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Section Header
Angels & Demons
Composed, Arranged, and Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Conducted by:
Nick Glennie-Smith

Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler

Additional Music by:
Lorne Balfe
Atli Orvarsson

Solo Violin Performances by:
Joshua Bell

Sony Classical

Release Date:
May 12th, 2009

Also See:
The Da Vinci Code
Crimson Tide
Batman Begins
The Peacemaker

Audio Clips:
1. 160 BPM (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

2. God Particle (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. Black Smoke (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

6. Science and Religion (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release. A two-minute bonus cue was available for download from the movie's website at the time of the film's debut.


Angels & Demons

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Buy it... if you consistently adore Hans Zimmer's predictably masculine choral bombast and propulsive bass ostinatos on pulsating strings or synthesizers regardless of their marginal variation.

Avoid it... if you expect refreshing originality or anything as compelling as the "CheValiers de Sangreal" performance of the common title theme from the previous score.

Angels & Demons: (Hans Zimmer/Various) One of the few entertaining aspects of contemporary Catholic power is its inability to intelligently handle (or "spin," as it's called these days) what it perceives as pop culture attacks to its sensibilities. Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code grossed three quarters of a billion dollars worldwide in 2006, a sum produced in part because of the popularity of novelist Dan Brown's original story, a magnificent marketing campaign by Sony, and useless protests by the Catholics. When will organized religious learn that protesting a pop culture film will only yield higher earnings for the studios? The amusing part of the equation came when Howard decided to make Brown's prequel (or sequel, depending on whether you follow the chronology of the books or the somewhat altered one in the films), Angels & Demons, a few years later. Despite the fact that the plot of this second film actually involves the defense of the Vatican by Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, the Catholics couldn't resist punishing Howard for The Da Vinci Code by refusing to allow him adequate access to film Angels & Demons on location in Rome (reducing the time of the shoot there to just two weeks and forcing special effects to render the rest). Howard persevered, however, and in so doing managed to correct some of the problems with the translation of Brown's previous narrative to the big screen. While The Da Vinci Code attempted to infuse too much of the cerebral historical discussion into the plot to make it a viable chase film, Angels & Demons represents a better balance of propulsive adventure and intellectual contemplation. The villains of the second film are the Illuminati, a group of progressives in Europe dating back several centuries who have determined that the time is right to exact their revenge on the Vatican for once persecuting them. Their possession of an anti-matter bomb, four kidnapped cardinals, and a mole inside the Vatican's inner circle force the Catholic leadership to seek the help of Langdon to use the clues in the Church's history to avoid an embarrassing and deadly elimination of St. Peter's Square and all of its faithful. While nobody ever expected Angels & Demons to earn as much as its predecessor, its outstanding production values gave Sony high hopes. And, right on cue, the Vatican belatedly declared the film to be of no threat to its narrow view of the universe.

Nominated for a Golden Globe and a Grammy Award for his work on The Da Vinci Code was composer Hans Zimmer. The score represented one of the few mostly solo efforts for the composer in the 2000's, and it predictably divided listeners along familiar lines. It was a score derived purely of Zimmer's comfortable foundations, glossing over the intellectual nuances of the tale with emotional ostinatos of masculine bass that have come to define his career since Batman Begins. Few can argue that the inspirational "CheValiers de Sangreal" cue from The Da Vinci Code isn't among the highlights of the composer's career, but as with Pearl Harbor and a handful of other scores, Zimmer has proven several times that his ability to generate outstanding music doesn't always accompany the topics on screen as well as necessary. Not only did the constructs and orchestration of The Da Vinci Code lack the intellectual depth to match the script, but Zimmer's usual tendency to mix his scores with heavy bass and an abrasive edge caused the recording to sound as though he had used samples when in fact it was largely symphonic. The tables are turned in Angels & Demons, though the result is marginally similar. In the time since The Da Vinci Code, Zimmer's popularity has continued to rise, despite his role as mostly a producer and coordinator of his personal musical production house, Remote Control. During the media circus involving The Dark Knight in 2008, the composer announced that he would retire from film scoring for a while once done with Howard's Frost/Nixon. Alas, 2009 has not only yielded Angels & Demons, but reportedly additional projects on the horizon. Another awkward Zimmer statement recently came at the debut of Angels & Demons, where he stated that he completely wiped his slate clean when conceiving of the music for this film, using no material that had come before. At about the same time, he contradicted himself in a joint interview with Howard, both claiming that the theme from "CheValiers de Sangreal" clearly represents a musical identity for Langdon's journey and thus serving as the backbone for this sequel score. The use of that theme in promotional material for Angels & Demons is unmistakable as well. Ultimately, close examination of the score shows that much from The Da Vinci Code does carry over, despite Zimmer's bizarre statement to the contrary at the film's red carpet media frenzy.

One of the ironies of Ron Howard's remarkable career as a director is his collaboration with both Zimmer and James Horner for his soundtracks. While Horner's tendency to rely on his own, previous material is well documented, Zimmer has done much of the same during his career. The material in Angels & Demons is derived, in its most basic form, from Crimson Tide and The Peacemaker, two truly defining scores from the German composer. Also referenced significantly here (to nobody's surprise, really) is Hannibal, another strong entry in Zimmer's resume. Regardless of your opinion about Zimmer's methodology or the quality of his regurgitated ideas, the fact that he has an extremely distinct sound that has become predictable in blockbuster settings can't pass unnoticed. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that you know ahead of time if you're the target audience of Zimmer's music for Angels & Demons. As mentioned before, however, there are some alterations in how the composer managed to journey to the same end, and perhaps some of these will influence your decision about whether or not to explore this score's album. First, Zimmer enthusiastically employs the violin of Joshua Bell, whose contributions to film music date back to the Oscar-winning The Red Violin and most recently graced the score for Defiance by Zimmer's close friend, James Newton Howard. His involvement in Angels & Demons does bring a classically intellectual element to the equation, though his role is somewhat marginalized and not really worth mentioning on the album's cover. Also to consider is the fact that the ensemble is different for Angels & Demons; because of the accentuated role of science in the story, Zimmer reduced the size of the orchestra to chamber levels and replaced the players with his own synthesizer performances. Even more than the previous score, Angels & Demons is one dominated by chorus. Its shifting choral tones, always passing duties from men to women with emotional depth, defines its character. Organ effects are more pronounced as well. With the usual, overbearing, and extremely heavy bass mix, the score therefore takes on the personality of a prototypical Zimmer work despite Bell's tones (which are themselves held to lower violin ranges). It should also be mentioned that Zimmer also relies on two additional writers ("ghostwriters," as the controversy allows) this time around.

In short, if you adore Zimmer's masculine choral bombast and propulsive bass ostinatos on pulsating strings or synthesizers, then Angels & Demons is the score for you. Its menacing choral chanting is its most memorable addition to the franchise, for it really doesn't convincingly explore new thematic territory with any memorable distinction. The composer excels, however, in employing the chorus' various parts in dueling layers in a cue like "160 BPM," maintaining extraordinary gravity in the soundscape. There is truly apocalyptic material to be heard in Angels & Demons, and while it may not be the most intelligent or historically sensitive treatment of the associated subject matter (outside of a mass-like environment as in "Air"), it is a better match for this film that its predecessor. The role of the electronics, with this change in mind, is quite pronounced, often merging the sound of the traditional organ with pulsating electronic baselines and drum pad outbursts. Some of this chanting material seems a bit aimless in the larger picture, but it suffices in serving its purpose for the thrill of each moment. Enthusiasts of The Da Vinci Code will be curious about the usage of the existing themes. Indeed, every idea (other than Richard Harvey's solo contribution) is reprised in some form or another. The title theme that culminated in the discovery cue of "CheValiers de Sangreal," as well as material from "The Cetrine Cross" and "Daniel's 9th Cipher," are all present. The primary theme is touched upon at the outset of "God Particle" and in several fragments before being explored significantly in "Election By Adoration" and "503." In the first of those two later cues on the album, you can also hear Bell perform the religious subtheme from "Daniel's 9th Cipher" in the previous score. There is no sustained performance of the "CheValiers de Sangreal" theme by the full symphony for Langdon on the album for Angels & Demons; the version you hear with Bell's performances seemingly laid over that previous recording for the extended trailer and other promotional video material for the film is not contained on this product, a major disappointment given its rather short, 54-minute running time. The "503" cue is a different, less orchestral mix of that recording that is limp by comparison. On the whole, Angels & Demons is therefore a score to appreciate for its ambience rather than its thematic grace.

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There are clear attractions and detractions contained in the middle portions of the album. There are cues of electronic grinding and dissonant shrieks that are difficult to tolerate, including the brazenly synthetic portions of "God Particle," "Fire," and "Black Smoke." Some of the action interludes in these cues are too familiar from John Powell action ostinatos for The Bourne Identity (and sequels) to consider fresh. On the other hand, there are ethereal portions of Angels & Demons that explore the choir in higher regions and expand upon the most angelic (though still slightly sinister) portions of Hannibal. The lengthy cues of "Air" and "Science and Religion" are the highlights of this score, providing the album with its most engaging intellectual moments (courtesy Bell's violin). It perhaps should not be surprising that the most emotionally engaging parts of this score are those that sound the least like the increasingly tired sound of Crimson Tide. In sum, Angels & Demons is a score that really does not require a review of this length to provide an accurate recommendation. It may not intrigue you with originality as much as Front/Nixon, but it will entertain with its predictable brute force. The album is slightly disappointing, given the absence of resounding thematic representation, and for die hard collectors, you can download an additional two-minute cue in MP3 form titled "H20" (appropriately) that offers a troubled variation on the title theme but isn't worth the effort for most casual listeners. Undoubtedly, given the track record on Zimmer, a fuller bootleg or other form of release will eventually follow. The same fans desperately seeking expanded presentations will be the ones to unlock Zimmer's five-note ambigram inserted as an in-joke in the score. The commercial album does follow the composer's preference for longer suite-like presentations, though in this case that actually helps to confine the best material to the two aforementioned cues of strength (and especially the beautiful "Science and Religion"). The extremely heavy bass mix continues to be a problem with Zimmer's scores. Why is it so hard to cut back on the droning power in the studio and let the consumer crank it up if he or she chooses? It's a weak three-star score for those tired of Zimmer's predictability, but a solid four-star score for his ardent enthusiasts. The fairest rating exists on precarious footing somewhere in between. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 2.98 (in 89 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3 (in 266,335 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.17 Stars
Smart Average: 3.11 Stars*
***** 311 
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*** 325 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: Hans Zimmer is my embodiment of The Lor...
  Topper Harley -- 12/15/10 (7:28 a.m.)
   Hans Zimmer is my embodiment of The Lord Go...
  Douglass Callaway -- 12/9/10 (7:34 p.m.)
   Re: Another unfair Zimmer review at Filmtra...
  GK -- 9/11/10 (8:15 p.m.)
   Re: Reviewer: You are a sinner. Absolve you...
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 54:20

• 1. 160 BPM (6:42)
• 2. God Particle (5:20)
• 3. Air (9:08)
• 4. Fire (6:51)
• 5. Black Smoke (5:45)
• 6. Science and Religion (12:27)
• 7. Immolation (3:38)
• 8. Election By Adoration (2:12)
• 9. 503 (2:14)

Bonus Download Track:
• 10. H2O* (1:51)

* not included on CD album or its total time

 Notes and Quotes:  

  All artwork and sound clips from Angels & Demons are Copyright © 2009, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/10/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.