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Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
James Horner

Co-Produced by:
Simon Rhodes

Vocals by:
Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Terry Edwards

Hollywood Records

Release Date:
December 5th, 2006

Also See:
Beyond Borders

Audio Clips:
9. The Games and Escape (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

10. An Elusive Quarry (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

13. Civilisations Brought by Sea (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

14. To the Forest... (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Regular U.S. release.


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Sales Rank: 181879

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Buy it... if you are prepared to hear the appropriate and consistently brutal, unnerving, and harrowing musical atmosphere necessary for the film.

Avoid it... if you expect either an easy listening experience or any of James Horner's trademark romanticism, even in the smallest dose.

Apocalypto: (James Horner) Despite the plethora of personal issues that Mel Gibson has to resolve, few can claim that he makes poor films. The challenge in making Apocalypto was even more difficult than the controversial The Passion of the Christ, though critics have hailed the gruesome film as being visionary. It is the story of a jungle tribesman who is captured (along with the others of his tribe) and taken to the Mayan city for a sacrifice meant to help ease the decline of the civilization. He has hidden his wife and son in the jungle, however, and he attempts a remarkable escape to return to them, and the lengthy chase is eventually followed by the arrival of the Europeans by sea. The film's settings are convincingly portrayed alongside a cast of speakers of the native Mayan language and other painstakingly realistic, historical depictions of the era. The sickening gore in the film is horrendously graphic, though, and no attempt is made by Gibson to gloss over the primal nature of the Mayan culture. This authenticity extends to the film's score, for which Gibson chose (after an absence on The Passion of the Christ) to reunite with James Horner, with whom he had collaborated twice, including the phenomenally popular Braveheart. Unlike their other scores together, however, Horner would not be working with a symphony orchestra. Instead, only a small group of soloists would join an array of synthesizers for Apocalypto, producing a more authentic environment for the culture. Horner's usual team of soloists would perform mostly on ethnic woodwinds and percussion, with sounds that Horner collectors will likely recall from his other efforts. Horner's synthesizer usage returns to the early days of career, and includes some electronic representation of strings and brass. He finishes the ensemble with vocalist Terry Edwards and Qawwali performer Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to provide a wide variety of sounds ranging from East Indian wailing to threateningly forceful throat singing. There is nothing truly resembling a Western influence on the score, even when white men venture into the story; at the most, their musical representation is strangely distorted.

While the ensemble may be somewhat unique for Horner in his current era, collectors will recognize nearly all the elements of Apocalypto from his other scores. If you expect to hear a presence of elegant themes, consistent rhythms, or the usual sappy song at the end, then quit reading this review now... for you're not going to get any of it. Horner does conjure a few basic themes for Apocalypto, but make no mistake about it: this is a primal, atmospheric score. The score serves basic emotions of each individual moment with its textures, and makes few connections to other sections of the score outside of its two themes. Those themes, one for the primary character's family, and one for the jungle that protects them, are barely developed (for solo woodwind) and could easily be missed. The family theme is introduced in "Holcane Attack," receives the most prominent performances in "Words Through the Sky - The Eclipse," and returns in the final two cues. The similar theme for the jungle is most prominent during the chasing in the film's latter half, though to use the word prominent is an overstatement. The soft woodwind performances of these themes are easily overshadowed by the wickedly brutal and percussive rhythmic sequences that exist for most of the score. We've heard pieces of these sections in Bopha!, Beyond Borders, and mostly Vibes, though never have they been as intensely rendered. Even in the less threatening "Tapir Hunt" at the outset, the underlying rhythms of these nimble cues vary from moment to moment, sudden strikes of the larger drums are unpredictable, and the woodwinds blast and trail off over the top in usual Horner fashion. While the intensity of these percussive ramblings will impress in the massive vista and gathering shots of "Entering the City with a Future Foretold" and "The Games and Escape," their dissonance could annoy you. The two vocalists offer extensively harsh tones in these cues, and when combined with the very heavy bass region of the synthesizers, it becomes very clear that Apocalypto is a horror score. In "An Elusive Quarry" the vocals become menacing chants over bursts of slashing percussion.

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The pervasive rhythmic parts of Apocalypto are an interesting listening experience, but not readily enjoyable. Their spirit is so vicious that the only redeeming factor in their performances are the technical constructs of those performances themselves. Sound effects abound, running through bleak washes of atonal electronic noise in "No Longer the Hunted," and these noises often imitate the sounds of the weapons or chants seen and heard in the film. Horner, as usual, does try to offer some more philosophical moments in his score, including the opening and closing meanderings for the forests. He employs once again the forest sounds (chirping birds, mostly) that were heard in The New World. The lack of a more prominent role for Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is expected, perhaps; nowhere does his style of vocals engage the kind of role that they played in The Four Feathers, though he does have one largely solo performance over the final "To the Forest..." cue, and while this is the most listenable cue on album, it also finishes with the ominous turn necessary to foreshadow the eventual destruction of the native peoples of the land. The most disappointing cue by far is "Civilisations Brought by Sea," where Horner attempts to use his keyboards to imitate large, noble brass and strings. If indeed the stark contrast between the Mayans and the Europeans were to be displayed, then this one cue (and only the first half of it, for that matter) would have been strikingly dramatic if it had employed a symphony orchestra. The crescendo existing in the first half of that cue is badly represented by the synthesizers, and a symphonic overtaking of the native percussion would not only have been appropriate, but gripping in its implications. It is one outwardly weak track in an otherwise consistently harrowing and disturbing listening experience. You can't help but think that Horner accomplished everything he needed to in his musical representation of the Mayans, but that doesn't make it anywhere near being listenable on album. Like a handful of others in Horner's career, Apocalypto is a score to appreciate but not necessarily enjoy apart from the film. It will impress and unsettle at once. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for Film: ***
    Score as Heard on Album: **
    Overall: **

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.19 (in 187,988 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.8 Stars
Smart Average: 2.83 Stars*
***** 143 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: What the hell?!
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   Re: What the hell?!
  Trevor -- 2/23/07 (1:35 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 60:33

• 1. From the Forest... (1:55)
• 2. Tapir Hunt (1:31)
• 3. The Storyteller's Dreams (3:41)
• 4. Holcane Attack (9:28)
• 5. Captives (3:06)
• 6. Entering the City with a Future Foretold (6:05)
• 7. Sacrificial Procession (3:40)
• 8. Words Through the Sky - The Eclipse (5:11)
• 9. The Games and Escape (5:15)
• 10. An Elusive Quarry (2:15)
• 11. Frog Darts (2:45)
• 12. No Longer the Hunted (5:50)
• 13. Civilisations Brought by Sea (2:20)
• 14. To the Forest... (7:31)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Apocalypto are Copyright © 2006, Hollywood Records. 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 12/9/06 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2006-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.