really feel organic and engrossing till the final 2 or 3 tracks when it sheds its melodramatic skin.

Rememory by Gregory Tripi (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:55 AM by Kaya Savas

Rememory is a high concept thriller about a scientist who is murdered after developing a device that can extract your memories so you can re-experience them. A man named Sam Bloom takes it upon himself to solve the murder by looking at memories from people who knew the scientist, and of course finds a conspiracy that slowly unravels. The film itself is nothing to write home about, and thankfully within this misfire we do have a score that seems to have found a way to shine. Composer Gregory Tripi is probably more well known for his work with Cliff Martinez. He has served as Martinez’s score producer and additional composer on a number of scores. For Rememory, you can expect a score that does incorporate atmospheric synths but also lots of rhythms and melodic structures that keep you hooked all the way through.

The whole score truly does feel like a journey inside the brain. The electronic sparks and synthy drones feel like neurons firing, and it's building a picture in your head. There’s even moments of some true organic emotion that utilize strings, and in those moments we feel this rush that’s comparable to looking at a photo from the past of something beautiful or happy. Tripi somehow makes sense of the wildly chaotic plot of the film to find an emotional current. While synthscape scores are kind of the rage these days after Stranger Things, this one feels feels unique. There’s something really engaging and engrossing about how the music takes us on a journey and slowly reveals things to us. And the climax and resolution are quite noteworthy for standing out.

Rememory is a wonderful synthscape score. Gregory Tripi puts on display some fantastic narrative structure that really grabs you and lets the music work you over. If you think the style and sound would be similar to Cliff Martinez given Tripi’s close collaborative relationship with Cliff, don’t worry. This isn’t some Martinez knock-off score. Tripi really explores his own voice as a storyteller to give us fantastic melodic builds, electronic textures, and emotionally driven strings. While the film itself is a misfire, somehow the score managed to find the true core of the story and flesh it out surprisingly well. This one is definitely worth your time.

47 Meters Down by tomandandy (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:55 AM by Kaya Savas

47 Meters Down takes the formula of The Shallows and asks “what if there were 2 girls? And what if it was underwater!?”. It’s a relatively effective and cheap way to make a horror/thriller if not wholly original or engaging. 47 Meters Down is composed by tomandandy, the composing duo made up of Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn. The duo have no shortage of experience in this genre with scores like Mean Creek, The Hills Have Eyes, The Covenant, The Strangers, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Resident Evil: Retribution and others. If you’ve heard their other scores then nothing here will surprise you, and in the end the score is just a wash of electronic distortion that’s meant to add tension and uneasiness, but is ultimately just void of any emotional drive.

The score goes all in with the electronic distortion and really that’s all that the score has to offer. While atmospheric and dissonant scoring can work extremely well in some cases, here it really doesn't amount to much. The score is really just two working parts. The first part are the more tonal atmospheres that do help give a sense of being isolated underwater. The other part is just distorting sounds really loudly and abruptly. Pretty much the equivalent of sneaking up behind someone to scare them, but instead of going “boo!” you just punch them in the face instead. There’s no finesse or structured approach here that makes the score as effective as it should be. And the movie does have a little twist ending, which the score does handle as well as it can, but really there’s no personality for us as an audience to latch onto.

47 Meters Down is just your average B-movie score. It follows the simple premise of the movie and doesn’t do anything unique. You have your dissonance and atmospheric scoring, you have your tension builds, you have your moments of terror and then it’s over. The electronic approach here was perfect for the atmospheric tonal parts, but can you imagine if you had shrieking strings or droning cellos for the more terrorizing parts? I’m not one of those orchestral fanatics that hates electronics, but just having crunchy synths blasting loudly wasn't effective at raising my heartbeat at all. In the end, the score and film do the bare minimum needed and that’s it.

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