I volunteered to review this for an unusual reason (the composer is Finnish and my wife is a patriotic Finn so I figured I could score some brownie points) so wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this. I quite enjoy a good sword and sandals score though, growing up with the Ray Harryhausen movies which often featured the wonderfully rousing work of Bernard Herrmann on the soundtrack, so I thought I’d throw caution to the wind.
This is a classic example of an epic, blockbuster score with huge dramatic themes featuring full orchestra, cymbal crashes and choir. It’s hardly rewriting the rule book so can sound a bit generic, but it’s solid and rousing stuff. There are softer moments like ‘Level Plaguing Field’ though to keep it from sounding repetitive. A number of fast moving action cues like ‘Flight’ keep you on your toes too.
It does suffer from a lack of character though as nothing sounds particularly new here. It doesn’t quite have the mastery of Herrmann’s fantasy scores or the memorable themes of the excellent original Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. It’s full blooded and entertaining enough though if you don’t over analyse it.
Opener ‘Fall of Argos’ works as a kind of medley of things to come, starting with a quieter vocal led moment then crashing in with a big menacing theme enhanced with plenty of choral backing, before taking an atmospheric breather and ending with more in-your-face bombast.
In fact a number of tracks seem to shift in mood and tone like this. It makes for a richly varied listen, but means you don’t get a lot of core repeated melodies or themes which again demonstrates the soundtrack’s lack of character. That said, there are certainly clear motifs at play here and there. ‘Hercules and Hebe’ is a prime example. From the title I imagine this is a touching character-based moment and the music serves that purpose well.
Tracks like ‘Intervention of the Gods’ use Middle Eastern female vocals to add a bit of beauty to the brash action bombastics too. There are a few Middle Eastern flourishes popping up throughout in fact. I’m guessing these are to set the scene as well as to add a hint of mystique.
As a whole, it’s an exciting listen and makes for great headphone fodder if you want to amp up the drama on your way to work. Just don’t expect anything all that fresh or memorable.
To buy the soundtrack in the US you can find it through iTunes.
You can also follow the work of Tuomas Kantelinen through his website.