Latest reviews of new albums:
The Relic
  • Composed by John Debney
  • La-La Land Records / 2013 / 66m

Sometimes you just know you want to see a film when you read the IMDB plot description.  For The Relic, it is this: “A homicide detective and an anthropologist try to destroy a South American lizard-like god, who’s on a people eating rampage in a Chicago museum.”  Who could possibly not want to see that!?  One thing’s for sure – not many people would want to see it more than once.  It’s directed by Peter Hyams, who changes film composers more often than most people change their underpants – a long line of very fine composers have worked on his films, including Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, Michael Small, David Shire and Bruce Broughton; in the mid to late 1990s, John Debney did three in a row, with this sandwiched between Sudden Death and End of Days.  There was no soundtrack release at the time but a Debney-produced promo was fairly widely available from the soundtrack retailers; La-La Land’s new album greatly expands upon that and marks the first opportunity most will have to hear the score outside the film.

The film marked the first time the composer tackled the horror genre and the results are fairly disappointing, all the expected clichés appearing in a rather generic package that doesn’t seem to have much of its own to offer.  That said, there are certainly some entertaining moments – Debney is a skilful composer who knows how to use an orchestra and at times when he really goes for it in the score, it’s impossible not to be impressed.  For the majority of the time, particularly in the first half of the album, the music seems to lurch from one fairly predictable orchestral stinger to another – but there are moments when it does far more than this and in the second half it does feature some great, crashing pieces of horror scoring.  Daniel Schweiger suggests in his excellent liner notes that Debney drew inspiration from Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes and Alien and for the most part these claims seem somewhat ambitious – but listening to the magnificent eight-minute “Shut It Down / Deadly Shadow / Leftovers / Guided Tour / Lights Out” (catchy track title!) you can see what he means, though it’s more directly similar to Goldsmith’s 90s action music.   That track and a handful of others mean there is probably a good twenty minutes here of very solid music, but the album’s over an hour long and sadly most of it just isn’t anywhere near that good.  Those with the time and the inclination could spend a few hours listening to this and produce a custom album from it which I suspect would be fantastic, but those without aren’t likely to often have the patience to sit through the rather dull portions to get to the good stuff.

Rating: ** 1/2 | |

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