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Predators by John Debney


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Predators (Soundtrack)  by John Debney
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Predators (Soundtrack) by John Debney

Composed by John Debney
La-La Land Records (2010)

Rating: 6/10

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“PREDATORS was a good re-make film with a serviceable sound design-y score, but it came from a man with the talents to produce something far better.”

Bittersweet Nostalgia
Review by Marius Masalar

For JOHN DEBNEY, who spent a great part of this year working to produce the score to IRON MAN 2 (the album for which was only recently released), PREDATORS was by his own admission a much more fast-paced and brief scoring project with significantly different challenges. Not the least of which was filling the shoes of the series’ first composer, Alan Silvestri, whose iconic music for the first film still represents one of cinema’s most accomplished action/horror scores.

DEBNEY’s score attempts to do two major and obvious things: serve as a strong homage to Silvestri’s original score, and integrate that with his own sound to reflect the new film’s contemporary feel. Unfortunately, whether because of time pressures or strange directorial initiatives or some other reason, he fails to adequately achieve either of his two goals, which makes the generous 66-minute album drag on unpleasantly. In fact it isn’t so much unpleasant as surprisingly uninteresting given that this is the man who brought us masterpieces of sophistication and musicality like CUTTHROAT ISLAND and, more recently, LAIR.

“Free Fall” (1) accompanies the film’s very intense opening scene, but quickly fades away to a thin orchestral ambience not entirely unlike Jerry Goldsmith’s work on Alien. “Single Shooter” (2) briefly introduces some bland action scoring before once again passing into the quiet “This Is Hell” (3), a cue built on a familiar 3-note rhythmic motif. The idea gets tossed idly around the orchestra, bordering on the comedic with some of the percussive effects, and is occasionally superseded by groaning from the more eclectic side of the instrumental ensemble, which includes some massive Tibetan horns. “Cages / Trip-Wire” (4) creeps its way to a powerful action sequence, but it is brief and yields to another wash of nervous nothingness in the first half of “Not Of This Earth” (5). The cue’s latter half, of course, contains the dramatic revelation spoiled by its title, and in approaching the middle of the score one expects things to pick up.

“Hound Attack” (6) delivers in full with some visceral action writing, punctuated by loud and violent things done to metallic objects, some friendly bows to Silvestri, and a lot more repetition than was necessary. In this score, DEBNEY seems determined to present his ideas in small modular portions that he then serves to us repeatedly ad nauseum. It’s strangely lazy of him. “We Run, We Die” (7) returns to more quiet moody timbres in preparation for “Predator Attack” (8), a disjointed but very effective cue with some aggressive guitars and more brief thematic nods to Silvestri’s work. “Meet Mr. Black” (9) is remarkable for bringing together such unusual and unsettling instrumental elements together into a coherent musical shape — wholly fitting for the character at hand and very intriguing for the ears.

The creativity seems to palpably fade though as “They See Our Traps” (10) rolls around with its sliding strings and chugging guitars, depositing us “Over Here” (11) which is another atmospheric meandering. “Smoke” (12) shakes us out of our reverie with a propulsive rhythm and pulsing brass stabs. It is a very welcome change of pace, continued and expanded upon in “Nikolai Blows” (13) and escalating further to the Goldenthal-esque horn shakes in “Stans’ Last Stand” (14). This cue is imposing in its ability to start at what seems to be maximum intensity and then continue to build and almost all the way to the end. “Hanzo’s Last Stand” (15) is less impressive, adopting a more stately and noble tone before dissolving into some furious percussion and sound effects.

By now, the sparseness of cues with any sort of extended musical development begins to get tiresome. So many of the album’s tracks are short and disjointed that it sometimes sounds like a sampler of orchestral effects rather than a single musical effort. “Leg Trap” (16) offers some redeeming string-led harmonies and one of the album’s only moments of relative peace, a feeling that is continued in “Take Me To The Ship” (17) and promptly abandoned in “Edwin And Isabelle Captured” (18). This cue, though, is among the most musically coherent and listenable of the entire album, providing a rousing and even memorable brass theme as we push into the score’s final quarter.

Choirs join wailing brass for the first time in “Predator Fight, Royce Runs” (19), but more pedantically repetitive phrasing robs the track of some of its effectiveness. “Twisted Edwin / Royce Returns” (20) reprises some of the score’s thematic material against a decidedly contemporary beat, but does little else to differentiate itself despite being the longest track on the album at just over six minutes. Another serviceable action cue, “Royce vs. Predator” (22) seems to miss the mark when it comes to offering a sense of climatic finality. There are other moments in the score that soar far higher.

Closing things off, “Let’s Get Off This Planet” (23) is a stirring and bittersweet string-led lament, both powerful and moving. “Theme From Predator” (24) is where DEBNEY just flat out reprises Alan Silvestri’s original theme in what is virtually a direct arrangement of the original main titles, with some electric guitars tossed in. It’s sad that this last cue is so short; that DEBNEY didn’t take the opportunity to show off a bit and make up for the drabness of the rest of the music by at least capping things off with an amazing and sophisticated arrangement.

Ultimately, PREDATORS was a good re-make film with a serviceable sound design-y score, but it came from a man with the talents to produce something far better. Such a film deserved a score that was not only very effective against the picture — which DEBNEY’s effort undoubtedly was — but also offers listeners engaging material on album…which I have my doubts about. Next time, perhaps?

Rating: 6/10




Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Free Fall 3:06  ****
2 Single Shooter 2:08  **
3 This is Hell 4:10  ***
4 Cages / Trip-Wire 3:51  ****
5 Not of This Earth 2:41  ***
6 Hound Attack 4:09  ***
7 We Run, We Die 4:39  **
8 Predator Attack 1:46  ****
9 Meet Mr. Black 1:15  ****
10 They See Our Traps 2:26  ***
11 Over Here 2:24  *
12 Smoke 2:38  ****
13 Nikolai Blows 2:10  ****
14 Stan's Last Stand 1:49  ***
15 Hanzo's Last Stand 3:08  ****
16 Leg Trap 2:23  ****
17 Take Me to the Ship 2:04  **
18 Edwin and Isabelle Captured 1:33  *****
19 Predator Fight, Royce Runs 3:15  ****
20 Twitsted Edwin /  Royce Returns 3:26  **
21 She's Paralyzed 6:05  ***
22 Royce vs. Predator 2:39  ***
23 Let's Get Off This Planet 3:01  *****
24 Theme from Predator 1:46  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 56 minutes  




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