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Comments about the soundtrack for The Relic (John Debney)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
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• Posted by: Cap Stewart   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 7:45 a.m.
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(The following donated review by Cap Stewart was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in May, 2009)

The Relic: (John Debney) Because scores are created to accompany films, they sometimes end up not providing for a pleasurable listening experience on their own. This seems especially true for modern horror film scores, which revolve around the bloody and brutal images that comprise such movies. Because of their less-than-melodious nature, the only place they really function is alongside the on-screen violence. At first, I considered The Relic such a score. After several more listens, however, I have come to appreciate it for what it is: a fairly enjoyable listen that also happens to be a moderately good piece of work. By "moderately good," I mean that, despite this score's genre, it has several lengthy periods of coherent music. There are, of course, horror elements included --i.e., instances of pure orchestral noise. Nonetheless, this is a surprisingly structured score, albeit a horror score. Track 1 starts out strong with a fairly memorable, and appropriately ominous, theme. It consists of some alternating two-note repetitions, accompanied by slow-moving strings. Percussive action music fills in the middle of the track, as does a periodic screeching string motif that may very well have been inspired by Herrmann's famous violin motif in Psycho. The theme comes back to end the track.

The second track begins right on the heels of the first with some more strings that aptly create a sense of mystery. (Actually, strings dominate the entire score.) Near the end of this track, we are introduced to the portamento noise that is liberally dispersed throughout the rest of the score. This is the kind of noise that, apart from any visuals, conjures up images of scarab beetles crawling all over the place (wrong movie, I know). From this point on, the score alternates between bursts of orchestral noise, low underscore, and action/adventure cues. The theme is repeated several more times as well. Actually, some might even consider the theme to be a little overused. By the time the final track plays, the theme almost becomes annoying. While they are few and far between, there are also some quiet moments - not necessarily tranquil, mind you, but quiet. Ironically enough, one of the quietest tracks on the CD is entitled "Hormones." (I'd expect such a track to contain something with a little more pizzazz -- but that's just me.)

Throughout the score --primarily in the action sequences-- Debney utilizes a moderate amount of electronics which add an extra touch of urgency, boosting the adrenaline-inducing level of the music. And fortunately, not all of these portions are of the pure horror variety --the kind of stuff that makes one's hair stand on end (if not because of its creepy effect, then because of its brutal assault on the ears). Debney's overall style in scoring this film, as well as a few of the less chaotic cues, somewhat reminds me of Frizzell's score to Dante's Peak. And if you listen closely, the beginning of track 6 sounds like it was lifted from Schindler's List. Of course, any in-depth comparisons to these scores would be crude at best. This score is for a completely different genre than the above-mentioned ones, a genre in which it fits rather well. Even though much of the movie consists of people being slaughtered in gory fashion, Debney is able to provide music that, while conveying elements of horror, refuses to degenerate into utter chaos. Not to say that there aren't any moments of chaos and incoherence --there are-- but such moments are less numerous than might be expected for a film like this. As such, Debney manages to remain true to the horror genre without stooping to the mindlessness of the movie. ***

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