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Ironclad by Lorne Balfe

Ironclad

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Ironclad (Soundtrack) by Lorne Balfe
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironclad (Soundtrack) by Lorne Balfe

Ironclad
Composed by Lorne Balfe
Varese Sarabande (2011)

Rating: 7/10

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“IRONCLAD is a strong entry in the early years of a fledgling talent who has undoubtedly shown he is fully prepared for a long career at the top of the film scoring pyramid.”

The Magna Balfa
Review by Richard Buxton

Finally let loose from the restraints of the “additional music” credit, HANS ZIMMER protégé LORNE BALFE has been unleashed on IRONCLAD, a film reminiscent of many a classic REMOTE CONTROL PRODUCTIONS (RCP) film score.

Set in a 13th Century England, IRONCLAD follows the struggle of a Templar Knight and his group of warriors in their attempt to preserve what liberty and freedom remained during the reign of King John. Such a setting comes with many a preconception in regards to music, and IRONCLAD certainly lives up to the anticipated brooding atmosphere and visceral action music.

It is easy to forget that it was only in 2009 that LORNE BALFE was truly announced to the world of scoring for visual entertainment. CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 was the first real glimpse of BALFE’S talents having previously played the part of the additional music provider. Clearly such a role within RCP scores has prepared him well as his most recent projects, including IRONCLAD show that he has matured into a composer fully capable of standing alone while remaining one of great potential. That said, IRONCLAD is not a score with excess amounts of innovation, but rather one that generally relies on the convention of genre with BALFE adding his own spin on proceedings.

After an initial run-through, IRONCLAD can be described as an amalgamation of ZIMMER’S GLADIATOR, KING ARTHUR, HARRY GREGSON-WILLIAMS’ KINGDOM OF HEAVEN somewhat surprisingly, ZIMMER and BALFE’S MODERN WARFARE 2. Such similarities are immediately apparent in “The Magna Carta” (1), as the typical but equally effective crashing percussion and brooding bass strings and choir set a dark and oppressive atmosphere. The omnipresent plucking and string ostinato maintain a constant driving undercurrent as the strained vocal lead harks back to many a historical epic. Despite any moments of reminiscing, the piece does a fine job of crafting a suitably gloomy horizon for the rest of the score to reach for.

BALFE immediately ups the ante in “King John Arrives” (2) as the score takes a turn into the relentless. The foreboding brass blasts combined with the wailing vocals make for a tyrannical and domineering mood as King John enters the fray. The pace of the scores slows significantly in “God Protect Us” (3) but the atmosphere never lets up as a powerful and evocative string/woodwind pattern accelerates the track in a manner heard in numerous variations across the score. Echoes of this are heard immediately in “Mobilizing” (4) as the anticipation created in each track grows by the second. The almost Arabic nature of the rhythmic guitar and strings bears a strong resemblance to BALFE’S work on MODERN WARFARE 2, the sound resonating in a number of the game’s tracks, including most prominently the opening minutes of “Enter The Gulag” and the final minute of “Submarine Base/Missile Launch”. Such are the similarities, that fans of the fifth Call of Duty’s score will immediately find themselves at home with IRONCLAD.

BALFE excels in IRONCLAD when he is using all the tools he has made available to himself. The simultaneous of choir, strings, percussion and brass in tracks such as “The Battle Begins” (7) provide a powerful cacophony of gorgeous violence. The pacing of the track is somewhat of a letdown however. As the piece seemingly gains momentum, it often drops into near silence, clearly a factor introduced by the film, but it harms any musical impetus previously accumulated, meaning BALFE is required to once again build up the piece.

Interspersed between the bombast that dominates the score, BALFE finds the opportunity to utilise his penchant for choirs to ominous effect, as heard in both “We Claim This Castle” (5), and “The Art of Naivety” (6).

In some much-needed downtime, BALFE opts for a texture of solace and reflection in both “Marshall and Isabel” (8) and “Dilectio” (9). While never quite reaching their potential, the two tracks offer a welcome break from the incessant action.

The greatest disappointment of IRONCLAD is how often it approaches a moment in which the next step would seemingly be to unleash the nigh-on infinite power of the orchestra in a powerful and all-encompassing theme. Unfortunately BALFE never quite seems to make it there, and it becomes increasingly difficult to identify what exactly is the main theme. Rather, it would seem there is a “main rhythm” rather than theme, with the crashing percussion heard in the likes of “Ciminatio” (13) emphasizing this. For a track of over 9 minutes it comes as a letdown when the track never reaches anything approaching a peak and catharsis is never quite established. The same can be said for “The Final Battle” (16). While numerous moments of beauty, as heard in the straining string section in the final moments, and relentless momentum, heard in the opening minutes, punctuate the piece, the track never lives up to the expectation created by a piece of music that contains the words “Final” and “Battle”.

Thankfully, the score does reach some sort of emotional climax in the penultimate, and clear victor in the battle for supremacy, “Final Resolution” (17). This track is leaps and bounds ahead of what precedes it in almost every area. BALFE finally utilizes everything at his disposal and displays the flair and talent with which he can clearly compose. The track is not a masterpiece in innovation, it just uses what has come before it and encompassed all of the emotions created in the leading up to it. The powerful armory of strings, brass and choir succeeds in creating a simultaneously reflective, beautifully unrestrained and gloriously cathartic resolution to the score.

The penultimate composition just serves to remind a listener that BALFE is a composer of considerable talent, and it’s worth wondering what might have been had BALFE been given the opportunity to unleash the emotion heard in that track across the entire soundtrack. Nonetheless, IRONCLAD is a strong entry in the early years of a fledgling talent who has undoubtedly shown he is fully prepared for a long career at the top of the film scoring pyramid.


Rating: 7/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The Magna Carta 4:18  ***
2 King John Arrives 2:05  ***
3 God Protect Us 1:58  ****
4 Mobilizing 1:18  ****
5 We Claim This Castle 1:29  ***
6 The Art of Naivety 1:52  ***
7 The Battle Begins 6:33  ****
8 Marshal and Isabel 1:41  ***
9 Dilectio 1:34  ****
10 Insidiae 3:22  ***
11 Hunger Sets In 2:33  ****
12 Desperatus 2:56  ***
13 Ciminatio 9:17  ***
14 No Salvation 1:43  ***
15 Concursus 3:35  ***
16 The Final Battle 6:55  ****
17 Final Resolution 1:47  *****
18 Corus Cantus 2:40  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 57 minutes  

 

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