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Exceptionally long album is not without its moments
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Screen Gems, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
I doubt that Underworld really deserved many awards, however I am considering commending the person who designed Kate Beckinsale's costume to the Pope for him to elevate into Sainthood. For the same reason, I comment the sequel, Underworld: Evolution, which features more shots of Kate in leather. Apparently there's some running and shouting and vampires in there as well, but they are of secondary interest. The first film was scored by Paul Haslinger; director Len Wiseman (Mr Beckinsale) brought the busy Marco Beltrami in for the sequel.
Beltrami has "done his stuff" on enough films like this for us to be able to predict how his score might sound: Terminator 3, I, Robot and Hellboy might not really be films like Underworld: Evolution, but it's quite plain that they would all require somewhat similar scores, and so it proves. Beltrami's as good as anyone around at the moment at scoring this kind of thing - dark hues, rhythm and "colour"-based scores rather than big themes and melodic content. His action music has proved compelling and exciting on a number of occasions over the past few years.
It is therefore disappointing to report that Underworld: Evolution - while certainly having similar elements to those other scores - never quite seems to reach the same heights. There's some great stuff here - the action in "Ol' Timey Music" is first-rate; "Morgue Medallion" features some really good, modernistic Total Recall-style music; "Mikey Doesn't Like It" is absolutely fantastic balls-to-the-wall stuff - but I return to my old hobby-horse for the main problem: at a buttock-clenching 75 minutes, the album is way, way too long.
Modern film composers typically have very short timeframes in which to write very great amounts of music - and no matter how talented they are, the odds are stacked so firmly against them producing consistently-interesting music over the full length of their scores. Of course, some times it works out like that, but (much) more often, it doesn't. Ten, maybe even five, years ago, the internet was flooded by complaints by film music fans about how short CDs were - I remember somebody tried to organise a boycott of Varese Sarabande because their CDs typically lasted under 40 minutes. Well, now we know that as well as financial, there is a compelling artistic reason for most CDs to be of that length - I really pine for the vinyl days when album producers would take great care in selecting a great listening program, rather than just sticking as much music as possible on the CD, in film order.
There's a brilliant 35-minute album in here somewhere - Beltrami is so skilled a composer, he is more than capable of writing A-grade music, and a selection of highlights of this score would be one of the best of the year. 75 minutes of it, it becomes virtually impossible to sit and enjoy from start to finish, and as usual I know that comment will attract a flurry of emails from people who love the album and would like to see it even longer, but I can only speak for my own preferences. The middle of the album, in particular, is something of a snooze - the gorgeous "Patricide" is the exception, but the few tracks surrounding it are largely undistinguished. Things pick up again towards the end, with the finale "The Future" (again with a hint of Total Recall) being particularly noteworthy. After that come a couple of songs which are probably best left well alone. "Eractou", which is "performed" by gentelemen called Cevin Key and Ken Hiwatt Marshall, is particularly diabolical. Ken Marshall has come a long way since Krull.
The album's release seems to have been less-than-simple - the album was available in extremely limited supply on its original day of release, before being withdrawn for mysterious reasons. A few retailers still carry it (including Amazon, if you follow the link higher up this page) but I suspect it might become a collector's item, unless it is given a wider release again.