Reign of Fire (Soundtrack) by Edward Shearmur

 

 

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Reign of Fire (Soundtrack) by Edward Shearmur

"Singed!"
Review by Christopher Coleman

 

Reign of Fire (Soundtrack) by Edward Shearmur

Reign of Fire
7/10

Reign of Fire (Soundtrack) by Edward Shearmur
 

Category  |   Score

Originality 7
Music Selection 7
Composition 8
CD Length 7
Track Order 7
Performance 6
Final Score 7/10
 


Reign of Fire (Double Sided)

Reign of Fire
(Double Sided)

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Edward Shearmur
Composer 
Edward Shearmur

 

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Composed and Conducted by Edward Shearmur
Executive Producer: Robert Townson
Orchestrations by Robert Elhai and Brad Wagner
Performed by The London Metropolitan Orchestra
Released by
Varèse Sarabande Records - July 23, 2002

In the failing days of each Summer come many-a film that wisely stay clear of the mega-super-ultra-blockbusters that launch this season of leisure and entertainment.  With the blockbuster films finally starting to ease their grip or even retreat into the land of apprehendable-box-office receipts, the late-bloomers find room to start paying for their budgets.  Many of these films find a way to cheese-off the critics while managing satisfactory numbers in theater seats.  Still, good writing, good acting, good effects, good directing or bad, the film music fan can still find him/herself with yet another compelling reason to visit his favorite music store.  Along side such late Summer releases featuring exceptional scores in their own right: Road to PerditionK:19 - The Widowmaker and Signs, comes Robert Bowman's Reign of Fire - scored by Edward Shearmur.

Composer Edward Shearmur is fast becoming a fixture in the film music world.    Edward Shearmur began to garner attention with his memorable thematic score to Wings of the Dove in 1997, followed by the intensely dark Species II, the atmospheric K-Pax, and, earlier in 2002, the adventurous Count of Monte Cristo.  It has been made clear that Shearmur can work from a diverse palette.  Enter the late-Summer release of Reign of Fire -  a film whose trailers raised an eyebrow of skepticism but at the same time beckoned moviegoers to see what a new-millennial-spin on an ancient rivalry would be like.

Post apocalyptic earth?  Humans on the verge of extinction?...and fire breathing Dragons?  This would have to be a premise that most any composer would be salivating flammable liquids over.  In earnest anticipation of the film and score, the sounds of Randy Edelman's Dragonheart or even Trevor Rabin's Armageddon might come dancing through one's head.   As it turns out, Reign of Fire takes itself pretty seriously and has no room for scores like the aforementioned.  Instead, Edward Shearmur follows Bowman's lead in providing a musical backdrop that underscores the bleakness of Mankind's situation and the ominous threat that soars above them.

Reign of Fire is a dark and dissonant score almost from start to finish.  It relies both on orchestral and electronic elements to create its charred atmosphere of doom, but is much more aggressive than Shearmur's work for Species II.  Upon first listen, one might pick up similarities to some of Jerry Goldsmith's sci-fi works like Alien, but also, Danny Elfman's percussive score to Planet of the Apes.  Fortunately, the score manages to avoid being a rehash of either.

Right from the onset with Prologue (1), the listener knows that the director's intent is for a frightful and menacing trip.  The timbre of Reign of Fire remains consistent with the opening track, even while exploring a fairly wide palette of instrumentation.  Track 2, Enter the Dragon, visits the stringed horror shrieks, thumping percussions, and bellowing brass that one comes to expect from a classic horror-chase scene.  Pensive strings, clashing anvils, and subtle sound design elements combine into a formidable piece that is adequate in the film, but doesn't quite reach the grab-your-face-intensity that Eliot Goldenthal's Final Fantast:  The Spirit Within overflowed with.  Still, the majority of Shearmur's work presented here is full of a primeval adrenaline.

The score makes a clear change of tone with track 5, Marauders.  A militaristic element, representing those dragon-hunting-Americans and their leader Van Zan, is introduced and employed over the next 3 tracks.  If one is looking for something thematic to hang their headphones on, aside from the final track, these are the best bets.  Marauders (5) is a menacing and determined.  Meet Van Zan ranges from a tragic-heroism back to a determined march.  Archangels (7) shows off Shearmur's programming skills as it relies on looping and other synthesized elements more than any other single track.  As the nemesis dragon enters the air-fray, the music transitions from structured militarism back to the dissonant confusion which communicates just who really is in control of the airspace.

Battle of the Wills (9) continues the return back to a rough and rugged form and also further delves back into the atonal realms of the dragon-dominated world.  From tracks 9 through 13, Shearmur lets loose with the most forceful music of the soundtrack - each brandishing its own variety of intensity but remaining ever dark.  Inferno (11) may be the best of this segment as Shearmur builds suspense with swirling strings and percussion accents until he finally brings the music to a furious crescendo featuring an expansive burst of brass that will shiver one's timbers...or, more accurately, burn one's timbers right off!

There are few light moments to contrast the abundance of the heavy, atonal or militaristic music.  The beginning of track 3, Early Harvest, and Rebirth, track 14 are the only substantial breathers the listener is going to get.  Since most of the characters of the film remain under-developed as does the love interest, so there are very few moments where the music has a chance to interject some beauty or other soothing quality.  Still, Rebirth (14) is an unexpected treat that concludes the film and soundtrack, but also causes the listener to notice the absence of such music during the course of the film.  This point is but one of the reasons Reign of Fire comes up slightly singed in its final rating.  Goldenthal's Final Fantasy is evidence that beauty can be successfully interspersed with the most bombastic of compositions and a more than decent movie and soundtrack experience can be had.

While it probably wouldn't receive many nominations for "best score of the Summer of 2002," Reign of Fire remains another solid effort from Edward Shearmur and will pacify those fans who have been looking for a good, heart-pounding listen.  With a film that is barely over an hour and a half, one would expect that there isn't a ton of music to release, yet Varese Sarabande delivers some 50 minutes of Shearmur's score.  For those looking for something a little more edgy, with a little more "umph," Reign of Fire is a soundtrack worth checking out.


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track

Title Time

Rating

1 Prologue 3:22  ***
2 Enter the Dragon 3:18  ***
3 An Early Harvest 2:42  ***
4 Field Attack 4:12  ***
5 Marauders 2:48  ***
6 Meet Van Zan 3:50  ****
7 Archangels 3:58  ***
8 Dawn Burial 3:03  ***
9 A Battle of Wills 5:31  ***
10 The Ruins at Pembury 2:11  ***
11 InfernoTrack 2 - Across the Stars 3:24  ****
12 Return to London 4:12  ***
13 Magic Hour 5:24  ***
14 Rebirth Track 2 - Across the Stars 2:40  ****
 

Total Running Time

50:35  

Reign of Fire (Soundtrack) by Edward Shearmur

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

 

Referenced Reviews
K-Pax  |  Final Fantasy:  The Spirits Within

 

 

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