Category Archives: Reviews


laurent pic



I recently interviewed Laurent Perez Del Mar, and within the interview one of his recent scores I KILL GIANTS was mentioned, I thought it only right that I should review the score. It will be available on Varese Sarabande records this month, (March 2018). The score is a mix of both electronic and symphonic, which the composers always does so well, each of the elements whether they be conventional instrumentation or synthesised fuse and support each other. The electronic never overwhelms or dampens the symphonic colours and textures, the combination of the two mediums is carried out flawlessly and the composer creates a magical, delicate and also fearsome work. There is an other-worldly sound and atmosphere about the score, it is a delicate and emotive work that is supported and punctuated throughout by action cues and vibrant sounding motifs.



I KILL GIANTS, faithfully transfers the story taken from the graphic novel, converting it into a powerful and convincing coming-of-age movie that successfully manages to fuse mystical realism with highly emotional drama. The film tells the tale of a young girl, Barbara played by Madison Wolfe, Barbara is a something of an outsider at school, and spends most of her time Killing Giants that she is convinced threaten her home in a small town. She sets up a complex set of alarms around the town and becomes obsessed with checking these every day to ensure that they have not been deactivated, she also sets herself the task of watching for the Giants or at least signs that they are around. Barbara becomes focused on this one task and has little time for anything else in her life apart from DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS and a few old VHS tapes of Baseball games. Thus, she blocks out what is happening in her own family and has even less time for her older Sister. The musical score for I KILL GIANTS is stunning and mesmerizingly beautiful, the composer also employing to great effect the rich sound of soaring strings and a haunting Soprano solo that literally beguiles and captivates the listener. The Soprano is underlined by delicate harp and the string section which is subtle and unobtrusive,  giving the right amount of enhancement.

The action led pieces are fast and ferocious with brass and thundering percussion creating a furious sounding foundation on which the composer builds more tension and apprehension via utilisation of strings that swirl and drive onwards at pace. But even the hard and fast action pieces are given lulls and become less menacing with the composers use of fragile and emotive piano, cello and poignant strings. The composers mix of choir, soprano, symphonic and synthetic is finely and superbly balanced, and the combination of all of these components makes for an entertaining and rewarding listen. This is a score that I have been looking forward too, and I am glad to tell you, it is everything I could have hoped for. Theme laden and epic sounding with rich and lush passages that ooze dark and commanding musical statements alongside menacing and tense stabs. Recommended.


CUTTHROAT ISLAND. (de-luxe, expanded edition).


Cast your minds back to 1995, when a movie entitled CUTTHROAT ISLAND was doing the rounds at the cinemas, this for me was the ultimate pirate movie at the time and I still find it more entertaining than the Pirates of the Caribbean series, (sorry and all that, but I do). This not only goes for the movie but also the musical score by John Debney, the music in CUTTHROAT is robust, epic, jaunty and filled with adventure and romance, which is what a good Pirate movie score should be, don’t get me wrong here, I love what Klaus Badelt did on Pirates and then of course that was built on by Hans Zimmer, but CUTTHROAT for me has the edge musically and also cinematically. Debney’ s fast paced soundtrack underlines and punctuates meticulously all the action taking place on screen and the music is also highly listenable away from the images. The films storyline or plot is a simple one and one that we have seen so many times before, but do we tire of it, no we don’t especially when it is presented in such an entertaining way. A female pirate Morgan, played by Geena Davies and her companion Shaw, portrayed by Matthew Modine, race against their rivals led by an unscrupulous and sadistic character, played convincingly by Frank Langella who is excellent in the role of Dawg, to find a concealed island that has a fabulously rich treasure trove.



So, it’s the normal run of the mill Pirate adventure that we have been watching since movies like LONG JOHN SILVER, TREASURE ISLAND and CAPTAIN BLOOD etc, done in the time-honoured Hollywood tradition of swash and buckle with sword play, chases on land and sea and loads of villains and a fair number of romantic interludes. John Debney’s marvellous score lends much to the proceedings and becomes an important part of the overall film making process, it is fair to say that the film would have been poorer with Debney’s powerful and relentless action cues and would have struggled without his richly romantic and lush themes that underlined the scenes with Davies and Modine. The soundtrack was issued on Silva Screen records at the time of the films release as a one-disc set, then came a double CD set and more recently an extended version on a digital site. This is the version I have chosen to review, available on Spotify, it boasts 39 tracks, some of which are alternate takes or synth demo cues. The score is performed by, THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and the choral performances are courtesy of THE LONDON VOICES. The sound achieved by the composer is very Williams-esque as in John Williams, the film in fact was originally assigned to composer David Arnold, but due to scheduling problems, (they always say that don’t they) Debney got the call from Director Renny Harlin. I for one am so glad that Debney worked on the film, it is one of the most effective scores for a Pirate movie that I have heard in years, and as I say I have to be truthful and say I prefer it to any of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie soundtracks.


Arnold did start work on the score and in interview admitted to writing a few bits and pieces for the movie, which he re-used or arranged into his score for INDEPENDANCE DAY and maybe re-used in THE MUSKETEER a few years later., it also noted that the style employed by Debney in CUTTHROAT ISLAND does bare a striking resemblance to Arnold’s INDEPENDENCE DAY, but that is neither here or there, unless you want to analyse the scores and ask the question who influenced whom.
The film however did not do well at the box office, receiving negative reviews, the movie had multiple re-writes and actors such as Michael Douglas who were originally on board for one reason or another decided not to stay with the production, funnily enough at the same time it was being praised for its high quality production values as in locations, rich musical score and cinematography. It was to be the last film from Carolco Pictures before they ceased production in 1996, the company did relaunch in 2015. But like so many box office flops the movie has in recent years attained something of a following. It was to be one of the biggest flops of all time on paper.


The recording commences with MAIN TITLE-MORGAN’S RIDE, this is a perfect opener filled with wonderfully soaring strings and flyaway woods that are enhanced by brass and percussion, in a rousing and full-blooded working of the films central theme. This is however short lived as the composition, slows and moves into a more poignant and melancholy piece, but this too is soon edged to one side as we return to the thundering CUTTHROAT theme, with choir, strings, brass and powerful percussion. The composer adds so many elements to the piece it is almost as if he is throwing everything at the listener, and yes, its good. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed after hearing this commanding and theme laden opening, it will leave you breathless, literally, but wanting more. Debney’s use of choir is nothing short of stunning, and he supports and underlines it with timpani, brass and strings adding depth and a rich musical persona to the proceedings. This can be heard to great effect in track number 2, THE RESCUE, this is also the cue where I think you will be making comparisons with either INDEPENDENCE DAY, STARGATE, or even ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES. CUTTHROAT ISLAND is nothing short of magnificent musically, it is a tour de force of robust, powerful themes and infectious sounding musical motifs that ooze melodic excellence.


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It is a romantically laced work which also contains shades of comedic writing,  a style which we had already witnessed within Debney’s music for the movie HOCUS POCUS two years previous. To analyse each and every track on the recording would I think be wrong, let it be sufficient to say that I recommend this highly, you will not be sorry if you add this to your collection, in fact I guarantee you will be returning to it on a regular basis.





Marco Beltrami has always been a composer that I have admired and have in 99 percent of cases loved his work for film. First memories of Beltrami’s music was like so many other people the SCREAM series, I thought he did a great job in the series and managed to get the right balance between horror and comedy, because after all in my humble opinion the SCREAM movies were kind of a send up at times of other slasher movies as they were called. Beltrami’s scores for the series were an important and integral part of the movies, at times his scores reaching an almost operatic level, with the use of sombre strings rasping brass’s and female vocal. One of the latest releases from the ever industrious Movie Score Media label is MATHILDE, this is a Russian movie that was released last year(2017), so it is probably a film that not a great deal of people will have seen or indeed have heard of, but once again thanks to Mikael at MSM, we have a chance to savour a great score that is literally dripping in romanticism and filled with epic sounding themes. The storyline relates to the watching audience the supposed relationship between the then heir to the Russian throne Nicholas Romanov and the Ballerina, Matilda Kshesinskaya, the film opens in 1890, when we see the couple meet for the first time. It follows the somewhat uneasy and tormented relationship between the pair up until Nicholas and his wife Aleksandra become Tsar and Tsarina six years later.



Apparently, Beltrami was drawn to the project because of the period and the history and the lavish sets and costumes that were part of the production. Beltrami fuses both synthetic and symphonic colours and textures to create a robust and theme laden work, that is haunting as well as entertaining, the underlying tone is romantic, but this is tinged and at times itself underlined by a sound and style that is dark and threatening. Although the composer utilises electronics within the score these do not in any way sound out of place or uncomfortable given the period in which the movies story is set. The composer effectively combining traditional musical sounds as in conventional instrumentation with contemporary synthetics to fashion a score that is filled with drama, romance, fragility and a fair amount of apprehension and darkness. At times I was reminded of the style of Jerry Goldsmith, with bold brass flourishes and fearsome sounding percussion, but there are many sides to this work, and I hope there is something for everyone. The central theme in-particular which is for Mathilde is strikingly beautiful, the composer presenting it throughout in various arrangements and guises. Strings and piano being utilised in most cases and at times with lilting woods and delicately performed harpsichord also entering the musical equation. It has to it an imposing but at the same time melodic persona, like many of the composers earlier works, as in THE FACULTY and the already mentioned SCREAM movies, at times the music attaining a level and richness that one associates with opera or classical composers. One for the collection, yes most certainly.





Ok I think you all know I am not great fan of the soundscape approach to scoring movies, or for that matter the use of the DROOOOONE sound within scores, I think it is more annoying than anything, and ok yes it underlines scenes, but is it really classed as music? When I heard that JUNKIE XL was going to provide the music for the new TOMB RAIDER movie I was not that over enthusiastic but saying that I would not dismiss the score without even listening to it. So here we go then, from the start of the score the music and yes it is music, sounded ok, it was string led and also had a richness to it and a leaning towards a hint of a theme, the composer adding little nuances performed by piano, and also introducing a more upbeat if not subdued background, the string section fading in and out of the proceedings acting more like a punctuation to the synthetic sounds that gradually built beneath them. RETURN TO CROFT MANOR is a sombre and fragile sounding piece, which I have to say was something of a surprise to me, the cue however does alter towards the end of the track, with more upbeat electronics coming into the equation, but these are supported and augmented by the strings which seem to maintain a more melodic approach and keeping the synthetics at bay. I know that electronics, samples etc are here to stay in contemporary film music, and I suppose how the composer uses these tools is more important than what he utilises to create the sounds he thinks are correct for the movie. Recently composer Ludwig Gorasson scored BLACK PANTHER, and I was intrigued at the way in which he combined both synthetic with symphonic, I have to say that JUNKIE XL, right that’s it! His name is Tom Holkenborg, has fashioned a score for TOMB RAIDER in a similar style, by this I mean he has utilised both conventional instrumentation and bolstered this with synthetic elements which fit in wonderfully with the more symphonic parts of the work. The symphonic leads at certain points and is supported by electronic sounds and stabs which underline the symphonic statements, but then at other key points within the score, the symphonic becomes the supporter of the electronic, both complimenting and acting as support for each other. The composer creates some powerful moments in the soundtrack, his use of brass and strings combined with the electronica is well thought out and effective. This is not a soulless or toneless work filled with jagged and harsh sounds, it is a soundtrack that is very entertaining and also commanding in its overall sound and style. Of course, one can hear the influences of Hans Zimmer, but its not a bad thing on this occasion.


Holkenborg must be congratulated for fashioning a score that has drive and contains touches of fragility and melancholy, although there are a couple of cues that are highly percussive and can grate a little upon the listener, but it supports the movie, so I guess that it is doing what is supposed to. There are several lengthy cues on the soundtrack release, the composers unrelenting and assertive style shining through, enhanced by proud sounding brass and strings that give the work an anthem like feel, as in track number,7 and number 13, FIGURE IN THE NIGHT and BECOMING THE TOMB RAIDER, respectively. This is one to savour, one to listen to over a couple of times, I am confident it will grow on you.


no place

MONDO SANGUE is a name that composers (Cristiano Sangueduro and Cristina Casereccia) go under when they create music that is for fictitious movies, it is their way of creating a homage to the sound, style and memory of the wonderful music that has adorned many Italian made movies, after the success of their music for, I’ISOLA DEI DANNATI or ISLAND OF THE DAMNED. Which was released last year, I was hoping that they would once again dip their musical toes into the varied and innovative musical waters that are the Italian film music lake. NO PLACE FOR A MAN is a western tale, with a score that is just crammed full of the musical trademarks that we as collectors and fans of the genre have become accustomed to, I listened to the album a few times and decided that a review was not really fitting, my article is more like a praising of the sound and the style that MONDO SANGUE have achieved, this could be from the 1970,s or even the mid-1960.s and when listening to the album, one’s mind begins to wander and imagine what action is taking place to this highly polished and effective musical score, after all it is a score when you think about it, even if there is no movie. NO PLACE FOR A MAN, contains just about every sound, every technique and an array of styles that all have appeared within the genre of the SPAGHETTI WESTERN at some point or another, it pays homage not only to the genre as in the movies, but it also pays a loving and dedicated tribute to many of the composers who were responsible for fashioning the sound of the ITALIAN made western. When one listens to NO PLACE FOR A MAN, one can hear, snippets of racing and energetic Nico Fidenco, classical sounds and romanticism in the style of Carlo Rustichelli, grand impressive pieces in the style of Francesco De Masi and Luis Bacalov, as well as a foundation of strong themes that at times become almost operatic and evoke memories of the classic western scores of Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai. But it is the lesser known Maestros styles that seem to shine through as the score progresses, Stelvio Cipriani, Carlo Savina, Piero Piccioni, Alessandro Alessandroni, Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, Nora Orlandi, Gianni Ferrio etc, I say lesser known, and I do not mean this in anyway disparaging. But, many people still have not heard of these composers, and when I at times throw their names into a conversation, I am met with a somewhat puzzled and uniformed blank expression or look and silence from the collectors I am talking to.



NO PLACE FOR A MAN is I suppose a collection of all the styles and a compilation of all the musical excellence and originality that made the Spaghetti western score so popular and has allowed it to remain popular to this day. It is some thing of a feat to have music written in the style of the original scores and it be recognised as being a western score without the listener being told, and that is what happened when I heard it for the first time, as soon as the first track commenced I thought WESTERN!!!!!





The song SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST, is even like taking a step back in time, evoking, Gianni Ferrio.s steamy sounding song, THAT MAN, and at times even reminds one of the same composer’s song for FIND A PLACE TO DIE. The title track, NO PLACE FOR A MAN is a tour de force of Spaghetti western, sounds and styles, racing, galloping timpani, electric guitar, barking male voices, shouts, choral backing, organ, harpsichord flourishes, this is EL PURO meets SABATA and it is brilliantly done. Art work for the album, is also well done, and it too fuses the style and imagery utilised to advertise many a Spaghetti Western.

I really liked MONDO SANGUE’S first album, I love their second, and am now looking forward to the third, I wonder, GIALLO, COP THRILLER, ROMANCE, which genre will it be? NO PLACE FOR A MAN is highly recommended.