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Latest reviews of new albums:
Gods of Egypt
  • Composed by Marco Beltrami
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2016 / 74m

Directed by Alex Proyas, Gods of Egypt is a modern swords-and-sandals action-adventure starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones as one of various deities who do battle with each other.  It’s only just out but already declared a box office bomb, attracting much ridicule in general as a kind of ill-advised big-budget Roger Corman movie, but with general praise for Proyas’s visual flair.  The director was actually born in Egypt so presumably he drew from his own experiences for the movie.

Regardless of the pros and cons of the film, it is certainly a good canvas for a talented film composer and Marco Beltrami is certainly one of those.  It’s his third film for the director after I, Robot and Knowing, which are both fine scores – this is better still.  The composer has said he drew his inspiration from classic scores like Lawrence of Arabia and Raiders of the Lost Ark but I can’t say I hear much of them – this is more like Beltrami doing The Mummy and there are superficial echoes both of Jerry Goldsmith’s score and indeed Alan Silvestri’s from the sequel, applied within a long score very much written in this composer’s distinctive voice but in a considerably broader orchestral vein than usual for him in recent years, with the solitary exception of Seventh Son – he’s done plenty of big blockbusters alongside the more personal stuff but even for them has tended to favour darker, grittier textures.

Marco Beltrami

Marco Beltrami

There’s none of that here – there’s plenty of darker material, but Beltrami handles it in a more cartoony manner which makes for eminently enjoyable listening.  And there’s a really strong thematic base – the score’s main theme has that Hollywood Arabian flavour heard so often in these things, and that’s where the score is closest to The Mummy.  It’s heard early on in “Gods of Egypt Prologue” and various times through the score, reaching its zenith in the ridiculously rousing finale “God of the Impossible”.  I love the triumphant ceremonial arrangement in “Coronation”, choir and brass and percussion coming together brilliantly.  There’s a love theme too, introduced in the brief “Bek and Zaya” – and explored fully later in “Bek and Zaya’s Theme”, presumably recorded just for the album.  Then there’s “Hathor’s Theme”, which is more mystical and exotic (duduk!) and also beautiful.

For all this strong melodic content, the score does really shine in its action music too.  There are relatively simple themes for both hero and villain (and some ominous-sounding choral music for the latter) which often form the core of the action, which begins in “Set vs Horus” with some thrilling brass trills (remember when Elliot Goldenthal was in his prime doing that sort of thing – how his voice is missed).  “Shot Through the Heart” has a more martial feel, Goldsmithian really particularly in its thematic construct.  That hero theme gets a good workout in “Wings and a Prayer”, with some heavenly brass writing and choir, though it’s sullied a bit by the electronics.

“Snakes on a Plain” (take that, Michael Giacchino!) is a simply wonderful action cue – this time the subtle electronics add a little something, the winds seem somewhat playful but the brass muscular and the percussion gathers persuasive momentum.  Beltrami ratchets up the thrill levels in “Elevator Music” before unleashing all his forces in the two-part “Obelisk Fight”, the first half of which in particular is spectacular (when the big theme cuts in towards the end, it’s film music heaven).  The performance of the complex, fast-paced music by the Sydney musicians is worthy of real praise.

Yes, the long album does contain a handful of cues (mostly of the suspenseful variety) that don’t really offer much of interest, but that’s the only mark against this very fine music.  Seventh Son was a popular score but this is a more well-rounded and consistent listen.  I love a lot of Beltrami’s quirkier or more intimate scores but he’s so good too at this kind of thing and for me Gods of Egypt is his finest score in a number of years.  It’s not got as many facets and nor is it as good as Goldsmith’s wonderful The Mummy (which sounds even better today than it did in the context of its time, when film music like this came out nearly every week rather than once in a blue moon) but it does have its no-nonsense action/adventure spirit and so much to admire and enjoy.  There is plentiful action music of very high quality and the melodic material is memorable and magical.  Great stuff!

Rating: **** 1/2

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  1. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Monday 29 February, 2016 at 21:36

    Great score, excellent review. Now I can’t wait for Ben Hur !

  2. Gil (Reply) on Monday 29 February, 2016 at 21:44

    Love theme sounds reminiscent of North’s Cleopatra to me. And I’m sure there’s echoes of Zimmer’s Prince of Egypt throughout. Still, an engaging romp that doesn’t disappoint.

  3. TDidz927 (Reply) on Tuesday 1 March, 2016 at 14:20

    Long album, but never boring. Beltrami does some of his best work for Proyas.

  4. André, Cape Town. (Reply) on Thursday 3 March, 2016 at 23:36

    Under the direction of Alex Proyas, the recreation of Ancient Egypt overwhelms the senses with its magnificence…the temples, with pillars & walls decorated with sacred hieroglyphs of golden pictographs… the glittering symbolic jewellery… the costumes, inspired by ancient wall paintings AND all the trappings of posperity & sophistication surely inspired BELTRAMI to write that glorious underscore. However, the casting is ludicrous–with the young God Horus [Nicolaj Coster– Waldau] looking years older than his treacherous Uncle Seth [Gerard Butler]. They both shape-shift into amazing mythological creatures wearing dazzling metallico gear. Plot progression & dialogue are also awful, and hardly inspiring, so lots of applause for BELTRAMI for having crafted such a fine score. Then, there’s the Love Music for Bek & Zaya, James…after your review of the ‘Epic Hollywood’ album that featured, amongst other cues, the incomparably beautiful love themes of MIKLOS ROZSA, listening to BELTRAMI’S uninspired attempt at writing a love theme for this epic film is inconceivable, especially as his music for Ancient Egypt is so evocative…as is his theme for the Goddess Hathor. After viewing ‘Gods of Egypt’ I moved into the ‘Deadpool’ cinema. Lots of good reviews for this movie — Why? I don’t know! And JUNKIE XL’S music was so boring, it barely registerd.

  5. Juan Bauti (Reply) on Friday 4 March, 2016 at 18:45

    Easily the best Beltrami score ever. Almost a masterpiece. The return of the classic 80s symphonic scoring.

    The best score of the year to date.

  6. Misael T. (Reply) on Saturday 5 March, 2016 at 03:51

    I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this score. Beltrami has never been one of my favorite composers but I have listened to quite a few of his movies. Mainly his action stuff, I, Robot, World War Z, and now this Gods of Egypt is a really accomplished score, I haven’t seen the movie, but “Bek and Zaya’s Theme” is really beautiful, romantic, soaring and lush I seriously couldn’t believe my ears when I listened to it. Probably one of my favorite cues ever. I agree that with the rating.

  7. Momo SkySky (Reply) on Sunday 6 March, 2016 at 03:43

    “‘Snakes on a Plain’ (take that, Michael Giacchino!)”

    Hehe :3

    I saw Zootopia today, speaking of. It was a fantastic time overall, but the underscore was extremely understated~

  8. tiago (Reply) on Friday 11 March, 2016 at 03:25

    Seventh Son, The Giver, The November Man, The Gunman, Fantastic Four, Hitman, No Escape and now Gods of Egypt… Beltrami is doing so much flops on the last years that I wonder if he is the unluckiest composer today in Hollywood.

    Nevertheless, his Gods of Egypt indeed might be one of his very best scores. I guess this movie is the Jupiter Ascending of 2016: an original fantasy blockbuster, received with terrible reviews and tiny box office, but with a great, rousing score that we can’t find in many successful movies.

  9. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Monday 21 March, 2016 at 20:11

    Tiago, I see your point, but The November Man and No Escape don’t count as flops, at all.

  10. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Saturday 25 June, 2016 at 23:25

    I’m still awaiting my copy – ordered ‘Gods of Egypt’ ages ago but am at the mercy of dysfunctional postal services. James, have you received an advance promotional copy of BELTRAMI’S ‘Ben-Hur’? I’m looking forward to your review! ROZSA’S Oscar winning score is one of Cinema’s greatest…and every composer and film music collector must be familiar with some of the themes. So, comparisons between the the two scores (separated by over half-a-Century) are inevitable. BELTRAMI is able to craft music that conjures up ancient cultures and civilisations — as evidenced by ‘Gods of Egypt’– so, hopefully, his Parade of the Charioteers, Esther love theme, A Mother’s Love, the Bromance theme for Ben & Masala, exotic dance music for Arius’ party and the Spiritual underscoring will provide as much pleasure and repeated playings as ROZSA’S glorious score, that effortlessly transports us to ancient Judea and Rome.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 26 June, 2016 at 09:35

      I don’t have an advance copy, no. If you’ve seen anything about the new Ben-Hur then I think it would be wise to cancel hope of anything to rival Rozsa, as good as Beltrami is…