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Impressively intelligent score for a movie which is anything but
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
Species concerns a half-human, half-alien being determined to mate with a human. The being happens to be young, female, blonde and with large breasts. Ben Kingsley possesses none of those four attributes, but he is the rather unlikely male lead (he probably didn't anticipate doing this sort of role while accepting his Oscar for Gandhi, but sometimes needs must), playing the scientist trying to track her down and kill her (though not before the movie has offered its viewer a series of enriching scenes of Natascha Henstridge's breasts - all in the name of science, of course). It's a trashily enjoyable movie, but worth watching only for Ms Henstridge's impressive attributes, which should probably be put on some sort of Unesco list of important objects worth preserving.
The film does have two important attributes asides from the obvious two - and they are H.R. Giger's designs (it was his first major film in a long time) and Christopher Young's music. Young was firmly established as one of the best composers of horror music by 1996, when this film was released, and Species is one of his most notable contributions to the genre. The opening title music - swirling, almost ethereal, with a definite feminine quality, it is memorable and hugely effective. This sound is used several times through the score and album, always in an impressive manner.
There are three other main features to the score. First, the most overt, grand "horror" elements, with some quite ferocious writing for brass, winds and choir - this is somewhat familiar from some of Young's other horror scores (particularly the larger-scale ones) but there's no recycling involved. The highlight of this style is the unrelenting "A Vibrant Slime", which is absolutely terrific. Then there's the "straighter" action music, which sometimes sounds much like James Horner - parts of "Fever" use Horner techniques which date back a long time, but were perhaps most famously used in Apollo 13. Again, there's no straight lifting, but it's interesting to hear Young writing in that way.
Finally - and this is what usually makes or breaks a modern horror score, particularly one with an album lasting over an hour - is the suspense music. I'm pleased to say that with his use of high-register strings and winds, Young keeps things interesting throughout, and even in its considerably softer passages the music remains compelling. There's a growling undercurrent to "Species Faeces", but Young holds back from letting it completely explode for quite a while, and it's as great an example of his technique as a musical dramatist as it is of his abilities as a composer.
Species is a fine score and this album represents it very well. In the film it consists of a large number of short cues, but the composer has fashioned an excellent listening experience here, not just combining them into longer, musically-coherent pieces, but choosing to place some of them out of chronological sequence and even mixing some instrumental parts out to smoothen the album. At last, evidence of a soundtrack album composer who realises that putting every last note in chronological sequence is not always the best way of presenting a score! Intrada's Special Collection release means that lots of people will now be able to retire the famous promo of this score, which was the only way it had previously been released; there's more music here, and you get liner notes from Jeff Bond - and another excellent entry in one of the busiest soundtrack labels' catalogues.