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Kingdom of Heaven
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Harry Gregson-Williams

Co-Orchestrated by:
Alastair King

Co-Produced by:
Peter Cobbin

Additional Music by:
Stephen Barton

Sony Classical

Release Date:
April 26th, 2005

Also See:
Spy Game
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
Children of Dune
The 13th Warrior

Audio Clips:
10. The Battle of Kerak (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

11. Terms (0:32):
WMA (206K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

15. Wall Breached (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (236K)
Real Audio (147K)

19. Light of Life (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Regular U.S. release.


Kingdom of Heaven

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Buy it... if you desire an intelligent and respectfully restrained powerhouse of a musical representation of religious history, complete with pensive choral techniques of immense beauty.

Avoid it... if you prefer your Ridley Scott historical epics to feature music with heavy electronic embellishments and obvious, overwrought melodic expressions akin to Hans Zimmer's Gladiator.

Kingdom of Heaven: (Harry Gregson-Williams) Director Ridley Scott's fascination with the history of the Old World extended from his 2000 classic Gladiator to Kingdom of Heaven in 2005, amidst rumors rampant at the time that indicated the director was interest in tackling a Gladiator sequel that never came to fruition. These vast epics from the times of Rome to the Crusades have earned Scott critical acclaim and popular respect, and for Kingdom of Heaven, the Crusades of the 12th Century are the subject matter. In the starring role, Orlando Bloom plays Balian of Ibelin, a young blacksmith in Jerusalem who rises through the ranks from a common man to a knight and beyond in the process of protecting his people from foreign Muslim invaders. Striking cinematography and an immense siege scene at the climax of the film save the production from the sometimes overwrought melodramatic sequences of dialogue. With a solid cast and many of the same stylistic portrayals of violence seen in Gladiator, Scott's Kingdom of Heaven was originally set to maintain the same level of continuity in its film score. Long-time Scott collaborator Hans Zimmer was reportedly signed to score Kingdom of Heaven, but he conveniently switched jobs with his protege Harry Gregson-Williams upon his own recommendation. With Gregson-Williams then assigned to Kingdom of Heaven, Zimmer took his place on the animated children's film Madagascar (not exactly a fair trade in terms of quality). It's natural to compare Gregson-Williams' style in Kingdom of Heaven to what Zimmer provided in his wildly popular Gladiator score, and while there are several similarities in the underlying methodology of the two composers, Gregson-Williams seems more interested in creating and sustaining a much more consistent underscore while avoiding the outwardly obvious thematic outbursts and new-age influences of the iconic predecessor. The 2000 score was already the topic of valid claims of plagiarism by this point, and Gregson-Williams had proven his talents in several large-scale efforts. Along with the topic of the Crusades comes a more ethereal, adagio-styled score for immensely choral Latin singing in Kingdom of Heaven, as well as a far less imposing role for electronic elements.

Gregson-Williams' score for this 2005 film is more likely to be found on the shelves of classical music collectors than heard in European discos, as Gladiator was, and that attention to authenticity in Kingdom of Heaven in many ways would serve its film to a better end. That is, if Scott had actually used it in the picture as intended. Unlike parts of Gladiator, the music in Kingdom of Heaven won't blow you over with any single cue; as a matter of fact, it'll take several of them for its respectful sense of gravity to really begin to sink in. The primary theme by Gregson-Williams is very consistently utilized throughout the work, but rarely pronounced with great clarity and self-importance. Its smoothly flowing chord progressions are often shifted between different layers of the chorus and the orchestral ensemble in such a fashion as to remain distantly elusive. No explosive brass statements truly define its boundaries, but its effectiveness is ensured by the composer's ability to use it as counterpoint to any meandering choral or string moment of restrained underscore. The religious qualities of the score cannot be missed, on the other hand, with the nearly constant wordless and occasionally Latin-chanting chorus making a strong presence known in nearly every cue. Sometimes solo and at other times with the resounding backing of a diverse percussion section (Turkish musicians from Istanbul, in fact) and a full orchestral ensemble, the 100+ member chorus weaves in and out of the major key, keeping the score necessarily hopeful even during its darkest moments. The surprising level of even consistency in quality is evident in Gregson-Williams' ability to provide suspense and drama without relying much on the bombast of the brass section, instead tightening the percussion and his central elements of the electric violin and electric cello. While orchestral purists may not be thrilled to hear those electronic string instruments in the mix, Gregson-Williams utilizes them well as extensions of woodwinds in an effort to address the Muslim and other ethnic portrayals in the film. Some may confuse the electric strings with a duduk, in fact, the result of outstanding performance emphasis by the players. Along with every solo instrument (and Gregson-Williams does seem to have done his homework here), nothing in the ensemble is ever able to overpower the chorus, however, and it's the Howard Shore-like moments of beauty from The Lord of the Rings trilogy that make this score shine.

Very slow movements of thematic progressions (such as the seemingly Zimmer-like opening chords to "A New World") never seem to bore if simply because of the masterful choices of instrumentation and choral integration. In light of that consistency, the Kingdom of Heaven score has no single weak cue as presented on its album release. Perhaps the most important aspect of Gregson-Williams' work here is that it remains extremely respectful in the face of religious fanaticism, and as Lee Holdridge manages to accomplish in his own scores for religious persecution and war, Gregson-Williams doesn't succumb to stereotypical levels of overblown religious hysteria. The chorus borders on this territory a few times, almost building up the kind of rhythmic momentum that Don Davis fans heard in the latter scores in The Matrix trilogy, but the electric violin and cello, and especially the vivid percussion section, keep the score rooted in its time and place. The spirit of "To Jerusalem" skirts the boundaries of Middle Eastern stereotypes without sounding contrite. The fact that the percussion in Kingdom of Heaven is genuine and not synthesized rings out with power in the score, elevating cues like "The Battle of Kerak" and "Wall Breached" to outstanding levels of sword-clanging authenticity. Those action sequences do expose some similarities to Gregson-Williams' score for the animated flop Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (as well as James Horner's stock 2000's action sound in the latter cue and "The Pilgrim Road"), but they are rather short in duration. Among the more memorable moments of the score will be the "Terms" cue, with outstanding layers of Muslim vocals, and the lovely "Ibelin" character theme. This secondary theme is heard in fragments throughout the score but is condensed to two concert-format presentations in "Ibelin" and "Light of Love." These cues offer the percussive base of Brian Tyler's Children of Dune and eventually add the enticing vocals of Natacha Atlas (whose performances here, similar to those in the end titles of Gabriel Yared's needlessly rejected music for Troy, ring with an appropriate twist of ethnicity that never sounded quite right in her duties for Danny Elfman's The Hulk). Speaking of Children of Dune, much of Gregson-Williams' use of percussion throughout this score is reminiscent of Tyler's landmark television score, but, once again, there is no sense of royalty to be clearly heard in Kingdom of Heaven.

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The hour-long commercial album presentation will take 15 minutes to really establish itself (despite the solemn religious beauty of "Burning the Past"), though after another half hour, its consistent quality will lure you into a level of comfort that is surprisingly pensive for a film containing the scale of conflict and brutality of violence of the Crusades. Gregson-Williams accomplished this same consistency in his score for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas a few years prior, and while you may be able to argue with the merits of that score in the context of its genre (and the terrible film), Gregson-Williams started showing in the early 2000's an ability to infuse his music with a level of intelligent quality that you often only hear in the highlights of comparable scores. Some film music collectors will point to the composer's works like the previous year's Man on Fire and disagree (and, indeed, his thriller music is often challenging to tolerate), but you can also go back to Spy Game and, of course, his popular collaborations with the likewise talented John Powell, to hear the roots of this ability. Unfortunately, Scott apparently decided otherwise at some point in the post-production process of Kingdom of Heaven, and much of Gregson-Williams' score was replaced by other film music and classical pieces for the final cut, sometimes to distracting ends. Odd insertions in the film include Jerry Goldsmith's "Valhalla" from The 13th Warrior, Marco Beltrami's "Family Feud" from Blade II, Patrick Cassady's "Vide Cor Meum" from Hannibal, Graeme Revell's "The Crow Descends" from Crow: City of Angels, and a few classical and source pieces ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to Muslim chants. The placement of the Goldsmith Viking music during the final siege in Kingdom of Heaven is the most oddly distracting of all these choices, and the director was appropriately ripped by film score collectors for these insertions. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gregson-Williams did not work with Scott again, another of Zimmer's in house associates, Marc Streitenfeld, becoming the director's regular collaborator henceforth. Fans didn't take long to get hold of the recording sessions contents and pass around enough of Gregson-Williams' music for this project to occupy three CDs, however. And that's not particularly surprising, because Kingdom of Heaven is an intelligent and respectfully restrained powerhouse of a score, in many ways a definite improvement over Zimmer's Gladiator for the director. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for the Film: *****
    Music as Heard in the Film: ***
    Overall: ****

Bias Check:For Harry Gregson-Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 2.94 (in 32 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.01 (in 50,728 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 62:12

• 1. Burning the Past (2:48)
• 2. Crusaders (1:41)
• 3. Swordplay (2:01)
• 4. A New World (4:21)
• 5. To Jerusalem (1:38)
• 6. Sibylla (1:49)
• 7. Ibelin (2:05)
• 8. Rise a Knight (2:43)
• 9. The King (5:45)
• 10. The Battle of Kerak (5:36)
• 11. Terms (4:29)
• 12. Better Man (3:29)
• 13. Coronation (3:03)
• 14. An Understanding (4:13)
• 15. Wall Breached (3:43)
• 16. The Pilgrim Road (4:07)
• 17. Saladin (4:44)
• 18. Path to Heaven (1:38)
• 19. Light of Life (Ibelin Reprise) - performed by Natacha Atlas (2:10)

 Notes and Quotes:  

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

  All artwork and sound clips from Kingdom of Heaven are Copyright © 2005, 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 4/22/05 and last updated 9/19/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2005-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.