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Dawn of the Dragonslayer by Panu Aaltio

Dawn of the Dragonslayer

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Dawn of the Dragonslayer (Soundtrack) by Panu Aaltio










Dawn of the Dragonslayer (Soundtrack) by Panu Aaltio

Dawn of the Dragonslayer
Composed by Panu Aaltio
MovieScore Media (2012)

Rating: 8/10

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“One gets the impression that AALTIO attempted to compensate for the film’s budgetary shortcomings by writing the absolutely most larger-than-life score he possibly could, and the result is bound to please anybody who likes their fantasy or adventure scores big, bold and uncomplicated.”

Dawn of Aaltio
Review by Edmund Meinerts


A low-budget fantasy film, DAWN OF THE DRAGONSLAYER flew beneath the radar in 2011, only earning a theatrical release in Germany and going straight to DVD elsewhere. In short, prime fodder for MovieScore Media, who specialize in releasing little-known scores by little-known composers for little-known films. The little-known composer in this case is PANU AALTIO (surely one of the first names in the phone book), for whom MSM previously released THE HOME OF DARK BUTTERFLIES, but his work here is considerably more substantial in volume than that piano-andings affair. AALTIO has really pulled out all the stops here and created a full-blooded orchestral adventure score, one of the finest hidden gems to emerge from the MSM vaults yet.

It isn’t quite monothematic, but DAWN OF THE DRAGONSLAYER is very much dominated by its central, heroic theme. With scores like this, the quality of that one theme can either make or break the listening experience. Luckily, in this case, that one theme is a very strong one. AALTIO wastes no time giving the listener a dramatic introduction in “Paladin’s Theme (Search for the Dragon)” (1), presenting the boldly ascending, heroic melody over a gradually accelerating bed of percussion. While the theme won’t win any awards for complexity, it is satisfying nonetheless, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of TREVOR RABIN’s simplistic-but-catchy melodies. AALTIO returns frequently to this “Paladin’s theme” throughout the score – possibly too frequently for some, though the score’s relatively brief length ensures that it stops just before it becomes overly repetitive. In addition to the opening title, the cues “A Paladin’s Journey” (3), “Training” (5), “Forbidden Love” (10) and “A Triumphant Return (Suite from Dawn of the Dragonslayer” (15) all contain extensive statements of the idea. That final cue is incidentally the score’s standout, bracketing the slower, dramatic stance of the opening title’s rendition of the Paladin’s theme with the enormously upbeat statements heard in the “Training” (5) cue.

The remainder of the score is divided into three portions: action, romance and underscore. The former is quite plentiful, and is dominated by an active percussion section and dramatic, LORD OF THE RINGS-esque choral backing. A somewhat nebulous, ominous rising figure to represent the dragon antagonists of the story makes its presence known during these sequences, first introduced in the second half of the opening title and frequently referenced throughout. It’s an effective enough motif, though it certainly won’t compete with the Paladin’s theme for memorability. A lot of this action material can come across as a tad anonymous, as the integration of thematic material into the action isn’t as frequent as one might hope. As the score reaches its climax in “Rise of a Paladin” (13) and “The Duel and the Dragon” (14), however, the Paladin’s theme does begin to become integrated into the action music and to do battle with the dragon motif, imitating the onscreen events. The tragic choral variation on the Paladin’s theme that closes out the latter cue proves that AALTIO is no slouch when it comes to manipulating his themes into various emotional settings.

The romantic material is confined to the cues “Will and Kate” (6) and “Forbidden Love” (10). AALTIO does pen a singular, string-led love theme for the pair, receiving its only performance at the 1:25 mark of the former cue. There’s a hint of JOHN BARRY to the theme, and it’s a shame it is never allowed to reach its full potential. Instead, a yearning variation of the Paladin’s theme is offered in the second half of “Forbidden Love” (10), which is admittedly impressive in its own right. Rounding out the album are a few cues of less attention-grabbing underscore, including some playful sparring in “You’re Doing it All Wrong” (2).

One final flaw must unfortunately be mentioned, though the fault for it does not lie in AALTIO’s hands, and that has to do with the sampled-sounding nature of the score. Obviously, the film’s budget did not allow for a full-scale orchestra to be employed, so what we hear here is probably a rather small orchestra and chorus that has been overdubbed by samples in order to sound larger than it really is. In fairness, however, the samples are very high-quality, with only the brass section tending to betray its synth-boosted nature. For whatever reason, brass remains the most difficult instrument to convincingly imitate with samples, as countless Media Ventures and Remote Control scores attest to.

What’s really impressive about DAWN OF THE DRAGONSLAYER is the sheer overachievement, though. One gets the impression that AALTIO attempted to compensate for the film’s budgetary shortcomings by writing the absolutely most larger-than-life score he possibly could, and the result is bound to please anybody who likes their fantasy or adventure scores big, bold and uncomplicated. This is one of those scores where the composer’s passion truly shines through in the music. Perhaps AALTIO is also hoping that directors and producers are out there, keeping an ear open for new talent? Certainly, DAWN OF THE DRAGONSLAYER generates enough adventurous ruckus that even the most cloth-eared studio executive should, by rights, be sitting up and listening. This is a talent to watch.

Rating: 8/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Palandin's Theme (Search for the Dragon) 3:00  ****
2 You're Doing it All Wrong 1:44  ***
3 A Palandin's Journey 2:16  ****
4 The Dragon Kills 1:34  ****
5 Training 2:23  ****
6 Will and Kate 2:41  ****
7 Dragon at the Castle 2:51  ****
8 The Search for Kate 2:00  ***
9 The Dragon Lurking 1:55  ****
10 Forbidden Love 3:30  ****
11 The Battle 2:48  ****
12 Alone in the Cold 2:23  ***
13 Rise of Paladin 3:51  ****
14 The Duel and the Dragon 4:37  ****
15 A Triumphant Return( Suite from Dawn of the Dragonslayer) 5:39  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 43 minutes  


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