CD: Angels & Demons (2009)

November 19, 2012 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: Sony Classical/ Released: May 12, 2009

Tracks & Album Length: 9 tracks / (54:17)

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Special Notes: Full colour booklet.

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Composer: Hans Zimmer

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Review:

Hans Zimmer’s latest theological thriller score is showcased on Sony Classical, and like his eighties soundtrack albums, the score is presented as a series of fat suites mimicking dramatic chapters for this sequel to The Da Vinci Code (2006).

Zimmer’s rock background is very prominent in Angels & Demons, but there’s also far more prog rock ingredients here than in his recent work. The title cut (“160 BPM”) starts the album off with a stirring statement of the film’s brief theme, using keyboards, fat bass, and an off-kilter rhythmic couplet that figures throughout the rest of the score.

Keeping in line with the story’s Vatican location and its history, there’s an emphasis on rock instruments pared with orchestral samples, and the fusion works as an evocation of subterfuge and intrigue contrasted with the formal comportment of the Vatican elite, and the physical artifice of the massive marbled city.

One also notices the score bears some striking similarities to Goblin’s Suspiria, of which the most overt are a looped chiming theme (as in “Air”), and the repeated subtraction and addition of specific tones and frequencies designed to cheat the listener into a state of stability or minor unease before the might of the orchestra are thrust with forceful chorals.

Zimmer’s instrumental palette features a blurry mix of classical and digital, and the effect is otherwordly; if the potent rhythm doesn’t infer something’s amiss, then the liturgical prog rock fusion should, even though Joshua Bell’s violin solos give the score a smidge of classicism, as in “God Particle,” which quickly morphs into a techno cue with drones, whiny elastic tones, and waves of vocals enhanced with digital pulse clusters – stylistic enhancements also present in the score’s co-composer, Atli Orvarsson (Vantage Point, Babylon A.D.).

As theological thriller score, Angels & Demons is fun, but it lacks a strong theme, as well as a more layered approach towards dramatizing the politics, the murky religion, and the conflicts at play. Jerry Goldsmith’s Omen scores may have given elegance to ostensibly body-count films, but the music had distinct material for the warring factions. Zimmer’s efforts still tend to emphasize loudness, processed slams, and rumbling reverb after a monotonous action montage and crashing finale (if he could throw in the sound of a shattering kitchen sink, he probably would), but the score’s best parts involve subtle passages that deal with suspicions, stalking and sadness (like the delicate “Immolation”).

The bombast is part and parcel with Zimmer & Co., but at least in his latest work there’s some interesting vocal effects – male and female chants on opposing stereo channels – and Bell’s violin solos that waft in and out of the prog rock cloud like a haunting lament.

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© 2012 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

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