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Section Header
The Omen
1990 Varèse

2001 Varèse

2005 Varèse Set

Composed by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

Conducted by:
Lionel Newman

Performed by:
The National Philharmonic Orchestra

Labels and Dates:
Varèse Sarabande

Varèse Sarabande
(October 9th, 2001)

Varèse Sarabande
(Trilogy Set)
(October 11th, 2005)

Also See:
Damien: Omen II
The Final Conflict
Poltergeist II: The Other Side
The Lion in Winter

Audio Clips:
2001 Varèse:

1. Ave Satani (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

3. The New Ambassador (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

13. The Dogs Attack (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. The Altar (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Both the 1990 and 2001 albums are regular commercial releases that are readily available for standard retail prices. The 1990 album was repressed with identical contents by Varèse's Japanese distributor in 1997. The 2005 set containing all three scores in the original trilogy is also easy to find and is the better value per score.

  The score was nominated for a Grammy Award and won an Academy Award. The track "Ave Satani" was nominated for another Academy Award.

The Omen
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Buy it... if you seek the source of the majority of horror soundtrack cliches utilized by countless composers after 1976, because The Omen is an extremely intelligent, groundbreaking, and brutal work of art.

Avoid it... if you try not to be challenged by your film music experiences on album, especially in such an oppressive and mean-spirited manner as this.

The Omen: (Jerry Goldsmith) From a practical, logical standpoint, the entire premise of popular 1976 film The Omen (and others like it) seems a bit silly, though commonly held fears of the Antichrist certainly do present fantastic opportunities when entering the realm of horror motion pictures. After all, why spend half your screenplay establishing a strong villain when you can rely on the one that organized religion has already established to scare the wits (and money) out of people for centuries? The exact circumstances of the birth of the Antichrist are the topic of The Omen, inflicting terror on a couple that has unknowingly adopted the child of a jackal and who will, naturally, pay the ultimate price through the supernatural powers of their demented little boy. Although The Omen was a restricted by a surprisingly low production budget, it experienced a tremendous critical and popular response, and subsequent box office grosses of over $60 million all but guaranteed the two cinematic sequels to follow within five years. The first two films of the series feature similar storylines, showing the frustrating pursuit of Damien, the young Satan, by Italian representatives of the Church while the innocent families housing the little brat learn about his identity too late in their own emotional turmoil to kill him with the necessary daggers. In The Omen, the formula was both fresh and excruciating, because not only was the nobility of Gregory Peck on the line, but the child was so vulnerable as a young boy compared to his older forms seen in the sequels, by which time he was self-aware and could defend himself in supernatural ways very easily. Several shocking and sudden displays of violence punctuated these films, with impaling and beheading scenes as memorable as any in the history of cinema. One of the unique challenges facing producer Harvey Bernhard in his endeavors to bring these three films to the big screen was an inherent lack of continuity. With Damien played by different actors in every film and an extremely limited number of characters carrying over through the narratives (oh, the joys of death!), the films had no guaranteed cohesiveness in what audiences would see and hear on screen. Even director Richard Donner would not return to more than an executive role after his success with The Omen (moving on to Superman, understandably). Enter composer Jerry Goldsmith.

The production team of the original The Omen didn't have the necessary funds available to hire Goldsmith, who was already at the top of his game. After hearing the composer conduct one of his famous concerts, however, Donner and Bernhard confirmed their interest in him and specifically sought a special budgetary allowance from 20th Century Fox for his hiring. That money came directly from the top, and Goldsmith was launched on a course to his only Academy Award win. The composer's music for the films of this trilogy doesn't reflect much of anything else in his career. The oppressive tone of liturgical chanting at its most menacing is a style that he would later touch upon briefly, as in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, but not with the kind of development he had utilized in these works. Goldsmith admitted that he was a bit rusty in his skills at choral writing, though with some help from his faithful orchestrator, Arthur Morton, he managed to produce one of the most memorable choral-related scores in film music history. Never one to shy away from the chance to revisit his material in a sequel (even in franchises with very poor follow-ups), Goldsmith extended the general sound of his music for The Omen in 1978's Damien: The Omen II before taking the same tone of orchestral and choral colors in a different direction for 1981's The Final Conflict. Despite a lack of overarching musical continuity in the rigid structures of the three compositions, Goldsmith did pepper all three with the same style of relentless religious extroversion, applying similar choral techniques in particular throughout the separate scores. The foundation work for the franchise that was conceived and cemented in The Omen includes its striking title chant, a piece of music so powerful that it was actually nominated separately from the score for its own "Best Song" Oscar. The chilling brutality of "Ave Satani," whispering and shouting the Latin translations of "Hail Satan!" and "Jesus Christ!" (among other things) over a muscular and deliberate orchestral churning in the bass region, is effective in part because Goldsmith staggers the progression of the theme at differing rates in the treble choral performances and the underlying orchestral bass. This off-kilter merging of the two halves of the theme produces a very unnerving effect without the need to resort to obvious dissonance or outright pounding to achieve the same ominous fright level in the audience. The same instrumental elements eventually provide the plucky suspense of later cues as well.

The forceful chanting of "Ave Satani" would eventually be revealed by the second score as the theme for Damien himself, a fact that was not entirely clear in The Omen because of the entire film's bitter personality. One of the more ridiculous claims that you hear from mainstream listeners is that this Goldsmith theme was inspired by Carl Orff's famous "Carmina Burana." While the composer did indeed look to inspiration from the past for the general tone of this theme, Orff was not among the references. In fact, nothing in The Omen sounds anywhere near as similar to Orff's music as, for instance, the climax to James Horner's Glory or half a dozen others in the modern age. If anything, Goldsmith's music for this franchise has a much more curious source of consistent inspiration: John Barry. Not many younger listeners recall that Barry went through a period in his career during the late 1960's and early 1970's, after his spirited jazz and before his lush romanticism, when he wrote extremely heavy and occasionally brutal music for domineering orchestra and chorus. The interesting connection that Goldsmith's three scores related to The Omen have to Barry starts with 1968's The Lion in Winter. The stomping movement of "Ave Satani," its bass string progressions, and style of chanting that divides the men and women are all highly reminiscent of the opening title theme of The Lion in Winter, and this similarity carries over significantly to Damien: Omen II. By the time Goldsmith mutates his theme for Damien into an entirely new, expansive form for the character's maturation as a grown man, the resulting thematic identity for The Final Conflict is remarkably reminiscent of Barry's 1970 score for The Last Valley. Where Goldsmith excels beyond these more simplistic works of Barry, of course, is in the devious complexities and snarling nastiness of his take on the same general idea. Any composer can simply pound out grandiose horror music that retains a fair amount of harmony to appeal to our guilty pleasure senses, but Goldsmith creates a difficult environment that challenges the listener rather than placating expectations or the needs of album presentations. That said, the concluding seconds in "The Dogs Attack," using timpani and harmonious orchestra hits on key, remind of John Williams in a more conventional sense. Without resorting to dissonant noise, Goldsmith offers truly a mean-spirited work that is not only unnerving in its explosions of a liturgical nature, but also in his ground-breaking employment of whispering from the choir that defines this particular score.

The instrumental colors of The Omen are somewhat predictable, including the use of chimes to represent church bells. The extremely creative use of the choir is perhaps the most memorable aspect of the music for The Omen, including the agonizing slurring of performance pitch to denote a sinking feeling, though more credit needs to be given to Goldsmith for his method of developing his ideas throughout the picture. The use of foreshadowing impending doom is masterful in these regards, serving as a basis for the eerie moments of uneasy calm a few years later in Alien. For casual listeners enjoying an album for The Omen for the first time, there might be some surprise in the discovery of one of Goldsmith's most charming family themes in its ranks. This theme of hope and romance, representing Peck's ambassador and his wife's love for each other (and their affection for their son), is obviously deceptive in its application. But its existence in the early scenes of The Omen accentuate the difference between the usual, peaceful atmosphere of a family and the horrors of this particular one. Performed on piano, strings, harp, and woodwinds, this theme is as lovely as any that the composer wrote, occupying "On This Night" and "The New Ambassador" and extending to a pretty performances of relief on high strings in the latter half of "Where is He?" Hearing Goldsmith break this theme down through the use of slightly atonal hindrance is a treat, starting with the opening of "Safari Park" and extending through "The Bed." By "Don't Let Him" and "A Sad Message," the theme has mutated into one of tired and scared desperation, its primary melodic line never again accompanied by complimentary, harmonious bass. It's possible, if not likely, that listeners weary of being beaten into submission by the "Ave Satani" theme in The Omen will find solace in this family theme's six or so minutes of purely major-key optimism. While Goldsmith originally wrote a massive incarnation of the "Ave Satani" chant for the final scene of the film, as the ambassador takes Damien into the church to execute him, this cue was replaced with a tortured variation on the family theme for the final cut. Unfortunately, this piece of music was lost in its master form and does not exist on album. As could be expected, the theme is not revisited by Goldsmith in the sequels, confirming that it was attached solely to the Antichrist's adopting parents and their false perception of innocence in the boy. The original score's conversational scenes conveniently accessed this theme in various layers of discord, and while the first sequel featured its own brief family theme, that one never receives the same kind of smart development heard here.

2001 Varèse:
Only $9.99
Despite the effective handling of the family theme (which occupies almost as much air time as the liturgical material for the boy), listeners inevitably grasped onto the "Ave Satani" variations throughout The Omen and attributed the score's success to those portions. For each of the killing scenes, Goldsmith very effectively increases the intensity of this chant until the chorus reaches a perverse climax. Even after several of these explosions of energy, The Omen fails to cease impressing. In fact, by "The Alter," the score's momentous power and inevitable march to doom is difficult to pull away from, despite the difficulty such sequences present in terms of an enjoyable listening experience. Without a doubt, The Omen is not a soothing experience on album, and archival sound quality on all its album releases will be disappointing for some listeners. So disturbing is the demise of the family theme and the brutality of the "Ave Satani" variations that The Omen is easy to classify as a classic composition worthy of study but only occasional appreciation on album. Its ultimate attitude is so nasty that listeners may be attracted to the more streamlined version of the same ideas in Damien: Omen II or the somewhat operatic tone of The Final Conflict. Still, in its purpose and execution, The Omen remains the superior of the three. The score has experienced a limited but ultimately rewarding life on album. Goldsmith was asked to prepare a song version of his family theme specifically for the LP record, and this song, performed by his wife, is as lovely as it is out of place. It's the kind of redeeming Goldsmith song that belongs in The Secret of N.I.M.H., not The Omen. Still, it is a worthy piece when pulled aside along with the two early cues of family bliss. The LP and Varèse Sarabande's identical 1990 CD both included this piece in the middle of the jumbled presentation of 34 minutes of music from the score. In 2001, the same label offered expanded, remastered editions of all three scores, including a chronological arrangement of The Omen that added fifteen minutes of material. As mentioned before, the first score does still sound a bit archival in its range, especially compared to its successors, but since it is a work to intellectually appreciate rather than casually play for a good time (unless you're one of those sick exceptions), that lack of expansive soundscape isn't a major blow to even the 2001 album. A 2005 repackaging of all three "Deluxe Editions" together for a retail price of less than $30 made them very affordable, not to mention a compensation for more difficult retail availability of the 2001 albums by then. Overall, The Omen is a necessary inclusion in any Goldsmith collection, but a highly disturbing one at that. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 138,505 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.92 Stars
Smart Average: 3.67 Stars*
***** 165 
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   Great score, but....
  Classical music fan -- 1/29/12 (3:51 p.m.)
   Creepy; I love it!
  Rebecca -- 1/31/11 (2:45 p.m.)
   The Omen Formula
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 Track Listings (1990 Varèse Album): Total Time: 34:12

• 1. Ave Satani (2:32)
• 2. The New Ambassador (2:33)
• 3. Killer's Storm (2:52)
• 4. A Sad Message (1:42)
• 5. The Demise of Mrs. Baylock (2:52)
• 6. Don't Let Him (2:48)
• 7. The Piper Dreams - performed by Carol Goldsmith (2:39)
• 8. The Fall (3:42)
• 9. Safari Park (2:04)
• 10. The Dog's Attack (5:50)
• 11. The Homecoming (2:43)
• 12. The Altar (2:00)

 Track Listings (2001 and 2005 Varèse Albums): Total Time: 49:11

• 1. Ave Satani (2:31)
• 2. On This Night (2:33)
• 3. The New Ambassador (2:35)
• 4. Where is He? (0:54)
• 5. I Was There (2:25)
• 6. Broken Vows (2:09)
• 7. Safari Park (3:22)
• 8. A Doctor, Please (1:42)
• 9. The Killer Storm (2:53)
• 10. The Fall (3:43)
• 11. Don't Let Him (2:46)
• 12. The Day He Died (2:13)
• 13. The Dogs Attack (5:52)
• 14. A Sad Message (1:42)
• 15. Beheaded (1:45)
• 16. The Bed (1:06)
• 17. 666 (0:44)
• 18. The Demise of Mrs. Baylock (2:53)
• 19. The Altar (2:02)
• 20. The Piper Dreams - performed by Carol Goldsmith (2:39)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The inserts of all the albums include information about the score and film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Omen are Copyright © 1990, 2001, 2005, Varèse Sarabande, Varèse Sarabande, Varèse Sarabande (Trilogy Set). 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 7/29/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved. If all children are considered "special" in today's politically correct society, then what would we call the little shit in this film?