Latest reviews of new albums:
Exodus: Gods and Kings
  • Composed by Alberto Iglesias
  • Sony Classical / 2014 / 78m

Ridley Scott is back in historical epic mode for Exodus: Gods and Kings, with Moses (Christian Bale) leading the Hebrews from Egypt.  The film has courted controversy before release because apparently it does not strictly present the truth as reported in the Bible.  Musically, you never quite know what you’re going to get from a Ridley Scott film.  After the Marc Streitenfeld years, which will never be spoken of again, he has made a couple of very surprising choices, going with Daniel Pemberton for The Counselor and now the extremely talented Alberto Iglesias for this movie.  But… he still “did a Ridley Scott” and we find the soundtrack album with three cues (twelve minutes) credited to Harry Gregson-Williams and eight (18 minutes) credited or co-credited to Federico Jusid.  I don’t know the circumstances that led to that – I doubt it was by design, but you never know I guess; the good news is the resulting score isn’t particularly disjointed.  The bad news is that it isn’t particularly distinctive either.  It’s great to see some of the terrific film composers to have emerged in Spain being given their chance on big Hollywood blockbusters, but a shame that they seem to have to hide the qualities they showed to make them stand out in the first place and dumb down to appeal to the Hans Zimmer generation when they do get given that chance (see also Fernando Velazquez’s Hercules).

The score isn’t bad at all – it’s action-packed and modern, like a Remote Control take on The Mummy perhaps, but melodic and predominantly orchestral.  Iglesias’s technique can’t be disguised completely and several of the score’s highlights come from hearing the beautifully clear instrumental lines – including ethnic touches – in the score’s more tender passages.  There’s a heartmelting melody in “Goodbyes” which is just exquisite; a profound sadness in “Alone in the Desert” which is sheer class.  “Into the Water” comes closest to a genuinely epic sound.  Some of the action is thunderous and exciting (particularly in Jusid’s cues, actually – “The Chariots” is great).  It’s just such a shame that an Alberto Iglesias score for a movie like this had to be done in this way – surely if left to his own devices this composer would have done something a little more special.  It’s all done very professionally and sounds perfectly slick, but some of the melodies don’t really stick in the mind, the action could be from virtually anything and only occasionally do you get the sense of it actually being anything special.  Everything’s just like you expect the score from a 2014 Biblical epic to be like; it just isn’t necessarily what you want it to be like.  Ironically I imagine the score will find much more praise from those who would not usually  count themselves fans of Iglesias than those who would.  The album is an enjoyable enough way of passing 78 minutes – parts of it rise above the generic and have something to offer the more discerning listener – all of it has entertainment value – so read my words more as a lamentation that it isn’t what it could have been rather than it being bad.

Rating: *** | |

Tags: , , ,

  1. Michael Horne (Reply) on Wednesday 26 November, 2014 at 16:38

    Good grief. Is it too much to ask just to let the composer get on with being epic and get out of their way? Who would’ve thought so much micro-management was necessary!

  2. tiago (Reply) on Wednesday 26 November, 2014 at 19:17

    Nic review, James. I’m also sad when those talented Spanish composers get the chance to work on a Hollywood blockbusters, but have to write like a generic Remote Control. And I don’t understand why do they have to bring Gregson-Williams to the soundtrack, since his style is so different from Iglesias. The same thing happenned on Prometheus, but then Stretenfeld was his fellow on RC. I guess Ridley Scott is never really satisfied with the composers he choose.

    Btw, James, which biblical score do you prefer: Exodus or Noah?

  3. Alonso (Reply) on Thursday 27 November, 2014 at 02:10

    I understand that this was one of those films where the film has to have a Spanish composer instead of a composer of the director’s choice. Could someone explain to me why this happens?

  4. mastadge (Reply) on Thursday 27 November, 2014 at 05:55

    I believe it’s something along the lines of the filmmakers get some kind of tax exemptions or subsidy for employing local talent.

  5. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Thursday 27 November, 2014 at 21:55

    FEDERICO JUSID, who contributed 8 cues to the EXODUS score, is a 41 year old Argintinian. He scooped the International Film Music Critics award this year [from competitors such as DJAWADI & McCREARY] for ISABEL. This Spanish TV production focuses on the young Queen who united the Spanish Kingdoms into a unified country to vanquish the invading Islamic Army intent on conquering & converting Europe. JUSID’S symphonic & choral score has been singled out for its lavishly beautiful themes for Isabel & her court AND for exciting battle music. The Queen also financed Colombus’ exploration of the New World. A score-album is available…has anyone heard it? Edmund?… Tiago? Mastadge?

  6. Solaris (Reply) on Thursday 27 November, 2014 at 22:40

    I have. Its basically my favourite Score of 2012. 😉

  7. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Friday 28 November, 2014 at 09:11

    Thanks Solaris – I’ve just checked AMAZON.. their copies are only available as a download. Because of copyright restrictions AMAZON is prohibited from downloading to South Africa. Solaris, is your copy on CD?…if so, do you recall the name & address of your supplier? I’m fascinated by the drama, romance & exploration of Isabel’s World AND hopefully you’ve heard MIKLOS ROZSA’S glorious EL CID score with its stirring Heroic themes, unequalled love music & period source cues. PROMETHEUS recently re-recorded the score in its entirety…It is a must for film music collectors. Naturally, I’m hoping ISABEL’S score will transport me into ancient Spain the way ROZSA’S music does.

  8. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Friday 28 November, 2014 at 17:08

    I have to wonder why Scott doesn’t just hire HGW outright again, since he’s been hired to do pickup work on both this and Prometheus.

  9. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Saturday 29 November, 2014 at 09:06

    U-TUBE offers a selection of FEDERICO JUSID’S scores, including 15′ of music for the ‘Isabel’ TV series. This impressive symphonic/choral opus, while providing a sweet theme for Isabel, wasn’t able to project my mind & emotions into grandeur & drama of 15th Century Spain. The music on the tracks I listened to ignored period instruments…these would have helped create a sense of the historical timeline. And the construction of the score didn’t acknowledge the cultural identity of Isabel’s home city (was it Castile or Seville?). This would have established the Spanish resonance I was hoping to hear. Maybe there are tracks on the score- album that create Isabel’s Spanish world…the effortless way MIKLOS ROSZA did for ‘EL CID’.

  10. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Saturday 29 November, 2014 at 13:16

    Andre, period scores don’t HAVE to reflect the period, you know.

  11. David (Reply) on Sunday 30 November, 2014 at 06:29

    Sorry, but this score is leagues ahead from the other works from Velazquez, Navarrete and Vidal. If anything, it’s the best score for a Ridley Scott film since Kingdom Of Heaven. Don’t know how people can compare this to a RC score (besides HGW, but his cues are the most orchestral thing he has done in years), since it doesn’t dwell into synths and string ostinatos, but it’s a purely orchestral , bombastic, and melodicscore.

    In fact,critics are complaning about the score in the film because it’s too big.

  12. Matt (Reply) on Wednesday 3 December, 2014 at 19:45

    I listened to a preview of this score last week and I enjoyed it. It’s not a good as Kingdom of Heaven IMHO, but it has some great moments and is way better than the Marc Streitenfeld scores of the past with Scott as James mentioned. You can’t expect that a Ridley Scott film is going to have a Bernstein, Rosza score attached to it, so I was just hoping that this had a similar vibe to HGW Kingdom and it does. I’ll be getting this.

  13. […] […]