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Battle: Los Angeles by Brian Tyler

Battle: Los Angeles

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Battle: Los Angeles (Soundtrack) by Brian Tyler
Battle: Los Angeles (Soundtrack) by Brian Tyler
Battle: Los Angeles (Poster and Memorabilia)
 

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Battle: Los Angeles (Soundtrack) by Brian Tyler

Battle: Los Angeles
Composed by Brian Tyler
Varese Sarabande (2011)

Rating: 8/10

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“BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is an unremitting explosive ride, and if fully embraced with an open mind, a ride you’ll be more than willing to experience several times.”

Unyielding Barrage
Review by Richard Buxton

Planet earth has been taking a real beating in recent months. Having only just recovered from the events of SKYLINE, the USA’s west coast is once again the victim of alien invasion, an invasion choreographed by South African director JONATHAN LIEBESMAN.

Having previously directed psychological thriller THE KILLING ROOM and horror DARKNESS FALLS, both scored by BRIAN TYLER, the two join forces once more for BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. With a worldwide invasion underway, the film follows the efforts of a single Marine platoon against the extraterrestrial antagonists. Prior to release the film was frequently described as ”Black Hawk Down with aliens”, suggesting a more personal and emotionally visceral experience when compared to most examples of the alien invasion genre. What transpired was perhaps less emotionally engaging than the filmmakers had hoped for, but BATTLE: LOS ANGELES pulls no punches in its delivery of relentless action as mankind faces the greatest threat of its brief existence.

Regardless of any shortfalls in the storytelling found in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, the nature of the film has provided composer BRAIN TYLER with the opportunity to flex his action muscle, and he has certainly hasn’t shunned it, providing audiences with a bombastic and relentless barrage of ubiquitous action and bravado on an epic scale.

Having had extensive experience in writing for the action genre, Tyler has generally been seen as consistently reliable, perhaps not reinventing the foundations upon which action films are scored but providing an exciting backdrop for each film he has written for. After a single play through of the entire BATTLE: LOS ANGELES score a general “temp-score” vibe is immediately apparent. More often than not listeners will find themselves searching through their film score memory banks, desperately attempting to remember where they had heard such familiar music before. The strongest connections heard in the music are no doubt to the likes of STEVE JABLONSKY and various other Remote Control composers. Normally this would be a major criticism, but how this is interpreted largely depends on the listener. If the thought of anything resembling a JABLONSKY score is downright sickening, then BATTLE: LOS ANGELES clearly isn’t for you. However, those with even the slightest affection for the Remote Control way will find that TYLER’S score for this film is worth their attention, for it takes the majority of what makes a stereotypical Remote Control score entertaining and multiplies it, providing over an hour’s worth of heart-pumping, heroic action music.

TYLER opens proceedings with “Battle Los Angeles Hymn” (1), a track dominated by an evocative reverberating guitar lead that is somewhat unrepresentative of the score’s overall makeup.

It is in “Battle Los Angeles Main Titles” (2) that the score begins in earnest and the majority of the themes TYLER has concocted debut. Beginning with the multiple orchestral blasts, a motif heard multiple times throughout the score, the track is structured as a standard score suite, each theme makes an appearance in fully fledged form, creating momentum with opening builds before each theme announces itself in spectacular, uninhibited and often breathless fashion. “Main Titles” is undoubtedly the star of the score and the most satisfying track when each track is considered alone. Variations on themes heard in “Main Titles” can be heard across the entire score, the 6 note rally blasting it’s way into most of the action-oriented tracks, while what is arguably the most prominent theme, heard at 1:16 in “Main Titles” is given a dramatic reprisal in the penultimate track “Battle Los Angeles” (21). This theme is unashamedly heroic; the almost overbearing efforts to convey the valour of our protagonists dominate the tracks that it appears in.

As for the aforementioned Remote Control Productions references, such inspirations surface at multiple times throughout. The propulsive nature of the strings in “Arrival” (3) the string ostinato in the closing moments of “Main Titles” and the driving strings and brass in “Command and Control Center” (5) all make for strikingly familiar tracks, but their effectiveness is not lessened due to such attributes.

With such an emphasis on unyielding barrages of testosterone, it comes as a relief to know that BATTLE: LOS ANGELES contains a number of pieces to break up the pace, and these provide key elements in any attempt to produce a more personal and emotionally effective film. TYLER’S efforts towards such an objective are twofold. Route one consists of a direct attempt to elicit melancholy through a slowed pace and reflective passages that are almost entirely devoid of any of the percussive elements previously relied on to drive the score forward. Examples of this can be heard in the beautiful use of choir and strings in “Elegy” (6), a deeply evocative track, portraying the almost familial struggle of the platoon. “Regret” (17) similarly makes use of vocals effectively, leading into “Shelf Life” (18), a wistful variation on “Battle Los Angeles Hymn” (1) that reminisces pre-alien invasion life on the vast coast of California.

TYLER’S alternative method of constructing deeper emotional ties to the plight of the marines is one closer in relation to the overarching themes of the score, those being percussive and momentum seeking. “For Home, Country and Family” (8) makes use of light percussion, electronic percussion and reverberating piano chords to deliver a rising anthem of optimism, only emphasized by the faint vocals and guitar in the climax of the piece. “Marines Don’t Quit” (4) and “War Hymn” (9) both make similar use of percussion in accelerating the contemplative strings towards a catharsis.

One immediate obvious aspect of the entire score is how the minutes are distributed between tracks. In total there are 6 tracks that amount to at least 5 minutes in duration, suggesting that these 6 comprise the highlights of the score and provide the greatest insight into what TYLER has achieved in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. On the whole this rings true. The all out cacophonic action and suspense music is covered by the 8.5-minute “Redemption” (7) and “Mobilized” (12), the softer side by “Elegy” (6) and “To Hell and Back” (11) and the all-encompassing “Battle Los Angeles” effectively rounds out the score with a strong echo of the main themes previously heard. The reward of this is the listener being granted the opportunity to effectively summarize the entire score in a few tracks, previewing what the rest of the score develops further.

Thematically, the shortest tracks are undoubtedly weaker, being underdeveloped and often consisting of only a single idea. This is no more apparent than in “The World Is At War” (19), an entirely irrelevant addition to the soundtrack that offers nothing but angst through underscore. Thankfully, the existence of these “mono-thematic” is justified in the likes of “Rebalance” (16) that creates ample anticipation with a countdown-like percussive conclusion. “The Freeway” (13), is a similarly simplistic but nonetheless invigorating composition, coming across as an amalgamation of Bumblebee’s TRANSFORMERS theme and JABLONSKY’S opening to “The Island Awaits You” (The Island).

In BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, BRIAN TYLER has produced an inexorable force of action scoring. Therefore it is perhaps surprising that the score reaches the peak in only the second track, “Battle Los Angeles Main Titles”. Subsequently the score is undoubtedly an unremitting adventure of unadulterated excitement, but it never quite manages to exceed the monolithic nature of the second track. Despite this, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is a real assault on the senses and a true highlight in BRIAN TYLER’S scoring career. He makes no attempts to rewrite the rulebook here, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is an unremitting explosive ride, and if fully embraced with an open mind, a ride you’ll be more than willing to experience several times.


Rating: 8/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Battle Los Angeles Hymn 2:33  ***
2 Battle Los Angeles Main Titles 4:19  *****
3 Arrival 2:14  ****
4 Marines Don't Quit 2:49  ***
5 Command And Control Center 3:45  *****
6 Elegy 5:00  *****
7 Redemption 8:28  *****
8 For Home, Country, and Family 4:03  ****
9 War Hymn 2:29  ***
10 Evac 3:13  ****
11 To Hell and Back 6:27  ***
12 Mobilized 5:08  ***
13 The Freeway 1:57  ***
14 The Drone 3:08  ****
15 Casualty of War 1:38  ****
16 Rebalance 1:27  ****
17 Regret 1:29  ****
18 Shelf Life 2:33  ***
19 The World is At War 1:41  *
20 Abandoning Los Angeles 5:39  ****
21 Battle Los Angeles 5:39  *****
22 We Are Still Here 3:15  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 78 minutes  

 

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