Soundtrack Review: Mortal Kombat (2021)

WaterTower Music has released the soundtrack to New Line Cinema’s explosive new movie Mortal Kombat, which brings to life the intense action of the blockbuster video game franchise in all its brutal glory, pitting the all-time, fan-favorite champions against one another in the ultimate, no-holds-barred, gory battle that pushes them to their very limits. The Mortal Kombat (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) contains all new score by Golden Globe-, Emmy-, and Grammy-nominated composer Benjamin Wallfisch (IT and IT Chapter 2, Shazam, Blade Runner: 2049 [w/ Hans Zimmer]). It features 24 tracks by Wallfisch, who interpreted the film’s themes and emphasized the story’s hard-driving, visceral action through his music.

Director Simon McQuoid discussed working with Wallfisch on the score:

“Ben and I both knew that we needed to use the classic Immortals track ‘Techno Syndrome’ as source material for the entire score of Mortal Kombat. But along with that we knew that an updated elevated version of the song also needed to be created. And Ben certainly delivered! I am so excited by this new 2021 version of the track, when I first heard it, it blew my mind. Actually, Ben kind of blew my mind on a daily basis through the making of this film, so we can all thank Benjamin Wallfisch for his genius and passion in creating ‘Techno Syndrome 2021’.

Wallfisch further elaborated:

“When I was invited to come on board ‘Mortal Kombat,’ I was very aware of the responsibility that comes with scoring a franchise so deeply embedded in pop culture and with such a passionate fanbase. My first question was what can we do with ‘Techno Syndrome,’ a piece of music so much part of the DNA of the game and the original movies? What motifs could be reinvented and blown up to a full-scale symphonic sound world in the score, and might there be room for a full reinvention of the whole song as an EDM single in 2021? A huge thank you to The Immortals for giving us their blessing to reimagine their classic track in this way, as a celebration of the world of Mortal Kombat and its fans, and of the uplifting power of Electronic Dance Music, which the original did so much to light the fuse of 30 years ago.”

I have rarely experienced such a turnaround as what I’ve felt regarding Mortal Kombat. Having minimal contact with the video game series (and the one time I made an effort to play not going particularly well), I was initially on the fence and unable to emotionally invest in the idea of the film at all. But then THAT trailer came out, and I was intrigued. Then came the chance to listen to the soundtrack ahead of its release on April 23…

And I think my brain exploded.

I may have the bad habit of using superlatives too often in my reviews, but please believe me when I say Benjamin Wallfisch’s score for Mortal Kombat is one of the best I’ve ever heard. This isn’t just a soundtrack for an action film, this is an entire world realized through sound and melody and I am here for every last minute of it. During the music for the fight scenes (it’s not hard to tell which ones those are) you can feel every punch and every attack with brutal clarity. For the music alone, I am now itching to see these fight scenes in their proper context, because I need to know how this music connects to the action. And it’s such beautiful music, it has what I like to call “height” which is to say it expands and creates the illusion of space as it goes along. You can literally hear the music grow and soar in certain places, which helps to create the idea of a world existing within the music.

However as I said there’s far more to this soundtrack then just action. Wallfisch also demonstrates a keen ability to take the music in the opposite direction, to slow it down and allow the audience to take a collective breath. That’s an important thing for any film: if the soundtrack is just GO GO GO constantly, it can eventually begin to grate on the ear and become quite tiresome. But the music for Mortal Kombat isn’t like that at all (much to my surprise). There’s plenty of action to go around, but also more than enough moments of calm and relative quiet, though it is more often than not the “calm before the storm” type of quiet. There’s an impressive amount of balancing going on between the two extremes of loud and quiet, and I love it all.

Another detail I like about this soundtrack? The track list doesn’t give too much away regarding plot details. In fact, if I’m reading the track list correctly, most of these tracks appear to be themes for specific characters, which is great because I love thematic-based soundtracks (when done properly). Even so, very little is given away in terms of plot, and that’s great. I’ve seen too many soundtracks where you can suss out the plot of a film from the track list names alone, but you can’t do that here.

I could go on and on about the music for Mortal Kombat, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that listening to this soundtrack has rocketed this film to the top of my must see list for 2021 (and six months ago I couldn’t imagine saying that). If you get the chance, you need to check out this soundtrack independently of the film itself, it is that good.

TRACK LIST

  1. Techno Syndrome 2021 (Mortal Kombat)
  2. Hanzo Hasashi
  3. Lord Raiden
  4. Bi-Han
  5. Shang Tsung
  6. Cole Young
  7. Birthmark
  8. Sonya Blade
  9. Kano v Reptile
  10. Liu Kang
  11. The Great Protector
  12. Sub-Zero
  13. Kung Lao
  14. Origins
  15. Kabal
  16. Goro
  17. Arcana
  18. Jax Briggs
  19. The Void
  20. The Tournament
  21. Sub-Zero v Cole Young
  22. I Am Scorpion
  23. We Fight as One
  24. Get Over Here

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

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Music in Wrestling #1: Why Talk About It?

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a few years, you might remember that I briefly attempted a series sometime back where I wanted to talk about music in wrestling, particularly during major WWE events like Wrestlemania. As I was deeply engrossed in my dissertation at the time, the series never went anywhere and I ultimately deleted the article I did write. But now that I’m long since done with grad school, and I find my love of wrestling to be alive and well thanks to AEW, I think it’s high time I attempted this series again.

So that’s what this series will be about: in a series of posts I’m going to talk about music in wrestling, its history, notable examples, and why it works to make wrestling shows and events completely awesome.

However I understand that some longtime readers might be confused by this decision, wondering “This is Film Music Central, why would you want to talk about music at a wrestling show? Isn’t that a completely different topic?” It might seem completely unrelated at first glance, but hear me out, because there is a connection, albeit a tenuous one. If you consider the wrestling shows that are held on television, any music produced for those events instantly falls under the genre of television music, and TV music is the younger sibling of film music. So….it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that a film music blog could cover the topic.

“But….” the objection might continue “Why talk about the subject at all?”

Why indeed? I suppose this would be a good time to explain that I’ve been fascinated by the wrestling industry for years, how the shows are made, how the different elements come together, all of it. And being the musicologist that I am, it was only natural that I gravitated to the musical side of the industry. And make no mistake, there is a very musical side to the wrestling business. As I’ll discuss down the road, all of the major promotions employ house composers to put themes together for wrestlers and shows, and it’s a constantly evolving mix of music that has to tell a story every week on television. But more than that, I want to talk about music in wrestling because I feel like it’s not being given enough attention. There’s no comprehensive book on the subject (though I’m hoping to change that someday), and I feel like people need to know the major role that music plays in the wrestling industry.

Also, I feel like writing a series on this subject will help remind people that wrestling shows are far more than just watching people beat each other up. Wrestling is not just a series of fights, it’s a full-on experience, it’s being dropped into this crazy world where larger than life characters step into a ring and do feats that are almost superhuman. And the music is part and parcel with all that.

And yes, I am hoping to write a book on this subject someday. If nothing else, this particular blog series will be my first attempt to suss out my thoughts on the subject in something resembling a professional manner. Maybe it goes somewhere, maybe it doesn’t, but at least I’ll try. I hope you enjoy this series, I’m going to do my best to cover as wide a base of shows and promotions as I can, so if you follow a certain wrestling promotion and want to see me cover a particular theme or organization, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

I hope this introduction explains why I’m going to be talking about music in wrestling. I’ve been thinking about a series like this for a long time, and I’m excited to finally move forward with it.

Let me know your thoughts about this subject (good or bad) in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Demon’s Souls’ Music from the Video Game Coming to Vinyl 6/18

Milan Records has announced the first-ever vinyl release of Demon’s Souls (Original Soundtrack), an album of music from the PlayStation®5 console remake of the classic game title, by composer Shunsuke Kida.

Available on CD now, Kida’s score delivers a bold and brilliant soundtrack befitting of the game’s lore.  Out Friday, June 18 and available for preorder now, the album’s vinyl edition arrives as a 2-LP deluxe gatefold set featuring artwork by renowned illustrator, designer and artist Ken Taylor – an inside look at the vinyl edition can be found here.  Demon’s Souls is currently available for the PlayStation®5 console from Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), PlayStation Studios, and Bluepoint Games. 

The vinyl will also be available in various vinyl color variants exclusive to Mondo, Light In The Attic Records, Newbury Comic, Channel 3 Records and Black Screen Records; detailed information surrounding each color variant can be found via individual retailers. 

In his quest for power, the 12th King of Boletaria, King Allant channeled the ancient Soul Arts, awakening a demon from the dawn of time itself, The Old One. With the summoning of The Old One, a colorless fog swept across the land, unleashing nightmarish creatures that hungered for human souls. Those whose souls were stripped from them, lost their minds – left only with the desire to attack the sane that remained. Now, Boletaria is cut off from the outside world, and the knights who dare penetrate the deep fog to free the land from its plight are never seen again. As a lone warrior who has braved the baneful fog, you must face the hardest of challenges to earn the title “Slayer of Demons” and send The Old One back to its slumber.

DEMON’S SOULS (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

DISC 1 – SIDE A:

  1. Demon’s Souls
  2. The Beginning
  3. Maiden Astraea
  4. Storm King
  5. Flamelurker
  6. Tales of Old

DISC 1 – SIDE B:

  1. Penetrator
  2. Maneater
  3. Maiden in Black
  4. Fool’s Idol
  5. Leechmonger
  6. Tower Knight

DISC 2 – SIDE C:

  1. Old Monk
  2. Phalanx
  3. Armor Spider
  4. Dirty Colossus
  5. Dragon God
    DISC 2 – SIDE D:
  6. Old King Allant
  7. The Old One
  8. One Who Craves Souls
  9. Return to Slumber

DISC 2 – SIDE D:

  1. Old King Allant
  2. The Old One
  3. One Who Craves Souls
  4. Return to Slumber

The Demon’s Souls soundtrack will be available on vinyl starting June 18, 2021.

See also:

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Soundtrack News: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Soundtrack Vol. 1 Available Now!

On April 9th, Marvel Music/Hollywood Records released The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Volume 1 (Episodes 1-3) with music composed by Henry Jackman on digital. Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier. The pair, who came together in the final moments of “Avengers: Endgame,” team up on a global adventure that tests their abilities—and their patience. Directed by Kari Skogland with Malcolm Spellman serving as head writer, the six-episode series also stars Daniel Brühl as Zemo, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, and Wyatt Russell as John Walker.

Though broken up into separate episodes, Jackman’s score for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is quintessential MCU film music (and I’ll call it that despite the streaming format). It has that perfect blend of suspense and action that I’ve come to love in these movies. This music, as with most scores in the MCU, is good at getting you to hold your breath and lean in to hold more, only to knock you back with a sudden burst of sound. The synthetic elements in the music are something of a surprise, but given that this series is set in (pretty much) the present day (time skip notwithstanding), it makes sense that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would need as modern-sounding a soundtrack as possible. This show is meant to be something of a thriller after all, and the music definitely creates that idea.

If this is how good the music is for just the first three episodes, I can’t wait to hear Volume 2, which is due to be released on April 30th.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Volume 1 Track List

  1. Louisiana Hero (2:14)
  2. Tough Act to Follow (1:16)
  3. Airborne Operation (5:56)
  4. Smithsonian Tribute (0:53)
  5. Nightmares (1:22)
  6. What Do You Want? (1:22)
  7. Pluck Up the Nerve (1:53)
  8. New Agitators (1:13)
  9. The Wrong Guy (1:38)
  10. America’s Sweetheart (1:05)
  11. No Parachute (1:29)
  12. Stakeout (1:39)
  13. Outmatched (2:46)
  14. Safe House (2:41)
  15. Someone You Should Meet (1:09)
  16. Overlooked For Promotion (1:20)
  17. Warranted Attention (1:03)
  18. Fraying Edges (2:04)
  19. Take One For the Team (2:21)
  20. Unnecessary Use of Force (1:48)
  21. Prison Break (4:41)
  22. A Marriage of Convenience (0:32)
  23. A Pure Heart (1:48)
  24. Low Town (1:24)
  25. Attack, Soldier! (1:47)
  26. Breaking Character (2:29)
  27. Bad Science (3:30)
  28. Masked Man (1:20)
  29. Dissent and Disillusionment (1:08)
  30. Radicalized (1:19)
  31. Star Spangled Man – The Captain America Drum Corps (1:44)

Be sure to check out The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Volume 1 as soon as you can!

Have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Pacific Rim: The Black (2021)

On March 5, Milan Records and Sony Music Masterworks released Pacific Rim: The Black (Music from the Netflix Original Anime Series) by composer Brandon Campbell.  Available everywhere now, the album features score music written by Campbell for Netflix’s newest anime series from Legendary Television and based on Legendary and Guillermo del Toro’s blockbuster film franchise Pacific Rim.  Continuing the tale of epic battles between monsters and robots in an exciting new style, Pacific Rim: The Black made its global debut yesterday and is available now to watch exclusively on Netflix.   

Of the soundtrack, composer Brandon Campbell had the following to say:

“Our showrunner, Greg Johnson, wanted a score that encompassed bits of DNA from the original Pacific Rim film while still being unique enough to support the struggles and triumphs of Taylor and Hailey. We created a hybrid orchestral score with the heavy themes and melodic material that will hopefully resonate with Pacific Rim fans, while including more intimate and emotional musical moments that accompany our characters as they make their way across The Black. I hope my music brings you back into the world of the awesome power of the Kaiju and Jaeger, but also into the hearts of Taylor and Hailey.”

I meant to check out this soundtrack a solid month ago and I regret that life got in the way to delay me because the music for Pacific Rim: The Black is good, really good. While I haven’t heard the soundtracks for either Pacific Rim movie (a terrible shortcoming I know), there are moments sprinkled throughout this soundtrack that sound so “big” they can only come from and/or be inspired by the original movie soundtracks. This is great, as thematic continuity between films and a television series is a proven way to help audiences get invested in the new story. Put it like this: if the story sounds like it comes from the same universe, then it becomes easier to accept the story as belonging to that universe, even if none of the regular movie characters show up.

What’s really interesting to me aside from that is the musical connection to other kaiju movies that I swear I can hear. For example, in ‘Kaiju Messiah’, there’s a musical sequence that sounds eerily similar to music I’ve heard in Godzilla (2014), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Godzilla vs Kong (2021) whenever Godzilla is in action. I don’t know if this is deliberate or not, but it would make sense since the story of Pacific Rim is about fighting kaiju (which is what Godzilla is, albeit in a different story).

Another thing I really like about the music for Pacific Rim: The Black is how descriptive it is. Which is to say it paints an evocative picture of how desolate this setting is, and how dangerous. There’s nothing generic about this music, you know that it belongs to science-fiction just by listening to it. It would’ve been so easy for Netflix to commission music that was bare-bones acceptable, but they didn’t do that, they got music that carries its share of the story, and that is so important. You need the music to drive the final nail home of where this story is taking place, what is this world like? The wrong music, as I’ve said many times before, can break a decent story, and by all accounts this is the best music possible for Pacific Rim: The Black.

PACIFIC RIM: THE BLACK (MUSIC FROM THE NETFLIX ORIGINAL ANIME SERIES)
TRACKLISTING

  1. The Black
  2. They Always Come Back
  3. Jaeger Breaker
  4. The Drift
  5. b0y
  6. Shane
  7. Boneyard
  8. I’ve Had Worse Benders
  9. Mind Heist
  10. Dismei
  11. Ghost Pilot
  12. Shadow Basin
  13. Bogan Boogie
  14. Memories
  15. Never Coming Back
  16. The Most Powerful Man in The Black
  17. Hunter Vertigo
  18. Just Calm Down
  19. Kajiu Messiah
  20. Copperhead
  21. Atlas Destroyer

It’s a shame I didn’t get to this soundtrack a month ago, but better late than never right? I really enjoyed checking out the music for Pacific Rim: The Black, and you should check it out right away if you get the chance, as it is currently available.

Let me know your thoughts on Pacific Rim: The Black (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Soundtracks

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Music for Digging into the Past: Talking With Stefan Gregory about Netflix’s ‘The Dig’ (2021)

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Australian composer Stefan Gregory about his work on the Netflix film The Dig. Gregory makes his major feature film score debut with this Netflix drama, based on the novel of the same name by John Preston. Ralph Fiennes stars in the film as real-life excavator Basil Brown, who until recent years was uncredited for his work in unearthing the fossil of an Anglo-Saxon wooden ship on a young widow’s (Carey Mulligan) estate. With this project, Stefan makes the transition to film scoring from the world of composing and sound design for theatre. He studied mathematics in college, but his passion for music (mainly Jazz) overtook and led to him pursuing a career in writing music for theatre productions. 

Enjoy our conversation about The Dig!

How did you get started as a composer?

Improvising and composing were part of how I learnt music from a young age. My dad was a folk musician. My first paid gig was through a friend who worked in theatre, scoring a production of Hamlet for $500 which featured classical banjo and cello.

What was it like making the leap from composing for the theatre to composing for film? Was it a big difference?

It was fairly straight forward, the basic ideas are the same in film and theatre – support the story and the visual world, don’t get in the way of the text, find something that’s missing from the story that you can tell with the music. One difference is that theatre music sometimes needs to be a little bit flexible as the timing can change every night, whereas film music needs to be precise.

There are some subtler differences that are hard to put into words – something about the way we interpret film as truth, because it’s based in photography, even though the footsteps you’re hearing are probably foley. In theatre, we always know it’s fake, because we can look up and see the stage lights and the proscenium arch, so it relies more on the imagination. This changes the way music is interpreted. If you use certain filmic tropes in theatre, they might come across as cheesy or the audience might feel they’re being manipulated, which turns them off. Yet those same tropes work in film, or actually they’re essential because they’re part of the grammar of film. But all this is mostly very subtle.

Did it help that you were working with director Simon Stone, given that you’ve collaborated for a decade together? I have to imagine that would help with any transition from theatre to film.

It does really help to know you director well, as they are your main collaborator. Another flipped way to look at it is: it helps to work with directors whose philosophy and aesthetic you share, and then you’ll end up working together for a decade!

How did you decide on the overall sound for The Dig? It’s not how I imagined a film about an archaeological dig would sound, though I do love the intimacy of the music. I’m also curious about one thing: I read that your initial idea was to create music of the era. What, specifically would that have sounded like? I know you ultimately didn’t go in that direction but I’m curious as to how it differed from what you did go with.

We initially talked about referencing orchestral music of the period, and I did a lot of work on that before I saw the edit. However most of those ideas didn’t seem to work when we put them to picture – the contemporary camera and editing language seemed to beg for a more contemporary score. I avoided using piano for quite a while but eventually I relinquished, and that really helped unlock the whole sound for me. I guess there’s a reason it’s used so much. The strings and orchestra were great for the landscape but piano gave it the intimacy and human touch it needed.

On a related note, when you decided what the film would sound like, where did you start with composing the score? Was it with a single theme that expanded outward or was it more organic than that?

In this case it was a piano piece I wrote that was a breakthrough for me, the tone and style seem right and it suddenly became clear what sort of compositional world was going to work. It wasn’t the theme itself, but certain harmonic ideas in it that I ran with, and the simplicity of the melody. Interestingly, that particular piano piece was cut when there was a big change in the edit, as it resulted in the whole film feeling slightly faster and so that piece was now too languid.

How much time did you have to work on The Dig? Were you impacted by the pandemic? If so, how did you work around it with the recording process?

I was brought on before the shoot and watched the daily rushes. By the time I got properly started though, and had seen rough cut, I think I had about 3 to 4 months to write it. This coincided with the first wave of the pandemic in the UK, so in the middle of the process I and my pregnant partner and 3 year old daughter made the decision to come back to Australia. We had already sent my mother home as a precautionary, who had been helping us with child minding. My partner was now confined to bed with morning sickness, so it was becoming a challenge for me caring for my family and writing my first feature score at the same time. When we arrived back in Sydney on one of the last easily available flights we had to stay on a remote bushland property which turned out not to have phone, internet or even hot water at first. No-one would come to fix the internet and phone for weeks as everyone was in lockdown. It was a beautiful landscape however, and there was a magnificent view of a large river, which was inspiring for the music. The process of collaboration became difficult – I had to drive up a dirt track in a four-wheel drive and upload files over 4G to the director in Vienna.

Then when it came to recording, no orchestras were open for business. Eventually Iceland opened up, and we were lucky to have a fantastic orchestra and team over there who were able to provide online streaming of the session. There were people listening in from all over the world – Sydney, New York, London, Quito and Vienna – to a small studio in a picturesque coastal town a few hours east of Reykjavik. The sessions began at about 8pm Sydney time and went to about 7am. I was a bit tired by the end!

One question that I can’t get off my mind is, and forgive me if this comes out wrong, did you write some of this music to “mimic” what an archaeologist does? A lot of the smaller, more delicate moments remind me of the gentle brushing and probing that an archaeologist has to do to remove these precious artifacts from the ground, and I was wondering if that was done on purpose.

Haha! I love this observation. It wasn’t quite as deliberate as that, but it was scored to picture so probably something was going on in my subconscious.

What’s one thing you hope viewers take away with them when they watch The Dig and hear your score?

I hope they hear the score as part of the cohesive whole experience of the film, and don’t think about it too much – all the elements of film working together sympathetically. As far as the experience, it will resonate differently with different people, and everyone will find something slightly different in it. Certainly there are some big themes in there; life, death, time, earth, legacy, love.

Do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack?

A few. I like the montage that starts just after the Piggots arrive, and continues under Basil showing little Robert the stars through a telescope, and cuts to the misty morning. I also like the section after they’ve pulled the body from the plane crash, with the sunset and Rory and Peggy – it feels slightly unexpected musically to me.

Thank you again for taking the time to talk about your work on The Dig.

Thank you for your questions!

A big thank you to Stefan Gregory for taking the time to speak with me about his work on The Dig. You can check out the film on Netflix!

Have a great day!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: DOTA: Dragon’s Blood (2021)

On March 25th, Netflix released their new original anime DOTA: Dragon’s Blood, with a score by composer Dino Meneghin (Teen Wolf, Lore), based on the massively popular online MOBA video game DOTA 2. Dino is best known for his television score for MTV’s Teen Wolf, adapted from the classic Michael J. Fox films, as well as several episodes of the hit Amazon Prime Original horror anthology series Lore. In addition to his work in television, Meneghin also scored SNL alumni Taran Killan’s action comedy feature film Killing Gunther with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the short films The Tow and Prom.

Although the series is set in the fantasy DOTA universe, the score isn’t the kind of sweeping, orchestral music typically found in the genre. Composer Dino Meneghin wanted a different kind of score more akin to Tangerine Dream or the old Heavy Metal cartoons. Meneghin set to work creating an entirely unexpected score for the series driven by synths and oftentimes abstract but still able to pull the emotional weight of the story.

Speaking about his experience working on the series, Meneghin said:

“DOTA has been one of the best musical experiences of my career so far. Ashley Miller, Netflix, and Studio MIR were collaborative, open-minded, and willing to take chances with the score. Getting a chance to dive so deeply into a world loved by so many players and fans has been an incredible experience, and I hope the viewers will see and hear how much love we put into it.”

The music for DOTA: Dragon’s Blood really isn’t what you’d expect for a fantasy series. I was fully prepared for the full orchestral experience, as that often pairs well with these kinds of stories, but Meneghin didn’t go in that direction. Instead, what he’s put together is more pared down, while remaining intricate. There is a distinct hint of the fantastical if you listen to the music all the way through, but it’s not big and lush like, say, Game of Thrones. No, the music for DOTA: Dragon’s Blood….it almost reminds me of the music for Blade Runner, in spirit if not in actual texture. The way the synths form a background to the melody, it really does remind me of that science-fiction story, and that’s not a bad thing.

This may sound weird, but hearing the synths in the music had me thinking that perhaps the music is, in its own way, paying homage to DOTA’s digital roots as an online game. The synths make me think of a virtual world, which is how DOTA started, and I like how Meneghin weaves the artificial tones in and out of the musical score for DOTA: Dragon’s Blood.

I really enjoyed listening to the music for DOTA: Dragon’s Blood, it’s been a pleasant surprise and one that everyone should check out when they get the chance.

Let me know what you think about DOTA: Dragon’s Blood in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Teen Wolf (2011-present)

TV Soundtracks

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

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Soundtrack News: ‘My Hero Academia’ Season 5 EP Out Now!

Milan Records released My Hero Academia Season 5 (Original Series Soundtrack EP) with music by composer and arranger Yuki Hayashi (My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, Pretty Cure, Strawberry Night) on March 31, 2021.

Yuki Hayashi was born in Kyoto in 1980.  Being an active member in a men’s rhythmic gymnastics team in his early years spawned his interest in BGM while selecting songs to complement performances.  This led him to begin teaching himself music composition while at university, despite not having a background in music itself. After graduating, Yuki acquired the basics of track making under house techno DJ and sound-maker Hideo Kobayashi and started producing his first range of music accompaniments for dance sports.  

Available everywhere now, the EP features music written by Hayashi for the fifth season of the critically-acclaimed, hugely popular anime series. Hayashi returns to the My Hero Academia universe after scoring all four seasons of the hit anime television series as well as the first two film installments, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes and My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising. Based on Kōhei Horikoshi’s well-loved manga series, the fifth season of My Hero Academia premiered March 27.

MY HERO ACADEMIA SEASON 5 (ORIGINAL SERIES SOUNDTRACK EP)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Go, Plus Ultra
  2. So Classmate Were Born Of Worthy Competition
  3. Successor
  4. A VS B
  5. “QUIRK” DON-PACHI Great Exchange
  6. What To Inherit

See also:

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My Thoughts on: Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

After delays and delays, I finally sat down this afternoon to watch Godzilla vs Kong, the fourth entry in the MonsterVerse that also includes Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. As the title implies, this film centers around an epic clash between Godzilla and Kong, the two most dominant Titans left on Earth after the events of Godzilla: KOTM.

Given that there are currently no concrete plans for a fifth entry in the MonsterVerse, it would not be unreasonable to look at Godzilla vs Kong as the ending for the story that started in 2014 with Godzilla. Even if the story does continue, there’s no denying that Godzilla vs Kong gets almost everything right and blows every expectation away. Everyone who comes in hoping for that epic kaiju fight is going to get exactly what they wanted. The action is huge, explosive, and was definitely made with an IMAX screen in mind (indeed, I found myself cursing several times throughout the film that I was limited to my TV screen at home because i could tell how this was meant to look in a theater).

Due to wanting to avoid major spoilers, I’m not going to go too in depth with my analysis, but I do want to try and cover some things that I liked. That being said, you should be warned that spoilers of varying sizes may be found after this point.

One of my biggest gripes in Godzilla: King of the Monsters was that the ‘Hollow Earth’ concept (first broached in Kong: Skull Island) wasn’t touched on enough. Well, to put it bluntly, Godzilla vs Kong gave me everything and more that I ever wanted of the Hollow Earth. Not only was it beautifully rendered, it was presented in a way that felt completely believable and, most tantalizingly, it feels like a location that could be visited in future films. And not just in sequels either, I could easily visualize a prequel (or series of prequels even) that details certain events hinted at in this film but set completely in the Hollow Earth. I would pay big money to see that happen.

The best part of the entire film is the conflict between Godzilla and Kong, which as you might expect spans most of the film. I admit to being skeptical about how the filmmakers would pull this fight off, but by god not only did they DO it, they also made it completely believable. I have no trouble believing that Godzilla and Kong are equal combatants (more or less), and while I won’t say who comes out on top, it is presented like a fight that could have gone either way. And that’s how it SHOULD be, you would never sell me on the idea that one opponent far outclasses the other. This was a nail-biting fight to the bitter end and that’s what I got and that’s what I loved about it.

And then there’s MechaGodzilla. I almost considered not mentioning this but I figured at this point I think we all pretty much knew about him being in the film (thanks Internet). I was almost disappointed about this character being in the film, but then I saw how it was presented and I was enraptured by the entire sequence. That was the best way possible to introduce MechaGodzilla to American audiences.

If I had one gripe about Godzilla vs Kong, it’s that there seems to be a clear divide between the characters we met in Godzilla: KOTM and those associated with Kong. It gave me the faint feeling of two films spliced together, but then I remembered that this is the kind of film where, we’re not really here to see the human characters, we’re here strictly for the giant monster fight. And at the end of the day, I’m okay with that because the monster action rocked!

That being said, I need to give a shout out to Kaylee Hottle, a deaf actress that appears in the film as Jia. Deaf characters still don’t get highlighted in major films as much as they should be (John Wick Chapter 2 features Ares (Ruby Rose) signing ASL), and it was refreshing to see not only a character that was acknowledged to be deaf, but also played by an actor that’s deaf too (in John Wick Chapter 2, Ares might have been deaf but Ruby Rose is not). That was one of my favorite parts of the film and I hope future films use this as an example for how they can include deaf characters moving forward.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a proper review on Film Music Central if I didn’t mention the music for a moment. While I feel that Bear McCreary’s score for Godzilla: KOTM is superior, I did enjoy Hans Zimmer’s music for Godzilla vs Kong, even if the parts I liked best were the amalgamations of past Godzilla and Kong themes joined together. If you listen carefully, you can hear musical excerpts from all the past MonsterVerse films throughout the story. And, rather cleverly, I think a big portion of the Kong “musical homage” was including songs in the musical score, a la Kong: Skull Island in 2017. It heightened the idea that all of the past MonsterVerse films were leading to this moment.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I really enjoyed Godzilla vs Kong, it’s the fun big action movie I’ve been wanting to see since the pandemic madness started. Whether you go see it in theaters (please be safe if you do) or on HBO Max, please go see it, it really is worth the time. If this is how the MonsterVerse ends, then I am content with the story it has told. But I wouldn’t say no to more entries either. I guess only time will tell if the story of Godzilla and Kong (and more) continues.

Let me know what you think about Godzilla vs Kong in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Kong: Skull Island (2017), my thoughts

My Thoughts on: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Cherry (2021)

Late last month, Lakeshore Records digitally released the original motion picture soundtrack for Cherry by Henry Jackman. The soundtrack will be available exclusively on Apple Music for 60 days before becoming available to all other DSPs on Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Henry Jackman has established himself as one of today’s top composers by fusing his classical training with his experience as a successful record producer and creator of electronic music. Jackman’s upcoming feature is the anticipated drama from The Russo Brothers, Cherry. He recently completed Jumanji 2, a continuation of the magical board game adventure story, and Detective Pikachu, following the story of the beloved Pikachu Pokémon character starring Ryan Reynolds. His other recent work includes Ralph Breaks the Internet, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature. His other diverse credits include Captain America: Civil War, Kong: Skull Island, Captain Phillips, Big Hero 6, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  

Cherry follows the wild journey of a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances. Inspired by the best-selling novel of the same name, “Cherry” features Tom Holland in the title role as an unhinged character who drifts from dropping out of college to serving in Iraq as an Army medic and is only anchored by his one true love, Emily (Ciara Bravo). When Cherry returns home a war hero, he battles the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and spirals into drug addiction, surrounding himself with a menagerie of depraved misfits. Draining his finances, Cherry turns to bank robbing to fund his addiction, shattering his relationship with Emily along the way.

Speaking about his score for Cherry, Henry Jackman had the following to say:

Cherry’s soundscape never deviates from the core idea of emulating the internal. It’s music that ebbs and flows depending on the emotions and mental state of the main character grounding the film in Cherry’s subjective experience.

 Directors Joe and Anthony Russo said of Jackman and his score, “This is Henry’s most sublime work. Beautiful, poignant, riotous, devious. Breathtaking in its ability to manifest such complex tones, while unifying them at the same time. He’s truly a master of the craft.” 

The soundtrack for Cherry is definitely one that has subverted all of my expectations. Based on what I know of the film’s plot, I was expecting something that was extremely gritty, rough around the edges, or very action oriented. But Henry Jackman has created something that is none of these things. The music for Cherry is strikingly beautiful, with an orchestral mix that I wouldn’t have expected in a million years. But it’s also got a number of twisted elements at work, several of which I’d like to highlight.

First I want to bring to your attention ‘Carnival of Losers Pt. 1’ and ‘Carnival of Losers Pt 2’. The first iteration of Carnival of Losers will sound like a misnomer, because the piece sounds, for all the world, like a charming waltz with a street carnival vibe (hence the name I’m sure). It’s not until you hear Pt. 2 of Carnival of Losers that you realize the two pieces are mirror images of each other: Pt. 1 takes place before the trauma and Pt. 2 takes place afterward. I say that because Pt. 2 is a muted and twisted version of Pt. 1. It’s set to an almost identical beat as Pt. 1, but it’s clear something terrible has happened between Pt. 1 and Pt. 2.

The most twisted part of all though? That would have to be ‘Star-Mangled Banner’. This piece screamed volumes to me, and likely will to many other people who have had their faith in the government shaken as of late. It takes a while to become recognizable, but there IS in fact a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner in this piece, but one that’s so warped, discordant and twisted that it is barely recognizable. If I observe this piece as a commentary on the state of the nation, it’s a damning piece of musical commentary, and one that deeply moved me.

Those are the big moments that I wanted to highlight from the Cherry soundtrack, but the rest of it is equally fun to listen to. To reiterate, this soundtrack will completely subvert whatever expectations you had going in, but in the best way possible. This is a reminder that one should never let a film’s premise dictate your thoughts on what the music may sound like, you might find you’re proven wrong.

Cherry Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Track List

  1. When Life Was Beginning, I Saw You (2:51)
  2. Madison (2:01)
  3. Carnival of Losers, Pt. I (2:10)
  4. The Elusive Sensation of Bliss (2:09)
  5. It Was Perfect (0:43)
  6. A Thing for Weak Guys (2:19)
  7. Honeymoon (3:25)
  8. Star-Mangled Banner (2:26)
  9. Iraq (5:10)
  10. Triangle of Death (1:01)
  11. Cheerleaders (1:05)
  12. Huffers of 1st Platoon (1:54)
  13. Another Day, Another Mission (3:15)
  14. Night Tremors (2:52)
  15. Unholy Retribution (1:24)
  16. OxyContin (0:43)
  17. Date Night (2:51)
  18. Carnival of Losers, Pt. 2 (2:03)
  19. Acquiescence (2:24)
  20. I’m Your Worst Nightmare (3:34)
  21. Crossing the Line (1:34)
  22. Rob Another Bank (1:57)
  23. Overdose (2:28)
  24. Your Fate is Darkly Determined (6:21)
  25. One Last Job (3:00)
  26. The Comedown (9:23)
  27. What I’m Trying to Say Is… (Bonus Track) (5:06)

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

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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