Loneliness, Hope, and Old Gods: Talking with Sergio Ronchetti About the Music of Eldest Souls (2021)

Last month I got the opportunity to speak with composer Sergio Ronchetti about his work on the recently released video game Eldest Souls. London-based, Spanish & Italian composer and sound designer Sergio Ronchetti boldly crafts scores dwelling within realms of dusky depth, mercurial mood, and aggressive execution, drawing upon his background in heavy metal and combining his lyrical tastes with more traditional, orchestral compositional techniques for a truly singular signature style.

Sergio’s debut score for the 2021 pixel-art, boss-rush, “Souls-like” video game Eldest Souls captures the lonely and desolate melancholy of the game world while also providing vigorous, combative battle music matching the intensity of the challenging gameplay and capturing the personality and essence of each iconic boss fight. He cites artists like Trivium, Machine Head, and Gojira as direct references to his Eldest Souls score – even if his instrumentations are far removed from theirs.

I hope you enjoy our conversation about Ronchetti’s work on Eldest Souls!

How did you get started as a composer?
I left high-school with the sole intention of joining a metal band and becoming a touring musician: which is what i did! I had been playing in bands ever since i was 15, using every spare minute at school to jam with friends in the music rooms. I guess during this time i picked up a lot of DAW production skills without knowing, which gave me a little head start when i decided to pursue media composing after about 4 years of touring. University was then the best place for me to learn exactly what kind of composer/musician i wanted to be, but I learned how to compose behind a computer around my degree. I took short course, extra classes and spoke to as many of my lecturers as possible to understand how to get my career started during my studies, not after. Combine this with saying yes to every opportunity that came my way and everything slowly built up from there.

How did you get involved with Eldest Souls?
I met Jon and Francesco at a free workshop in London hosted by Intel. They were showcasing a super early version of the game whilst taking a gap year during their studies to work on it. Initially they just wanted music for a trailer they were putting out. I sent them a track i thought could work and to my amazement they loved it! Pretty clear from then on that I was a good fit for their project, which is important when collaborating. I don’t think I was anything special, especially back then, but both parties were in the perfect position in terms of experience and skills to work together.

Were you given any specific directions by the game’s creators when working on the score?
The stylistic decisions were made very early on. This meant that I had a direction right from the get go, in terms of style, placement in the game and the scope of the game. The best part as that Jon and Francesco created a very stress-free and flexible workflow, which gave us all the chance to fail and learn moving forward. Sometimes they had reference tracks that they really wanted to hear in the game, other times i just asked for 3-4 words describing the mood, setting and emotions they wanted out of each boss fight.

A related question: was there a lot of collaboration with the game’s director/creators on the score?
As an indie studio, there’s often a lot of crossover within our individual roles. With the music and more so the sound design, we worked very closely and generated as much feedback and testing as possible to get the ideal work out of me. Similarly, I’d always offer to help out at conventions and managing other areas like the socials and marketing, so it really was a collaborative effort from all of us. And I loved every minute of it! We’ve all grown an attachment to this project and we’re all the more happy to see it finally out there for people to enjoy.

I’ve heard Eldest Souls described as “Souls-like” which I assume means it’s similar to the Dark Souls series of games. Is the music for Eldest Souls similar in any way to Dark Souls or did you take a different approach with the music?
In terms of gameplay you could say so. We limited the music to the combat sequences in the game, which left ambience and sound design to govern the travelling in-between. Really this was to reinforce the narrative of the game which is my sole purpose as a game audio professional. I am constantly asking myself “what story am I telling here?” before designing any sounds or music. So when the music hits, you know it’s go time, and everything springs into action. When it’s over, you’re left with the residual consequences of your action adding to the already desolate environment. But in terms of musical sound I wouldn’t say my music is anywhere close to DS or Bloodborne. We felt that overtly gothic and dark style was perhaps a little overkill for the art-style and pace of Eldest Souls. But I love those soundtracks and getting familiar with them during development was super inspiring.

In general, how did you approach scoring Eldest Souls? Were you able to play through early builds of the game or at least observe early gameplay footage for inspiration?
It was very hands on. Again, all praise to the boys from Rome for allowing me to be as involved as I was. I could quite literally jump into the game, test and mix my audio live using Fmod. Then once i was fairly happy, i’d send it over to them for review. It saved a lot of time and effort in the long-run. Being able to experience the gameplay first-hand is invaluable. It’s like scoring a film and getting to play the main character as you do.

Given how important the game’s boss fights are, how did you specifically go about creating music for those moments? Since each “Old God” encounter is different, I can only assume that would affect the music for each fight. Was there any extra pressure to get the music “just right”?
Really, since this was the first project for all of us, there was no pressure at all! Haha. We just wanted to do the best we could, and learn from the process. That being said, some boss fights came together very quickly, others needed more revisions. It was all about focusing on anticipating player emotions and the mini-narratives within each fight: was it fast-paced? How intimidating was it? What are the boss’ unique characteristics? Questions like that. I also often asked Jon and Franco for just 3-4 words describing the scene, and went from there. Each boss had its own personality that needed matching and enhancing with my music.

Did you make specific musical themes for the main character and the Old Gods? Or other aspects of the game?
Eldest Souls had 2 messages which needed conveying: the brutal combat and the idea of loneliness and hope. The former was expressed by each fight being narrated by a unique boss theme to match the style and personality of each God and beast you encounter. The latter is portrayed via the Main Theme. This title track was my way of tying the whole soundtrack together. Since each boss fight was so different, re-working one theme throughout didn’t end up making much sense from a gameplay experience perspective. It also gave me a chance to write in a totally different genre with my post-minimalist interests coming through with the repeating live vocals and haunting solo cello recordings. It was a lot of fun writing that track and for that reason it holds a special interest to me.

What was your process for deciding which instruments to use in the game’s score?
Keeping with the Souls-like vibe, i took a touch of inspiration from the From Software games. I remember a few years back going to a video games exhibit at the V&A museum here in London. There was a fabulous insight into the Bloodborne music and even previews of the score they used during recordings! The likes of Cris Velasco and Yuka Kitamura decided to cut out any typically high frequency or bright instruments, like trumpets or high violin lines. All with the intention of keeping it as dark sounding as possible. Aside from that, I still take great inspiration from my days of writing and playing heavy metal music which is hugely reliant on rhythmic ideas. For that reason the percussion in my tracks is always front and foremost. Metal drummers like Mario Duplantier and Joey Jordison are huge inspirations to me, even when i’m writing for melodic instruments.

How much time did you have to score Eldest Souls?
The project was initially meant to be a 13 month stint. But through the process we picked up a lot of momentum from wishlists and conventions that we ended up scaling the scope of the game up as we went to about 3 years of development. For that reason I had the opportunity to go back and re-write some of the initial tracks that weren’t quite up to scratch by the end of it. You can improve a lot as a composer in the space of just a year, so after 3 I was at a totally different level. However, I’m not a fan of going back and constantly re-writing and improving work. I’d rather just finish a project and move on to the next. Being prolific is the only way to progress as an artist.

Are there any musical details in the game you hope players notice?
If there are, they are VERY well hidden haha. But for example, towards the end of the project I started to lean into my metal roots even more. I even exercised taking my favourite metal songs and re-arranging the rhythms and melodies. It might be most obvious in The Imperator, if there are any fans of Machine Head out there. Also the intro to that track was super fun to write too. I often like taking classical and romantic pieces of music and re-orchestrating and arranging them. It’s a great way to use existing material and create something totally new by the end of it. The final boss intro had to be epic, so I used epic material. In my opinion it doesn’t get much bigger and grander than Carl Orff’s, O Fortuna.

Do you have a favorite musical theme in the game?
I’m quite partial to ‘Ov Fire and Water’ which I think came out great. Equally ‘Main Theme’ and ‘Lunar Descending’ are still some of my favourites.

I want to say a big thank you to Sergio Ronchetti for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Eldest Souls.

See also:

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Behind the Music of Action and Comedy: Talking with Atli Örvarsson about ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’

Recently I had the chance to speak with Atli Örvarsson about his work on The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Atli’s credits include composing and orchestrating music for some of Hollywood’s biggest projects, including the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Angels & Demons, The Holiday, The Eagle, Vantage Point, Babylon A.D., Thick as Thieves, The Fourth Kind, and Season of the Witch.

Atli’s accolades include winning the HARPA Nordic Film Composer Award for his acclaimed score to Rams, several ASCAP and BMI Film and TV Music Awards, a “Breakthrough of the Year” nomination with the IFMCA Awards in 2009, plus he was nominated for the prestigious World Soundtrack Academy’s “Discovery of the Year Award” for his score for Babylon A.D in 2009 and his score for Ploey: You Never Fly Alone was nominated for a “Public Choice Award” in 2018.

I hope you enjoy the discussion we had about this film!

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! My first question is, how did you get started as a composer?
I have been writing music since childhood but got “serious” about composition when I was attending Berklee College of Music and found out they had a film music program. I had always been interested in film music, as far back as the first Star Wars film when I was just a little kid, so this field of study really appealed to me and has been my path ever since.

I know you previously composed the music for The Hitman’s Bodyguard in 2017, was it always assumed that you would return to score the music for the sequel?
Yes. Patrick Hughes, the director of these films, started discussing a possible sequel with me right after the first film came out.

Speaking of, what did you think of getting to return to the world of The Hitman’s Bodyguard to create more music for it? Was it easier scoring this film because you’d also written the music for the first film?
I don´t know if easier is the right word but perhaps it was a bit of a luxury to have a lot of themes from the original film to work with and it just made sense to reuse these.

On a similar note, what was the discussion with the director like when it came to putting the score together? Were you building on the first film’s musical themes in the sequel or did you create something wholly new?
A bit of both. There is a new bad guy in this film who needed a new theme, obviously along with some other new characters and storylines. Salma Hayek’s character also plays a bigger role here so that called for some new music. At the same time the two main characters are the same so there is a lot of reusing and reinventing themes from the original film.

Speaking of themes, are there musical themes for specific characters?
Yes.


I know this film is considered an action-comedy. How did you balance the music in the score between action and comedy?
It’s usually pretty clear cut whether a scene is primarily an action scene or a comedy scene but there are certainly scenes in this movie that combine both. In these cases, I usually choose to score the scenes very much like serious action scenes as the comedy sort of speaks for itself but to be honest, there’s no hard and fast rule. It just depends on the scene and what feels right.

How much time did you have to score The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?
I had quite a bit of time as the Covid pandemic kept interrupting the schedule, but once we got started “for real” it went quite fast. I’d say about 2 months from the start of scoring to recording with the orchestra.

How much did the previous score for The Hitman’s Bodyguard influence the music for the sequel?
Quite a bit! As I mentioned earlier, I did reuse themes from the first movie but perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that there’s more score and less songs in the sequel.

Do you have a favorite musical moment in the score?
It’s hard to say… I really enjoyed writing some of the comedy cues around Bryce’s personal backstory where the music plays very serious over the comedy, e.g. when we first meet his step father and for the flashback about his mom.

Finally, is there any musical detail you hope viewers notice when they go to see this movie in theaters?
There are many places where I geeked out and tried to sneak in my themes in disguises. Hopefully someone picks up on that!

I hope you enjoyed this interview about the music of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Soundtrack News: Composer Inon Zur to score ‘Starfield’ video game

EMMY award-winner and 3-time BAFTA nominated composer Inon Zur (‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’) is scoring ‘STARFIELD’, the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ and ‘Fallout 4’. Set hundreds of years in our future, STARFIELD is an epic about hope, our shared humanity, and answering our greatest mystery. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom.

Inon Zur is internationally renowned for his emotionally dynamic original music scores for blockbuster video game franchises including ‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’, and ‘The Elder Scrolls’, as well as the EMMY-winning documentary ‘Saber Rock’ and animated television shows including ‘Power Rangers’, ‘Digimon’ and ‘Escaflowne’.


Zur’s iconic themes and avant garde scores for the ‘Fallout’ video game series have been described as “Sophisticated and atmospheric” (Classic FM) and received two BAFTA nominations. His best-selling soundtrack for ‘Fallout 4’ is celebrated as one of the best original video game scores by BAFTA, The Game Awards, and Classic FM. Recently his original score for ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ received top honors at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards.

Zur previously scored the ‘Fallout’ series and ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ for the studio. The official teaser trailer for STARFIELD was released at a joint Microsoft Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase held during E3 2021, followed by a video introduction entitled ‘Into the Starfield: The Journey Begins’ – both featuring original music compositions by Zur. ‘STARFIELD’ will release November 11, 2022.

Are you excited to see what Inon Zur creates for Starfield?

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

Soundtrack News: ‘The Green Knight’ Original Soundtrack to be Released July 30, lead single “One Year Hence” Available Now

Milan Records announces the July 30 release of THE GREEN KNIGHT (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by composer and performer Daniel Hart. Available for preorder now, the album features music written by Hart for director David Lowery’s latest fantasy adventure film based on the classic Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. The resulting 29-track collection is both as epic and unique as the film itself, a sweepingly dramatic and expansive body of music that straddles the divide between medieval and modern.

Making its debut alongside album preorder is soundtrack lead single “One Year Hence,” a darkly foreboding number underscored by a haunting, heavy synth and punctuated with jittery recorders and dissonant choral bursts – listen here. The soundtrack is the latest in a longstanding creative partnership between Lowery and Hart, the duo having worked together previously on Ain’t Them Bodies SaintsPete’s DragonA Ghost Story and The Old Man & the Gun. Starring Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, The Green Knight makes its theatrical debut Friday, July 30 from A24. 

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. From visionary filmmaker David Lowery comes a fresh and bold spin on a classic tale from the knights of the round table.

Of the soundtrack, composer Daniel Hart says:

“Making this music was somehow both like running from a pack of hyenas and wading through a river of chocolate mud. It has never taken David [Lowery] and I this long to find what we were looking for musically on any of his films, so to listen back now and actually love what we made is all the more satisfying, especially when I think about how many late nights and hair pullings went into it. Much like Gawain himself, I was stumbling through the wilderness most of the time and found little moments of good fortune here and there, often through stubborn dumb luck. I hope that when you listen to the soundtrack, you’ll think about things other than me sitting in my studio, endlessly fretting. But if you do, then your imagination is very accurate.”

THE GREEN KNIGHT (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

1. In Stori Stif And Stronge
2. Christ Is Born Indeed
3. You Do Smell Like You’ve Been At Mass All Night
4. Tell Me A Tale Of Yourself, So That I Might Know Thee
5. Shaped By Your Hands
6. O Greatest Of Kings
7. Remember It Is Only A Game
8. One Year Hence
9. I Promise You Will Not Come To Harm
10. Child Thou Ert A Pilgrim
11. Rest Them Bones My Brave Little Knight
12. A Meeting With St. Winifred
13. Your Head Is On Your Neck, My Lady
14. Are You Real, Or Are You A Spirit?
15. I Will Strike Thee Down With Every Care That I Have For Thee
16. Aiganz O Kulzphazur (feat. Emma Tring)
17. The Giant’s Call
18. Brave Sir Gawain Come To Face The Green Knight
19. Should Not A Knight Offer A Lady A Kiss In Thanks?
20. Hold Very Still
21. Do You Believe In Witchcraft?
22. You Are No Knight
23. I Never Asked For Your Help Anyway
24. Gawain Runs And Runs (feat. Bobak Lotfipour and Katinka Vindelev)
25. Blome Swete Lilie Flour
26. Excalibur
27. O Nyghtegale (feat. Atheena Frizzell)
28. Now I’m Ready, I’m Ready Now
29. Be Merry, Swete Lorde (feat. Katinka Vindelev)

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

Soundtrack Review: Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

Milan Records today releases GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) by composer Frank Ilfman (Big Bad WolvesThe OperativeRory’s Way ). Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Ilfman for Navot Papushado’s Gunpowder Milkshake. The film is a female-driven, high-concept thriller with a rich mythology and multi-generational narrative that give it a fresh, 21st century perspective on the traditional assassin film. Directed and co-written by Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves), Gunpowder Milkshake debuts on Netflix in the US, Canada and Nordics today, with theatrical releases rolling out everywhere else worldwide from July 15.

In Gunpowder Milkshake, Sam (Karen Gillan) was only 12 years old when her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), an elite assassin, was forced to abandon her. Sam was raised by The Firm, the ruthless crime syndicate her mother worked for. Now, 15 years later, Sam has followed in her mother’s footsteps and grown into a fierce hit-woman. She uses her “talents” to clean up The Firm’s most dangerous messes. She’s as efficient as she is loyal. But when a high-risk job goes wrong, Sam must choose between serving The Firm and protecting the life of an innocent 8-year-old girl – Emily (Chloe Coleman). With a target on her back, Sam has only one chance to survive: Reunite with her mother and her lethal associates, The Librarians (Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino). These three generations of women must now learn to trust each other, stand up to The Firm and their army of henchmen, and raise hell against those who could take everything from them. 

Of the soundtrack, Gunpowder Milkshake director Navot Papushado says:

“Because this movie mixes so many different genres and so many ideas, the music was always going to be the glue. When I started talking to composer Frankie (Haim Frank Ilfman), I said I had the Western vibe of Ennio Morricone, the Italian chic of Stelvio Cipriani, and the violent suspense of Bernard Herrmann in mind. The end result is Western mixed with Italian retro chic and the suspense of Bernard Hermann with an electronic vibe that came from Frankie. The soundtrack is retro but modern, it could be played on vinyl or Spotify.”

Due to a busy schedule, I’ve not yet had the chance to watch Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix (though I plan on fixing that in the next few days) but when I saw the soundtrack had arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t wait to check it out and get a hint of what I was in for.

Oh my goodness this music is so good!

The director really does sum it up perfectly by describing this music as Western mixed with Italian retro chic with the suspense of Bernard Hermann thrown in for good measure. The music for Gunpowder Milkshake is a delightful mish-mash of all of those things and more, it’s the kind of soundtrack you can sink your teeth into and find something different every time. In fact, I would go so far as to call this a “neo-classical” film score, in that it appears to be a modern take on a classical film score. Or, put another way, imagine if someone took a classic film score from the 1930s or 40s and redid it for the modern era, that’s what this music reminds me of.

This may be one of the best movie soundtracks I’ve heard in 2021, as I can hear influences all over the place. Even without the director mentioning it, I can hear the influence of Ennio Morricone the most, especially in “Goonfight at Gutterball Corral.” There’s also, as I said before, definitely a decent sampling of Bernard Hermann in this score too. But there’s also a lot in this music, and it may be coincidental, that reminds me of Daniel Pemberton’s score for The Man From UNCLE. I can’t put my finger on a specific cue, but more than once I found myself thinking of that film while listening to this soundtrack. That’s not a bad thing by the way, Pemberton’s scores are among my favorite, and if Frank Ilfman’s score for Gunpowder Milkshake reminds me of that style of film music, so much the better.

I can also say that the soundtrack for Gunpowder Milkshake is very easy to listen to, as many of the tracks are relatively short and therefore you can go through them at a relatively quick pace. I like how “bite-sized” some of these themes are. You get a feel for the music rather quickly and it didn’t take me a lot of time to take the measure of this film’s score.

Listening to the music for Gunpowder Milkshake has me more eager than ever to watch the movie itself, and I can only hope that the film is just as good as the music that was written for it.

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Opening Titles
  2. Home Sweet Home?
  3. Scarlet’s Theme
  4. Gunpowder Milkshake
  5. Big Bad Mommy
  6. New Books and Clean Guns
  7. Dressed To Kill
  8. Le Bonbon
  9. A Careless Whisper
  10. The Firm
  11. The Rollin Roars
  12. Goonfight at Gutterball Corral
  13. The Monsters
  14. Rock Monster
  15. Yankee and the Goons
  16. Redemption Is For The Careless
  17. 13:8 In 60 Seconds
  18. La Balada de los Charros
  19. Are You a Serial Killer?
  20. 944 Bullets
  21. The Sam and Emily Story
  22. Escape Route
  23. Fudge you!
  24. Bare Knuckles and Gold Bars
  25. The Library Fight
  26. The Big Gundown
  27. To The Death
  28. Madeleine’s Adagio
  29. McAlester’s Theme
  30. The Standoff
  31. Red Dot Marks The Spot
  32. Sam’s Theme
  33. Ensemble pour toujours

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

Soundtrack Review: The Tomorrow War (2021)

Milan Records has released THE TOMORROW WAR (AMAZON ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by GRAMMY Award®-winning and Emmy®- and BAFTA-nominated producer and composer Lorne Balfe.  Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Balfe for the futuristic action film directed by Chris McKay and marks the second collaboration between the composer and director, who previously worked together on McKay’s directorial debut The Lego Batman Movie

In The Tomorrow War, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.

Of the soundtrack, composer Lorne Balfe says:

“On the surface this is an action movie, but what stood out for me when writing the score was the family dynamics between the main characters. Being able to write themes and music around these relationships and people, both as their future and present-day selves was a unique experience. It was a delight to be able to work with Chris [McKay] again having previously worked with him on the Lego Batman movies, his creativity and versatility as a director is exceptional.”

After listening to Lorne Balfe’s work on Black Widow yesterday, I felt in the mood for more of his work and I decided to check out his score for The Tomorrow War. And after listening to his music for this recently released film, I’m so glad I did.

Balfe’s score for The Tomorrow War is beautiful! Predictably, there is a lot of synthesized music, which I would expect for a science-fiction film that revolves around time traveling 30 years into the future to fight aliens that are destroying planet Earth. But what really gets my attention is how Balfe contrasts the synthesized music with the orchestra, giving you a full range of music that is never once boring.

Another detail I liked? Balfe mixes in a range of sound effects: whooshes, vocalizations and what almost sounds like moaning in “Multiply.” This, combined with the music, creates a very unsettling effect and I really liked it. Given that this film deals with jumping 30 years into the future, the music makes you feel like you’re now in a time and place where you don’t belong, where you don’t fit, and that’s what you’d expect to feel if you’re suddenly pushed forward into the future.

Finally, I have to mention “The Tomorrow War” my favorite piece in the entire score. This gorgeous piece features an uplifting theme that recurs throughout the score, giving the music a big blockbuster feeling that I confess I did not expect given this film was released as an Amazon Original. I say “The Tomorrow War” is uplifting but there’s also hints of danger mixed in the latter half, reminding you that there’s a lot at stake in this unique conflict.

Whether you see the actual film or not, you need to take the time to listen to the music of The Tomorrow War, it is definitely worth it.

Track List

  1. Multiply (2:54)
  2. Spikes Attack (1:57)
  3. Who’s With Us? (4:04)
  4. Reunited (3:07)
  5. Back to the Past (4:03)
  6. The Tomorrow War (5:33)
  7. The Whitespikes (4:01)
  8. The Draft (4:41)
  9. Goodbye (4:15)
  10. So It Begins (8:21)
  11. Fight (2:47)
  12. Message From the Future (2:28)
  13. The Nest (2:08)
  14. Test Tubes (3:19)
  15. The Cube (2:51)
  16. Pushing (6:24)
  17. Miami Dolphins Still Suck (1:52)
  18. Colonel Forester (5:09)
  19. Dan Forester (3:16)
  20. Homecoming (2:17)

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

Soundtrack Review: Black Widow (2021)

Marvel Music/Hollywood Records has released the digital soundtrack from Marvel Studios’ Black Widow.  The album, featuring an original score composed and produced by Lorne Balfe (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “The Crown”), is available here.  Executive Soundtrack Producers are Cate Shortland, Kevin Feige and Dave Jordan.  Directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige, Black Widow—the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe— launches simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets.

Commenting on Balfe’s score in her liner notes from the vinyl album, Shortland said, “The score is fragile at times, embodying Natasha’s fears and her longing for connection. Her tenuous bond to the earth. But then it is completely powerful and I get cold shivers at how fun and epic it is. Lorne takes us on a spectacular ride.”

According to Balfe, from the moment he first watched the reels he felt Natasha needed a musical heritage. “I wanted to introduce the soundtrack of her story,” he said. “I listened to a lot of Russian folk music—it’s a very particular sound. This music is the ghost of the past that is always with her.” Balfe wrote folk music that helped define Natasha from a musical point of view. “The instrumental DNA includes balalaikas, duduks, dombras and hurdy-gurdies,” he said. “In addition to these instruments of that geographical place, we also needed it to have a female voice.” Balfe achieved this with a 20-piece female choir, singing in Russian. “The Russian language sounds a bit hard or aggressive, but there’s something very magical about it—something beautiful and rustic.”

Led by conductor Gavin Greenaway, the score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with 118 musicians and a 60-piece choir, consisting of both classical and gospel, featuring 40 men and 20 women.  Balfe said, “Abbey Road has been the musical home to the Avengers Family for many years. With ‘Black Widow,’ there was only one studio in the world that could match the epic-ness of her story, and the largest orchestra ever recorded at Abbey Road seemed fit for the occasion.”

I’ve been listening and re-listening to Lorne Balfe’s soundtrack for Black Widow for a few hours and I’m continually blown away by how amazing this music is. Of course I could hear snippets of this during the actual film, but once you can listen to the soundtrack without the dialogue and other sound effects getting in the way, everything comes out that much clearer.

I admit I didn’t realize during the movie that there was this much of a choral presence in the score, but now that I can hear the choir, I love it. I normally wouldn’t think of using a choir in a superhero movie but for a character like Natasha Romanoff it absolutely works. One of Balfe’s goals was to create a Russian folk music sound and he definitely succeeded. Again, I really love how “Russian” this score sounds. Even when the story isn’t in Russia itself, the influence of the former Soviet Union can be heard through most of the story and that’s a brilliant way to use film music, by subtly reminding the viewer that Black Widow was originally a Russian asset. I can especially hear this sound in “Natasha’s Lullaby” and “Yelena Belova”. Speaking of “Yelena Belova” I really like this track because, as a theme for Yelena, I swear I hear an echo of “Natasha’s Lullaby” within it, which would make so much sense given the connection Natasha and Yelena have with each other.

And then there’s “From the Shadows”, the cue that prompted me to do a soundtrack review in the first place. This is the music that is most closely associated with Taskmaster. I’m not sure if it’s the proper theme for the character or not, but you do hear it most often when Taskmaster is on the screen. This is my favorite theme/cue in the entire film and I love how twisted it sounds. I’m referring to that melodic turn on what sounds like a cello. That’s the sound that I hear whenever Taskmaster is hunting down an opponent (or is on the move in general). Given what we learn about that character, it fits perfectly and I like how it reaches out to grab your ear despite everything happening on screen at the same time.

One other thing I liked is the contrast Lorne Balfe creates between his action cues. There’s plenty of action, of course, but there’s also slower moments in the music, particularly during the family moments between Natasha, Yelena, Red Guardian and Milena, and I really liked them. Moments like that give the audience a chance to breathe and there are plenty of moments like this in Lorne Balfe’s score.

This soundtrack really belongs up there with the best Marvel movie scores, it’s the perfect musical fit for Black Widow and it reminded me how good Marvel film scores can be.

Track listing
1. Natasha’s Lullaby (3:24)
2. Latrodectus (2:40)
3. Fireflies (3:13)
4. The Pursuit (2:53)
5. The First Bite Is the Deepest (3:05)
6. Last Glimmer (4:19)
7. Dreykov (3:34)
8. You Don’t Know Me (2:01)
9. Yelena Belova (3:36)
10. From the Shadows (3:44)
11. Hand in Hand (2:46)
12. Blood Ties (2:54)
13. Whirlwind (3:28)
14. Arise (2:13)
15. Natasha’s Fragments (1:55)
16. A Sister Says Goodbye (4:14)
17. I Can’t Save Us (1:51)
18. Red Rising (3:57)
19. The Betrayed (5:38)
20. The Descent (2:05)
21. Faces to the Sun (1:51)
22. Natasha Soars (2:19)
23. Last Love (1:59)
24. Into the Past (4:55)
25. Broken Free (3:09)
26. A Calling (2:10)

Let me know what you think about Black Widow (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Black Widow (2021)

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

My Thoughts on: Black Widow (2021)

It feels like an eternity since I watched Avengers: Endgame in the waning days of 2019. So much has happened since then that I genuinely forgot what it felt like to experience a Marvel movie in the theater. And then I sat down to watch Black Widow (after waiting more than a year to see it) and it all came rushing back to me, that thrill that can only come from seeing a Marvel film on the big screen.

Let me start off by saying that Black Widow was absolutely worth the extended wait. Sure, it would’ve been ideal if we’d gotten this story several years ago, or at least before Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but it’s made clear multiple times that this film takes place immediately after Captain America: Civil War, so I’m willing to let it go. At least we finally got a standalone story about Black Widow that takes us deep into her past, and gives us a tantalizing look at how she (and other “widows”) were trained.

If I have one gripe with Black Widow it’s that I really wanted to see more of the Red Room training that goes into creating assassins like Natasha and Yelena. We’re given, as I said, a tantalizing glimpse, but no more. Given what’s implied about this training process, that might be for the best, but I still found myself wanting more.

Other than that, I found myself loving pretty much everything about Black Widow. The chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh is off the charts and is by far one of my favorite parts of this movie. Believe the hype about Pugh’s performance as Yelena Belova, it’s all true. I’m not sure if Yelena is going to be the new Black Widow moving forward, but I could certainly see her stepping into that role in future Marvel films and I wouldn’t complain if that indeed happened. Speaking of chemistry, I really enjoyed the interplay between David Harbour (Red Guardian) and Rachel Weisz. I would happily watch a film that explored the background of these two characters, especially anything that focused more on Red Guardian. I think we all want to see a film that explores THAT story.

Another detail I liked and one that surprised me is how many funny moments there are in this film. Given the serious topics involved, I wasn’t expecting this at all, but I really liked it, it helped to break up the tension, which is always an important element that some movies neglect. After all, if you keep things too fast or too serious all the way through, it can really grate on an audience.

And make no mistake, there are some serious issues touched on in Black Widow, particularly in regards to the treatment of women. I know what I said earlier about wishing this film had come out several years earlier, but given everything that’s happened in recent years (especially the Me Too movement) I think maybe Black Widow came out at the right time after all. The film’s main villain is one of the most disturbing and revolting to appear in the entire MCU and long before he meets his demise you’ll be begging Natasha to finish him off. Speaking of villains, for what it’s worth, I really like Taskmaster’s appearance in this film. I admit I’m not familiar with the character’s comic book origins, but I like how the character was updated for this film.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the film’s score. Lorne Balfe has constructed some gorgeous music to go with Black Widow and what I heard intrigued me enough that a full-on soundtrack review will be forthcoming. My favorite part has to be the music associated with Taskmaster and if you’ve seen the movie you probably know what I’m talking about (my soundtrack review will provide details). And one final note: I like that the movie leaves some plot threads unresolved, because it practically guarantees that we will see some of these characters again.

In conclusion, I loved Black Widow. Marvel has returned to the big screen in style and I urge everyone who hasn’t seen it yet to go see Black Widow in theaters if at all possible, this is a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen.

Let me know what you think about Black Widow in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Soundtrack News: WaterTower Music Releases ‘TNT’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ Original Series Soundtrack’

WaterTower Music is excited to announce the release of the TNT Original Series Soundtrack for the Warner Bros. Television crime-drama Animal Kingdom, composed by Alexis Marsh & Samuel Jones. The album debuted on July 9, 2021, ahead of the Season 5 premiere Sunday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.

Composing duo Alexis Marsh & Samuel Jones began their career collaborating with rising filmmakers in Los Angeles after graduating from USC’s Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program in 2010. Their first feature film score, for Jocelyn Towne’s I Am I, introduced a DIY aesthetic of recording and performing each instrument at their home studio while marking their emergence as songwriters and producers with the film’s main title song, ‘Chances (Gone Too Soon)’. The two multi-instrumentalists have since contributed music ranging in style from electronic minimalism to lush orchestral for feature films (We’ll Never Have Paris, Lila & Eve, Preservation, Equity, Next Gen), TV shows (TNT’s Animal Kingdom, HBO’s Sesame Street), documentaries (Ingrid, 20 Years of Madness, Looking at the Stars), art installations (Alex Israel’s KBRZ The Breeze, As It Lays) and advertising campaigns (Pinterest, Glossier, Rimowa).

Animal Kingdom centers on a Southern California family, whose excessive lifestyle is fueled by their criminal activities. When J Cody (Finn Cole) moves in with his estranged grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody and her freewheeling sons – Andrew “Pope” (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary) – he quickly learns the reason he’s been shielded from them for years. Smurf and her boys make their living through carefully planned armed robberies and other criminal activities. In order to survive in this world, J must prove his loyalties to the Cody crime family.

This 19-track Animal Kingdom album, composed by Marsh & Jones, features original music selects from Seasons 1 through 4, including ‘Big Love,’ the series main title theme from composers Atticus Ross & Claudia Sarne.

Marsh & Jones comment on the show’s music:

It’s a lot of fun to translate metaphors and adjectives into music. In developing the sound of the Animal Kingdom score, the producers used words like ‘muscular,’ ‘broken glass,’ ‘jagged,’ and our collective favorite ‘bilious contempt’ – which we still laugh about five years on. Each season we’ve pushed the score into new areas of what those descriptors could sound like by using pedals, modular synths, or extreme digital manipulations to shape the sound of recorded drums, guitar, and bass.”

They continue:

“The overarching direction has always been to make it unsettling. The essential tension for us is in contrasting how successful the Codys are when they work together with how self-destructive they are when they break off from the family – how they all crave independence at various points, but then make these agonizing choices that only bind them tighter to one another. We have to balance musical elements carefully to avoid sentimentality, convey the seriousness of the situations, but also allow for moments of relief and levity so the pressure doesn’t become overwhelming.”

TRACK LISTING
1. Big Love (Main Title Theme – Atticus Ross & Claudia Sarne)
2. Julia’s Room
3. Biking
4. Cutback
5. Ms. Anderson
6. Paintball
7. New Canticle
8. 3 Of Us, 2 Of You
9. Boarding
10. I Forgive You
11. Don’t Cry
12. The Family Cut
13. Let Go
14. Tank
15. Pierce(d)
16. Into The Black
17. Bullpen
18. Didn’t Think You Had It In You
19. All Points Bulletin

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

My Thoughts on: The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (2021)

I recently had the opportunity to check out a screener for the upcoming documentary The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (due to release on July 9th), which follows director Joshua Zeman’s journey to locate the so-called “52-Hertz whale”, a near-legendary creature due to the fact that it appears to be the only whale in existence to call out at a frequency of 52 Hertz, giving it the nickname “the loneliest whale” because no other whales can seemingly communicate back with it.

I’d never heard of the loneliest whale before seeing this documentary, so I found the entire story fascinating. It also helped that I’ve always been interested in whales, and I’ll always take the opportunity to learn more about them if I can. This documentary will certainly teach you quite a bit about whales, particularly about blue whales (the largest whale on Earth), fin whales (the second-largest) and humpback whales. I knew of course that humpback whales could sing, but I never knew that blue whales and fin whales had their own vocalizations as well, and the documentary covers this in a way that makes it easy to understand.

The bulk of the documentary, as the title implies, follows Zeman and a crew as they embark on a seven-day expedition to look for this mysterious 52-Hertz whale, which at the time of filming in 2015 hadn’t been documented for nearly 11 years. In between tracking the expedition however, there are segments inserted that explain the history of humanity’s fascination with whales for better and for worse. The history of humans hunting whales is touched upon, along with the subsequent “Save the Whales” movement that started in the 1970s. It’s a nice way to cut up the action and prevents what could be relatively boring story about hunting for one lone whale into a story that not only follows that hunt, but tells you about humanity’s relationship with whales along the way.

That being said, while I do appreciate learning about the history of whaling and the devastating effect it had on whale populations worldwide, I did find some of those scenes to be rather distressing. I’m sure that was the idea, but if you are uncomfortable with the sight of blood and seeing carcasses cut up, some of that footage might bother you.

Now, on the side of the story that followed the hunt for the whale, I liked how they explained each step of what they were doing to try and hunt for the whale. They even included some amazing underwater footage of the sonar buoys deploying, which I found fascinating because I had no idea that’s what one looked like and it was really helpful that the documentary showed that process. But my favorite part has to be when the crew went around “tagging” blue whales and fin whales in an effort to locate the loneliest whale. And I liked it because these tags had cameras attached, so once they managed the rhythm of getting the tag attached, one minute you (the viewer) are in the air, the next…you’re suddenly riding on the back of a blue whale, the largest animal on Earth. It’s a thrilling moment, one that took my breath away and I definitely have a new appreciation for whales after seeing them up close like that.

But aside from the whales, The Loneliest Whale also touches on why we are so fascinated by this mysterious whale. There’s an interesting commentary on the nature of human relationships and how they’ve changed. The documentary could have touched on this a bit more, but it definitely provides some food for thought on the nature of human relationships and why they’re so important (and necessary) for us.

Now, the one thing that frustrates me about The Loneliest Whale is that it ends with less resolution than I would like. I know documentaries like this aren’t guaranteed to have conclusive endings, but this one’s ending definitely left me wanting more. Hopefully there will be a follow up documentary down the line, because I definitely want to hear more about this mysterious whale.

In the end, I’m very glad I got to see The Loneliest Whale. I learned a lot about whales, about our history of interacting with them, and I gained a deeper appreciation for the issues facing whales in the 21st century. This is a really fun documentary and I highly recommend checking it out.

Let me know what you think about The Loneliest Whale in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook