Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises by Hans Zimmer

On Friday we will finally see what we've been aching to experience ever since the last credit floated off the screen in The Dark Knight - the conclusion to Christopher Nolan's epic Batman series. Hans Zimmer is back in the conducting chair, but this time without the help of James Newton Howard. This is probably the most anticipated score of the year, but how does it hold up?

It's Zimmer alright, with his furious strings, booming french horns and minimalist style. It's also an incredibly brooding score, one that envelopes you in a black cloud of angst and depression, only treating you to a refreshing glimmer of light every now and again. It's also an angry and brazen affair in some parts - there is very little happiness here. To be fair, this is how it should be. Batman isn't a happy character - he's not Spider-Man or Thor, who boast more inspirational themes. Batman lurks in the shadows of the Gotham nightscape and watches the streets below, like a cold, dark sentinel of justice. In essence, Zimmer gets this part bang on target, creating a growing sense of dread and fear, from the heavy thuds at the outset of "A Storm is Coming" and through "Gotham's Reckoning" and beyond.

However, there is a definite lack of anything near complex on this album. Batman's main theme, which erupts in "Depair" and cumulates in "Rise" is just two-notes in length. It always feels as if it's starting but never really goes anywhere, leaving the listener wanting more. Another character cue, Bane's "Gotham's Reckoning", has a good drum rhythm but the chants feel too restrained. It's certainly forbidding, but fails to highlight what a complex character Bane really is, how intelligent he is and what he has in store for Batman. Catwoman's theme "Mind if I Cut In?" offers some respite from the deep horns and angst of the previous tracks with delicate piano and haunting strings, but it feels like Catwoman has been short-changed by a cue that doesn't do much.

The highlight comes halfway through in the form of "The Fire Rises", with its hammering beginning, blistering strings and more complex structure. "Imagine the Fire", too, is a stand-out track that weaves a tapestry of themes and sounds, from orchestral bombast to a subtle electronic beat that screams action. The final track, "Rise" is also a winner, but it's disappointing that these three are the only ones out of the fifteen that really make their mark.

This really could have been better. While it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, there aren't enough moments that inspire emotion, as most tracks are too simplistic and brooding in a very plain way to evoke anything special. Characters aren't treated like the three-dimensional entities, instead either characterised or cast to the side. This lack of texture really lets the album down as a whole and collectors may only find a few listens before sacking it in.

2 stars

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