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Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Co-Produced by:
Elliot Goldenthal

Co-Orchestrated by:
Robert Elhai
Winfred Kraus
Deniz Hughes

Conducted by:
Steven Mercurio

Co-Produced by:
Teese Gohl

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
August 12th, 2003

Also See:
In Dreams

Audio Clips:
3. My Big Black Assault Weapon (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

4. AK-47 Scherzo (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

11. SWAT Sticker (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

12. Bullet Frenzy II (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.



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Sales Rank: 136503

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Buy it... if you're tired of hearing bland, electronic action scores that all sound alike, for Elliot Goldenthal used S.W.A.T. to put rock composers to shame in their own domain.

Avoid it... if you are the least bit disturbed by Goldenthal's bizarre avant garde and instrumentally brutal tendencies.

S.W.A.T.: (Elliot Goldenthal) The 2003 remake of a 1970's television series, S.W.A.T. provided a modern, fictional glance at the training of young cops who aspire to belong to the highly respected Special Weapons and Tactics unit. Coming on the heals of television and feature films portraying Los Angeles cops in a more positive light, the film is an explosive action drama that has a logical stretch for plot. Aside from the problems inherent in any film that attempts to force the concepts of redemption and betrayal into yet another police thriller, Clark Johnson's all-too-predictable film also had a few incredibly unbelievable scenes that ruined the narrative with their massive fallacies (the worst of which supposing that a jet airplane, even a small one, could land, turn around, and take off on a four-lane freeway bridge lined with overhead light fixtures). Colin Ferrell's absolutely wooden performance in the protagonist role didn't help matters, either. Regardless of the film's often suspect quality, however, the assignment of Elliot Goldenthal to the score came as a welcome surprise to film music collectors. If anything, S.W.A.T. confirmed that Goldenthal would not be the kind of guy that you'd want living next door to you in a high-end apartment building, especially if his home studio is right on the other side of a six-inch-thick wall. His score also confirmed that Goldenthal was capable of producing noise of such an aggressive nature as to kill an elderly person if unleashed upon that senior citizen during moments of fragile physical of mental condition. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Dating back to his popular score for Heat, Goldenthal's credentials in the genre were well grounded, although his monumental success for his artsy work for Frida the previous year, including an Academy Award win, had led some fans to believe that he would follow a path of arthouse projects closer to the domain of Thomas Newman or other heavy drama composers. In many ways, S.W.A.T. was a complete 180 degree turn from that expectation, for Goldenthal responded to the highly sensitive music of Frida with a downright monster for S.W.A.T.. The thriller's otherwise average production values would not lend themselves to the sophistication of the composer's talents, and even some of his fans would argue that Goldenthal, who has the capability of bringing brilliance to any mediocre film, was above this project.

Whether you can tolerate the film or not, Goldenthal tackled the project as though it is a fine piece of art, a canvas deserving of his most deviant musical creations. And you really do get a heavy dose of creative output for the occasion. What's amazing about Goldenthal's music for S.W.A.T. is his ability to take such a simple genre, with a simple theme and a simple sound, and whip it into a complex frenzy of awkward, but effectively refreshing sounds. He starts with the ingredients of a Media Ventures score (electric guitars, percussion, keyboards, and orchestral accompaniment) and weaves them into an ambitious product that Media Ventures composers couldn't write even if their lives depended on it. The heart of the S.W.A.T. score is "Bullet Frenzy," a relentless piece that takes an otherwise simple drum loop and bass guitar motif and staggers it into an almost off-balance joyride of highly organized, but chaotic sounding noise. This technique would be reprised throughout the score, with seemingly jumbled rhythms, snippets of theme, orchestral blasts, and occasional unleashing of an electric guitar all inserted in precisely disharmonious and staggered progressions. What makes this approach work is the consistency of the overarching rhythm to the score. Goldenthal keeps the music churning forward like a truck out of control, loaded with explosive emphasis on every beat and constantly pushing ahead with a punchy, aggressive demeanor. There is certainly testosterone here, but it doesn't outwardly slap you in the face (like a Trevor Rabin score would) until "Crash Landing," with the majority of action cues offering enough of Goldenthal's distinctly disturbed classical edge to spice that testosterone-heavy, kick-ass attitude with a touch of postmodern uncertainty. Some of the distinct avant garde tendencies that Goldenthal had shown throughout his career are heard clearly, too, including the always eardrum-bursting employment of unconventional brass pitch-wavering. For the mentality of a S.W.A.T. team in action, this combination of apprehension and professionalism, along with the technological environment of a seemingly endless pursuit, is brilliantly captured by Goldenthal in the majority of the work. Halfway through the "Bullet Frenzy" cue at the opening of the album, Goldenthal inserts a metallic pounding in rhythmic form that brings back memories of Conan the Barbarian's Anvil of Crom, with glistening modern weaponry taking the place of a mercenary's sword.

The other important aspect of S.W.A.T. to discuss, of course, is the necessary 1970's style that is infused throughout the entire score. Goldenthal very much took the 70's feeling of the concept's origin to heart, making it the source of inspiration for many of his rhythms and brass highlights throughout the score. His main guitar theme is staggered with a stereotypically hip 1970's movement, as are several of the instrumental motifs later in the work. His re-recording of the television series' theme in "S.W.A.T. Sticker" is a highlight on the album and leads very well into his own, updated guitar theme for the film (reprised on the album). His wavering effects in the brass accents in "My Big Black Assault Weapon" are a cool, modern interpretation of 70's staples, although he damn near ruins it with his trademark wailing of the trombones (once again, is this hideous noise really necessary?). Later in that cue, he abruptly shifts to a keyboarded organ, which is another unusual effect for the era's sound. On the whole, Goldenthal's attempt to saturate the underscore portions with hip, 1970's rhythms doesn't always work, because he taints the spirit too heavily with his own darkly avant garde mannerisms. It's the same feeling you get hearing techno elements in Titus; the feel of the genre is not at ease with its own use in the music. You never get the genuine sounds of the era that David Arnold was able to produce in similar situations, mostly because Goldenthal tries too hard to put his creative stamp on the style. Thus, the middle portions of the score are its greatest weakness, with the lengthier rhythm-driven cues often losing their interest potential (a rarity for Goldenthal music). The 70's sound only really works in S.W.A.T. when Goldenthal applies it over the aggressive, pounding action sequences such as that of "Bullet Frenzy." Also of curious note is a short passage in "AK-47 Scherzo," during which Goldenthal utilizes rather simple, harmonious chord progressions for a surprisingly free-flowing minute of music. Fans are correct to compare this classical interpretation to Hans Zimmer's usual chord choices, and in this case, a comparison to Mission: Impossible 2 is not too great of a leap. For listeners hoping to hear solitary moments of twisted beauty equivalent to the guitar solos in Heat, disappointment may result. This score doesn't offer that kind of respite from its consistently brutal personality, and Heat therefore remains the more attractive listening experience.

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Overall, S.W.A.T. is a score that impresses you with its ability to blindside you in such a creative fashion. Goldenthal continued to write scores with a fascination for the bizarre, and this attention to unusual detail (along with his natural talents) made him an easy attraction for listeners who were tired of hearing generic Media Ventures scores at the time. On the other hand, though, there are portions of the S.W.A.T. score that are hindered by too much unrelated background activity in the music. The film's musical requirements were simplistic; this wasn't a film like In Dreams, which thrived upon outrageous musical horror. To satisfy his craving for abnormality, Goldenthal takes some of the rhythmic sections of the underscore and disrupts them just beyond the easy reach of the listener, which, in this case, causes the cruising 1970's aspects to lose their place. Even when you look at a cue such as "Three Chords in Two Minutes," you realize that Goldenthal is toying with you, because the cue consists of the same three chords repeated over a two-minute period. There are times in the film when the score simply overwhelms the soundscape, especially as the chase resulting from the story's primary betrayal commences. The presence of Goldenthal's music does actually fail to match the tone of a few scenes. Still, when you've been pounded with substandard music for so long, hearing a score like S.W.A.T. can be greatly rewarding in its aggressive sections. But it's surprisingly boring in the cues of rhythmically meandering underscore. Had the entire work been as brutal as "Bullet Frenzy" or as stylish as "S.W.A.T. Sticker" and "My Big Black Assault Weapon," the package would have been significantly more effective. It's the awkward combination of the two varying tones that only occasionally works, despite common instrumentation. On album, about 28 minutes of Goldenthal's music is presented for all of his fans to pick over every last, fine detail. Three songs are also offered, and they fall along the same range of heavy metal sounds that Goldenthal uses in the score. Despite their irritating vocals and nondescript constructs, therefore, the songs at least correlate on a basic level with the score. Representing his final score for several years, S.W.A.T. was followed by a series of non-cinematic projects by the composer. In the absence of new film music from Goldenthal until 2007, though, this score was greatly refreshing for his established group of collectors. Mainstream audiences beware, though! This is one nasty piece of work. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Elliot Goldenthal reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.07 (in 15,600 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.31 Stars
Smart Average: 2.49 Stars*
***** 99 
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 47:03

• 1. Bullet Frenzy (10:17)
• 2. Don't Shoot Me Baby (3:25)
• 3. My Big Black Assault Weapon (1:38)
• 4. AK-47 Scherzo (3:42)
• 5. Three Chords in Two Minutes (1:53)
• 6. Run for Your Life (3:05)
• 7. The Fascist Shuffle (1:29)
• 8. S.W.A.T. 911 - performed by Danny Saber (3:10)
• 9. Crash Landing (4:48)
• 10. That Cop Stole My Car (2:04)
• 11. S.W.A.T. Sticker (0:53)
• 12. Bullet Frenzy II (1:38)
• 13. Time is Running Out - performed by Apollo Four Forty (4:59)
• 14. Samuel Jackson - performed by Hot Action Cop (4:03)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers, but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from S.W.A.T. are Copyright © 2003, Varèse Sarabande. 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 9/3/03 and last updated 3/6/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.