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Dark, antagonistic, anachronistic action score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
The much-derided Pathfinder is about the Viking encounters with Native Americans, specifically a boy who was left behind by the Norsemen and raised by the natives - but then the warriors come back, and they want blood! The last major Viking-themed film to come from Hollywood was The 13th Warrior, which didn't exactly set the box office on fire either, and it's disappointing that such a vastly important part of the planet's history is not better-represented on film - there's scope for a real epic to be made here, and let's hope somebody does it before long.
Occasional film composer Jonathan Elias started his career as a synthesist recording on a few John Barry scores in the late 1970s and early 80s, before doing a few films by himself (most famously Children of the Corn), producing some pop records and writing his popular work "The Prayer Cycle". A few people were delighted to see him back in the game with a high-profile film, and it was certainly interesting to see what he might come up with.
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus were employed, and there's some good-sounding music played by them here, but sadly a lot of it is drowned out by the incessant percussion which overwhelms everything. I guess there's reason enough for it to be there, but all detail which may be present in the underlying music is lost when the drums are being whacked. Melody is not the focus here, it's rhythm and atmosphere, and it is only when the percussion shuts up for a bit that this music can truly be appreciated.
A gorgeous female vocal solo at the end of "Vikings Attack" rises like a phoenix from the flames, a beautiful highlight of the score; when the action music takes on a more heroic tone ("First Kill" being the prime example) it can also be impressive, in a cheesy kind of way, but it never stays bright for long. These moments are reasonable enough, but sadly it becomes increasingly hard to make any kind of connection to the action music, given how unrelentingly bleak - almost animalistic - it is for lengthy periods. With so little in the way of warmth coming from anywhere (as demanded, I'm sure, by the film) I can't see many listeners making it through all 62 minutes, despite there being a few genuinely impressive moments along the way.
I guess in a way there's a fair amount to admire here - Elias sicks to his guns with convinction, not wavering from the obvious central mission - and, tempting though it is to launch into my usual refrain about how much better it might be if only the album were shorter, I suspect that isn't actually the case here. The composer is obviously trying carefully to create a certain sound, and perhaps it's just too effective to be able to be transplanted onto a CD for a listening experience that lots of people will enjoy - shades of Apocalypto, maybe. The resulting CD is a very hard one to put a finger on - on the one hand, it's extremely loud and aggressive, meaning it might appeal to those who enjoy more challenging music; but on the other, some of the percussion is very much of the Hans Zimmer era, meaning those who enjoy more challenging music might start spitting with disgust. A tough call.