Release Date: 2006
|1.||Amazing Grace (feat. Tata Vega)||1:12|
|2.||Of Earth and Heaven||3:53|
|7.||Left Behind Reprise||2:58|
|11.||Of Heaven and Earth||3:52|
|Total Album Time:||38:38|
|by Jonathan Jarry
December 4, 2006
There is so much material for criticism and satire in a phenomenon like Left Behind for a cynical agnostic atheist like myself to indulge in that eschewing it for the purposes of this review pains me. Left Behind started as a book series and has progressed into an international multimedia phenomenon, spanning three movies and a video game at the time of this writing. Its premise is taken from Christendom: a God-driven Rapture delivers all born and born-again Christians from Earth and leads them to Heaven, while the non-Christians of the world are left behind to experience the seven-year tribulation, essentially the Apocalypse as the horsemen rain on their world and they are left to deal with and spiritually grow from the rising in power of the Antichrist. The neo-Christian movement has found a nice footing for itself among the young generation, adapting its usually dry conversion tactics to more marketable venues, such as video games like this one. Left Behind: Eternal Forces allows you to immerse yourself in the years of tribulation and meet some of the characters from the book series. Such an epic concept begged for a grand orchestral score and Chance Thomas was brought in.
I admire Thomas' score to King Kong: The Game; indeed, I believe the theme he devised for Kong the Tragic Hero is even more appropriate and effective than the themes James Newton Howard gave the big ape in Peter Jackson's film. It was thus with deception that I realized that Left Behind, while sharing a distinctive style with King Kong, would not live up to my expectations. The problem is not that Thomas is an incompetent composer; if anything, King Kong proves that he is an accomplished writer with a knack for good themes. Left Behind is a competent score, but its melodic material is thin and its ideas are drawn from that great Hollywood chest of recycled props. "Left Behind" introduces the main theme which is subsequently repeated in nearly every cue. A richer, more complex theme might have survived sustained exposure, but the Left Behind Theme is hardly original enough to make it through unscathed. The action sequences, such as "Street Fight", are reminiscent of Thomas' adventurous confrontations from King Kong and will remind hard core film music fans of the action music of John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams on a smaller scale.
While most of the cues make extensive and almost exclusive use of the traditional Western orchestra, "Of Earth and Heaven" begins with an Evanescence-inspired intro for big electric lead guitar, electronic beats, and string ensemble which unfortunately feels cheesy and unnecessary. Likewise, I would like to call for a moratorium on the use of the duduk. Directors of all calibers, please, stop asking your composer to use "that ethnic flute". The term "overused" does not even begin to describe the exposure the Armenian oboe has been getting in the past few years and it is used here as well, in "Foreshadowing", stating the main theme. While the sound of the instrument is indeed gorgeous, there are other interesting instruments out there, like the bansuri and the erhu, which are just dying for a taste of that spotlight.
The album is book ended by a performance of "Amazing Grace" by Tata Vega over ominous orchestral passages. This performance seems taken from a much better and more inspired venue and it's a shame that the action music following it fails to live up to it. It is not bad music; but in today's market, where nearly every score is released, from major and small films alike, there is better material on which to spend one's money. While the scope of this current project should have led to a score more grandiose and complex than King Kong, it has resulted in one of lesser quality that cannot compete with majestic and intense cues like "Fury and Heroics" and "King Kong, the Tragic Hero".
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