Favourite soundtracks – for those about to rock…

Today, I am writing about 3 soundtracks with strong rock influences.

Pacific Rim is perhaps my #1 movie of this summer. Giant monsters battling giant mechas…if only all movies had this plotline…sigh! Right through the film, I was more aware of the music than I usually am, feeling that it really added to the intensity of the scenes, especially in the run up to the battle scenes – both inside the Shatterdome and out in the open. I loved all the little touches like the foghorns and choral chants. As the credits rolled at the end, the main score reappeared, this time a darker variation played in a lower key, leading with trombones, but with that familiar hook. It stayed in my mind throughout the drive back home and soon enough I was listening to the entire soundtrack. The main theme has Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) on guitars, with a mix of electronics and orchestral elements that all works very well together. Of particular note in the main theme are the 3 blasts of the foghorn at 1:23 and 3:06 and the 4-note stomps at 1:12 and 2:13. I love the way these components are adapted and repeated throughout the film; no wonder that hook stayed in my mind after the film. Kudos goes to 39-year-old Iranian-German composer and Berklee College of Music alumnus Ramin Djawadi, who also created the memorable theme music for HBO’s Game of Thrones. I didn’t think much of his score for Iron Man, but I will certainly be watching out for his next composition.

Another piece of film music built around a killer guitar performance is Battle Without Honor and Humanity, by Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei. Anyone who has watched Kill Bill: Vol. 1 or even watched the trailer will be familiar with this track. What I didn’t know was that the instrumental originally appeared in a Japanese yakuza film titled New Battles Without Honor and Humanity (aka Another Battle) back in 2000, in which Hotei also acted. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised that this was not an original composition; Quentin Tarentino is well known for his use of other people’s music in his films…something I am not a big fan of, but at least viewers get to listen to a whole range of fantastic songs when they watch his movies. Since then, this instrumental has become very popular, appearing even in Transformers and is parodied in Shrek the Third soundtrack (Princess Resistance). It is also used by various sporting teams for their home games. I think this live version is the best rendition of the track.

The last piece which has rapidly become a favourite is ‘Magneto’s theme’ from X-Men: First Class composed by British composer Henry Jackman. At one end of the spectrum, Jackman has composed for violent action films like Kick-Ass, and GI Joe: Retaliation; at the other end, he has done a number of animation films like Winnie the Pooh, Puss in Boots, Wreck-It Ralph and Turbo! But coming back to Magneto’s theme, this is a beautifully composed piece of music which is perfectly matched with Magneto’s sinister personality. The main musical elements, particularly its rising structure, initially appears in the soundtrack sections Pain and Anger and Frankenstein’s Monster before coming out in full force at the end of the movie in the piece titled Magneto. Just like the Pacific Rim theme, this is a great combination of guitars, low-end brass and synthesizers.

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