Duration: 108 min – Special Edition
Label: Decca – Special Edition
Howard Shore culminates the rich musical journey through Middle Earth, with the score for the final of the Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies.
The dragon Smaug is not overjoyed; humans, dwarves and elves are all trying to steal his gold; he decides to unleash his rage on Lake Town and raze it to the ground. The ferocious dragon is defeated, leaving a power vacuum and every man and his elf has turned up to purloin the deceased dragon’s ill-gotten hoard. Thorin Oakenshield reclaims his vast wealth in Erebor; he struggles on the brink of madness surrounded by overwhelming riches as he searches for the Arkenstone. Everyone else in Middle Earth has also heard about the mountains treasure and all descend on the fortune to gain their share of the plunder and so unleash the greatest battle Middle Earth has ever seen.
The sound track to “The Battle of the Five Armies” opens with the richly layered “Fire and Water”, a dramatic and intense piece of music culminating in a choral finale, making a perfect grand entrance to the score. We are further lured into the work with “Shores of the Long Lake”, a beautiful oboe piece, alternating from romantic and powerful to thunderous melodiousness. Echoing choirs abound though out “Beyond Sorrow and Grief” creating an extravagant and intimidating composition while “Guardians of the Three” hauntingly leads the listener forward.
March into the heart of this musical tale with “The Ruins of Dale”, a superb violin interpretation with imposing deep brass tones which purposefully evolves into the lulling pennywhistle music of the Shire. “The Gathering of the Clouds” soars into the heavens while enveloped in deep bass, tension and violence explodes in “Bred for War”. With heavenly choral slices interleaved into pounding unyielding drums the threatening symbolism of discordant crashing battle is embodied. The musical battle continues to rage as “Thief in the Night” impishly creeps along to deep resonating rolling kettle drums with a sombre brass departure. The turmoil does not recede as “Battle for the Mountain” ignites imposingly while “The Darkest Hour” has harmonious optimism, with the same pulsating omnipresence percussion as “Bred for war” and “Sons of Durin”.
Recurrent themes come through symbolising specific individuals and emotions; The “Sons of Durin”, melodious, opulent and savage drifts into “The Fallen” which evolves into an ethereal harmonic lament. ”Ravenhill” shatters any hope of peace with triumphant horns interspersed with eerie chanting, creating a mysteriously dramatic encounter. “To the Death” is grand and sombre symbolising Legolas’s battle against Bolg and Thorn’s conflict against Azog in an impassable and rousing musical leitmotif.
Further high-lights of this harmonious expedition are the introspective poignant oboe of “Courage and Wisdom” and “The Return Journey” with tinges of bright Shire sunshine artfully fashioned with joyous pennywhistle. “The Last Goodbye” written by Billy Boyd, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, performed by Billy Boyd is lilting creating a wonderful vocal composition. While “Ironfoot” may be the finest track of the composition with towering bagpipes, it is uplifting and victorious with haunted chanting. We conclude with our final two bonus tracks the ominous “Dragon- Sickness” and the tense, shrill and discordant “Thrain”, from The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug.
It is interesting to hear the themes from previous Hobbit scores continue through to this final instalment, the orcs of Gundabad and Moria portrayed by their own individual scores, clash in battle, just as their music does. In keeping with previous productions a vocal artist has been used for the final credits, Billy Boyd, Pip in the Lord of the Rings, delivers an impeccable finish to the film with “The Last Goodbye”. Boyd explains the song is not intended as just the end to the last film but a celebration of this ten year epic adventure and is intended to sum up all six movies. If you get a chance take a look at the orchestra playing these pieces of music, it will further increase your enjoyment of these fantastic arrangements. The music is performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Conrad Pope with orchestrations by Conrad Pope and James Sizemore.
I listened to the special edition expanded version, which contains 15 extra minutes of music with extended versions of several compositions and two bonus tracks “Dragon Sickness” and “Thrain”. This is indeed a fitting tribute to Tolkien’s fine works, the remarkable quality of the music and attention to detail is truly overwhelming.
The soundtrack is available in Audio CD and as MP3 Download.