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Emperor by Alex Heffes


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Emperor (Soundtrack) by Alex Heffes











Emperor (Soundtrack) by Alex Heffes

Composed by Alex Heffes
Lakeshore Records (2013)

Rating: 8/10

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“(Alex) Heffes has written a wonderfully emotional palette of melodies and percussion to create the tension and tragedy of a war-torn Japan.”

Imperial Melodies
Review by Steven Sharratt


EMPEROR is a film set in the days immediately following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II and is based on the book "His Majesty’s Salvation" by Shiro Okamoto. It follows the true story of General Bonner Fellers (played by Matthew Fox) who is working for General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) as a Japanese expert. He is tasked with investigating what role Emperor Hirohito had to play in World War II and whether he should be tried as a war criminal. Interwoven with this is Fellers’ emotional search for Aya, a Japanese exchange student he met years earlier.

EMPEROR was scored by ALEX HEFFES, a British composer mainly known for his work in TV and documentaries. However, in more recent years he has become a more recognised face in film by providing critically acclaimed scores for films like THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (2006), STATE OF PLAY (2009) and THE RITE (2011). This is mainly in part to his ability to write for a full orchestra with interestingly melodies – something we’re finding more of a rarity in Hollywood these days.  So it’s great to see Heffes’ use these talents again here. The Opening Titles (1) track employs several strong string melodies to portray the US forces arriving victorious in Japan. Whilst upbeat, these melodies are never heroic but somber in tone not too dissimilar in style to the late, great John Barry! In Let’s Get It Done (2), The Investigation (4) and Rebellion (9) we hear brooding percussion as the true horrors of the aftermath of war unfold before our eyes. However the central focus of the score is an emotional theme for the character Aya. It is quite beautiful and appears throughout the album, most noticeably in Aya (3), Fellers and Aya (7) and Aya’s Theme (17). We get to hear the theme played on piano, with strings and even with what sounds like a Japanese flute as General Bonner Fellers’ searches for his lost love.

This is a film not many will have heard of; it was first shown in 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival but only received a limited run at cinemas in the US from 8 March 2013.  While, at the time of publication of this review, most will not have heard this score in context yet, Heffes has written a wonderfully emotional palette of melodies and percussion to create the tension and tragedy of a war-torn Japan. These melodies and particularly the theme for Aya makes the score an engaging listen from start to finish. It will be great to hear what Heffes’ brings to his next project, the Schwarzenegger/Stallone vehicle THE TOMB (2013); if it’s anywhere near as good as EMPEROR, it’s definitely going to be one to look out for.


Rating: 8/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Open Titles 6:03  *****
2 Let's Get it Done 2:16  ***
3 Aya 1:27  *****
4 The Investigation 3:25  ****
5 Tokyo 1940 2:40  ****
6 Nothing is Black and White 2:20  ***
7 Feelers and Aya 5:20  ****
8 Trapped in a Vice 2:53  ***
9 Rebellion 5:51  ***
10 Time is Running Out 3:11  ****
11 The Imperial Palace 3:06  ***
12 Reading the Letters 2:10  ****
13 We Did Our Duty 2:17  ***
14 Imperial Convoy 3:21  ***
15 The Emperor's Speech 4:13  ****
16 End Title 3:08  *****
17 Aya's Theme Piano Solo 2:47  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 55 minutes  


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