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Thrilling action score is Jones's finest yet
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2005 Universal Music Japan; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Surprising though it is to learn that the Japanese make movies other than just horror films and animations, Aegis is a submarine-based thriller about a terrorist threat when a Japanese sub is taken over and then used to threaten her mother country. Chances are the only people who've heard of it are either Japanese, or fans of Trevor Jones. Japanese fans of Trevor Jones must have thought all their Christmases had come at once.
Jones is sometimes a frustrating composer - he comes up with some great ideas, has a highly-distinctive sound, and is capable of throwing out a tune as grand and magnificent as anyone, but so often when listening to his albums it's almost as if he lost interest half way through the project and ended up just padding it out with meaningless doodling. Seeing that the Aegis album (released by Universal Music, but only in Japan - it's available from Amazon from the link on the left though) is over an hour long didn't exactly fill me with hope - but I needn't have worried, it's probably Jones's strongest-ever score.
Things start, as they so often do in Jones scores, with a dynamite main theme, vaguely militaristic but really more of a portrait of suspense, of impending doom. There's a murky, subaquatic feel which is absolutely perfect, and this rumbles on through the majority of the score. The score's USP is its fantastic action music, which lasts virtually from start to end - Jones keeps things up with a ferocious intensity, a rhythmic dynamism which is rarely sustained so impressively as here. Pieces like "Abandon Ship" and "On the Brink of Destiny" are blisteringly good pieces of über-dramatic action scoring. When the choir arrives in "The Courage to Survive" it doesn't feel unearned, as often seems to be the case these days - it feels like a natural progression from what's gone before.
The orchestration remains dark, focusing on keeping everything in low registers, with the force of the mighty London Symphony Orchestra augmented with plenty of rumbling (live) percussion. There is some wonderful action music here, with the composer extending his familiar Dark City style to fit the unique requirements of this film, and doing it in style. Every once in a while the listener needs a breather from this sort of thing, and Jones provides it (the six-minute "Threat to National Security" right in the middle of the album is essentially five minutes of nothing before building up to a piece suggesting slow-mo heroism, but it thus becomes a wonderful break from the intense thrills). Even so, the way Jones structures his action music means it's not the sort of thing that will give you a headache if you listen for too long - this isn't Van Helsing or anything like that.
With a great detail to all the writing, this is music which ought to continue to grow and grow on the listener. Jones seems to work very little these days, for whatever reason, and Aegis suggests that is a great pity - it's first-class modern film music, one of the few recent scores which justifies having an hour-long album, and represents Jones at his very best. Highly recommended.