March 21, 2007

CD Review: 300 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

300 is an awe inspiring film. It is a film that forms a basis for myth and legend. Not intent on delivering a balanced historical recreation of the Battle of Thermopylae, the film plays out as a grand tale of battlefield glory. It is framed as an exaggerated tale, propaganda if you will, with the intent of getting the troops rallied for battle. It is a story of resounding good taking on the forces of evil that seek to enslave them. It is a film of new vision, a wildly creative and stylishly realized film that is exciting, breathtaking, and memorable. What does this have to do with the score? Well, the score is equally invigorating. Composer Tyler Bates has crafted a fascinating score which combines electonic components with traditional orchestration. Two worlds of music fusing together into a unique score.

Just as I was when I sat in the theater, I was captivated. The film was told with such style and vision to just hold my attention, the same could be said for this score. The music is bold, dynamic, and plays well with the other-worldly look of the the movie. It has some big orchestral bombast, some crunchy guitar and drum sections, and a solo vocalist that will trnasport you to another time and place.

Now, I have read about the apparent copying of Eliot Goldenthal's score for Titus. This is not something that I can attest to, not being familiar with thar particular work. I am not, however, going to deny that it is true, I have seen enough comments to be convinced that it is a near duplicate, in particular on the cuts "Returns a King" and "Remember Us," which were translations of Goldenthal's "Victoris Titus" and "Finale." I have also read that Bates will not go on record regarding the incident. Whether this is due to him not wanting to admit to plagiarism, embarrassment over being coerced by the studio or other force, or the fact that he may have done it unconciously is unknown. Whatever the truth may be, it has not hampered my sheer enjoyment of the score.

Even with those moments of, let's say, outside inspiration, The score blends diverse elements together crafting a score that melds beautifully with the action of Zack Snyder's film. Much like Clint Mansell's score for The Fountain, Bates' 300 score is realized as something outside the normal orchestra. It welcomes an approach that takes elements from disparate worlds, puts them in a room together and lets them come to terns with each other, with beautiful results.

This is not a score that you are likely to find yourself humming to anyone who will listen, it isn't that type of score. As you listen to it, you may find yourself taken to The Hot Gates, standing alongside King Leonidas as he and the 300 stand firm as they repel the onslaught of the Persian army. You will find yourself taken in by the disparate sounds, images burned into your head.

There is a lot to like, it is a score filled with high energy by a composer who knows what he is creating for (despite the compromised vision of Goldenthal's influence). The harsh guitar, electic violin, drums, brought together in a manic cacophony of action mirrors the wild action going on on the screen. Add to that the haunting voice of Azam Ali, and you have a score that is not hummable, but will burn itself onto your brain.

Bottomline. This is a wonderful score, perhaps my inexperience in reviewing film scores is coming into play, but I really enjoyed this. Haunting, crushing, and all around different from many of the scores I have listened to. It is one that was created in perfect union with the visual elements, and still work as a stand alone album.



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