SUPER TRACKS STCD 887
There are probably some unkind critics who might call Nick Glennie-Smith
the poor man's Hans Zimmer. And in some ways it could be said that this is
Glennie-Smith's answer to Gladiator, so I dare say more will be written
on the subject. But really the comparisons ultimately mean very little. If
the music itself is appealing and effective do these issues really matter?
Thankfully in this case the quality of the score transcends such question
marks over stylistic originality and Attila stands in its own right
as an enjoyable and entertaining work.
The six and half minute 'The Legend' is a good starting point, incorporating
as it does many of the key motifs found within the score, it's an engaging
enough piece with a mixture of styles, moving swiftly from romantic to rousing
to almost mystical elements and then onto some rugged action work. From here
we get a chance to explore individual themes in more detail, firstly the
subtle 'Galen's Theme', then the key 'Attila the Man' with the introduction
of a big, imposing 'Attila' theme that figures predominantly throughout,
through 'N'Kara's Theme', a folksy, then more sombre, almost biblical piece
and 'Ildico's Theme', with its gentle, low-key Middle Eastern flavour (later
reprised on 'Wedding Night' with some suspenseful variations).
Apart from these distinct themes the majority of the score is dedicated to
stirring action music, first encountered in full force on 'Battle', which
displays its Gladiatoresque credentials quite openly, the almost
obligatory Planets influence unmistakable. Now, I didn't mind this
too much and it works perfectly well, but I expect some will find it a little
irritating. Set aside this criticism though and it's compelling stuff. And
the same can be said for 'To Rome', its rather fetching choral work giving
a real sense of the grandiose to the proceedings. A change of pace occurs
with 'Ballet of Hedonism', featuring some unexpected modern drum work, something
which I rather enjoyed. Personally I have no problem with mixing musical
styles (one of the reasons I admired Gladiator) and I actually appreciate
this kind of innovative approach. Of course, it's risky, it's bold and some
may balk at it, but anything that pushes film music forward and attempts
something new deserves to be greeted with at least an open mind. In contrast,
other more traditionally scored highlights would include the tense and dramatic
'Duel to Death' and 'Attila the King', a more thoughtful, noble rendering
of the main 'Atilla' theme.
But it's almost certainly the action music that will cause most discussion
with 'Battle of Orleans' featuring such a heavy Planets influence
that it led me to wonder if maybe it was all some kind of in-joke concocted
with Mr. Zimmer! Whatever the case, both this and 'Preparing for Battle'
really do have some overt Planets/Gladiator flourishes, so
make up your own mind. The only thing that is certain is that these cues
work very well indeed, so I have no real complaints. Finally 'The King is
Dead' sounds the death knell for both the story and the CD and has a nice
choral lament version of the 'Attila' theme. All very satisfactory.
What I really liked about this score was its sheer scope, both thematically
and dramatically. There is such a wide range of styles and motifs on offer
that it puts many other contemporary soundtracks to shame. Of course, how
much you get out of this will be dictated by your own personal tolerance
to composers taking 'inspiration' from existing works. But from a personal
standpoint and after all I'm the only one I really have to please, good film
music should speak of drama and emotion and here, allowing for the limitations
that every composer faces when it comes to influences and borrowings,
Glennie-Smith has fashioned a grand work of real breadth, with enough variation
to satisfy even the most jaded soundtrack fan. So I say forget your cynicism
and simply enjoy a good old-fashioned film score that firmly holds the interest
from beginning to end.