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Bear McCreary's The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power (2022)


Chen G.
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What sort of fucked up new age release strategy is this? Drop a new album but only allow streaming, and then announce a CD is coming in a few months with a few more tracks....

 

I mean either they've droppped it early and something's gone wrong with distribution, or these marketing people really are idiots.

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About half way through my first listening. I enjoy it. It’s really great. It sounds nothing like Shore. And that’s ok. It’s more “nimble” if that makes sense. Lighter/fleeter. A moment or two actually remind me of Powell in it’s use of percussion and world instruments. It’s a terrific fantasy score that will probably be among the best of the 2020s. Sure I miss that heavy sustained “breathing quality” and the dark hues of Shores orchestrations for Tolkiens world. Shore wrote a long-forgotten ancient opera of sorts and completely succeeded. This is very much high-quality contemporary film music. It isn’t the “sound of middle earth” to me yet. But It’ll grow on me.  Damning with faint praise? Perhaps. Divorce it from the show if need be. But it’s well done :)

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I don't buy a lot of TV soundtracks, but to me it seems like a 39-track, 2.5 hour initial release for a full-season score seems really generous? Is this typical?

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Cross-posting my impression of the Shore track as I posted in the wrong subforum!

 

The first track by Howard Shore definitely sounds like his Hobbit music, very ethereal and Elfish mixed with some more Dwarfish stuff. Not bad, but very brief. It's almost like an extended fanfare more than anything else. Not very developed, but perfectly A-Ok. Sounds like something he might have written but left out of the Hobbit. 

 

Listening to the rest of the score now. The textures are all reminiscent of Shore's LOTR music. I just wish there were stronger melodic hooks that grab me.

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18 minutes ago, Michael Grigorowitsch said:

I disagree, in some places it sounds like Shore, especially the themes fit very well in the LOTR world. In some places it's more modern, but that's not a bad thing! I love the album already, although I must honestly say that the first half (and especially the theme tracks) is much better than the second, which seems a bit weak and dull.

I’ll give you that. From Shores opening title to the first Bear track was a nice transition. The quieter moments and some of the vocal work starts to tap into Shores style I suppose. I’ll need to listen some more. I think as the score goes a long it becomes a bit more “modern” as the action ramps up. 
 

I LOVE the Valinor theme. Very beautiful. And the Khazadum theme I confess is already an ear worm for me.

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Shore must have been forced to write something generic-is for the theme. McCreary's "Galadriel" theme is already better than Shore's theme.

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I guess sometimes the style clicks and sometimes it doesn't :)

 

I'm loving Bear's melodies, and particularly how he's put his themes right at the start and then used them throughout the score.

 

Personal highlights: Galadriel, Khazad Dum, The Stranger, Numenor, Nobody Goes Off TrailA Plea to the Rocks, Sailing into the Dawn, For the Southlands.

 

No doubt more from the second half but I haven't listened properly to it yet.

 

And no, zero use of Shore's themes that I noticed.

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1 hour ago, artguy360 said:

The first track by Howard Shore definitely sounds like his Hobbit music, very ethereal and Elfish mixed with some more Dwarfish stuff. Not bad, but very brief.

 

It holds that the piece should exhibit strong Elven shadings: it’s a Paean to Elvendom at its height!

 

But it contains antecedents to most of Shore’s Middle Earth music: the “Dwarven” fifths, the “Hobbit” scale, the modal colouring associated with mankind, the Ring’s halfstep. Just about the only thing missing is the “nature” progression.

 

Now I’m just left hoping McCreary would incorporate this theme into the underscore in Season Two, while Shore is hopefully scoring Rohirrim.

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5 minutes ago, Monoverantus said:

Does anyone here care about spoilers, because there's a lot of plot/character details revealed here. I don't expect so, but just in case.

Mmmm… Id love them to be hidden at least (for now) But I’m in the minority I feel as far as excitement for the show. 
 

Just finished listening all the way through. Solid 4 stars. The last half did just kinda wash over me after a while and nothing in particular stood out. Right now I’m sure there’s a solid 70 min album in there. Curious as to what the exclusive tracks are and if they add much variety sonically…

 

sidebar: Is it the particular way that Bear mixes/records this 90 piece orchestra that makes some of the brass sound synthetic at times? Or is it his orchestrations? I’ve noticed this sound in most of his other scores…

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Part of why the music sounds so unlike Shore in some areas is not because of the music itself, but because of the recording and mixing. This score uses a disgusting dry Ramin Djawadi-style mix.

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6 minutes ago, Monoverantus said:

Well, in classic Tolkien Gateway tradition, I'm making a tracklist with all the themes timestamped. Which, as you might guess, would spoil some stuff. Should I make it a separate topic, or is there a way to hide text?

Oh very cool. I’d check that out for sure after the show comes out . If it’s as considered and involved as your other work maybe a separate thread might be better? Looking forward to it.

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11 minutes ago, WampaRat said:

If it’s as considered and involved as your other work maybe a separate thread might be better?

Hardly, I don't even know if there's much more to do than list themes. But yeah, probably best to do a separate thread.

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2 hours ago, Holko said:

So the digital release has 5 missing tracks.

The amazon release has 1 full exclusive and 3 missing tracks.

The CD has 3 full exclusives and 4 missing tracks.

The LP thankfully has no exclusives and 21 missing tracks.

 

If you want everything available, you need the CD and the amazon release. If you want everything except 1 track in better than mp3 quality, you need the CD, the digital and the amazon.

What a fucking mess - I thought the soundtrack industry was over this shit. Doesn't making track lists overcomplicated like that just put off consumers/encourage piracy?

 

I mean I'm happy for the extra music but why not just put it all on the same release

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Hearing Shore's main title makes me wonder what a generic Star Wars show main title from JW would sound like. His Kenobi theme is very specific to the character at that point in his life. Shore's main title sounds like "here's 90 seconds of LOTR sounding music". I want the JW SW equivalent of that. I don't love Shore's main title right now, but I think it is an interesting piece evoking all things LOTR in a single, short, undeveloped cue.

 

Edit: the closest we have is the Galaxy's Edge theme which has a kind of generic SW adventure sound.

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1 hour ago, Monoverantus said:

Does anyone here care about spoilers, because there's a lot of plot/character details revealed here. I don't expect so, but just in case.

 

I've read that the last two tracks contain spoilers,

Spoiler

regarding the origin of a certain dark lord.

 

I haven't listened that far (or closely) yet, so I can't really say. But careful listeners beware!

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I'm curious to.see what the Main Title looks like. And if it enhances the music and the other way around.

 

I would presume, based on the music, that the actors will be credited by their characters species. That would be cool.

To have the actors who play Elves, Dwarves, Humans credited together with the music in the background

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11 minutes ago, JNHFan2000 said:

I'm curious to.see what the Main Title looks like. And if it enhances the music and the other way around.

Though I guess it would surely be accused of being derivative, if any show would benefit from a Game of Thrones-style map intro, it's probably this. LotR basically invented the fantasy-map.

Spoiler

(citation needed)

 

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On my second listen of the album, I like it! There are some solid themes and overall lush orchestrations. The jaunty pirate stuff is fun. So far, nothing puts me to sleep or sounds like generic TV show music. This is the most I've liked any McCreary music since BSG.

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2 hours ago, JNHFan2000 said:

I'm curious to see what the Main Title looks like. And if it enhances the music and the other way around.

 

I was thinking that: will this theme play against quite abstract visuals, or will it be synching up against certain visuals within the opening credits?

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There are plenty of themes. But none have a distinct sound or harmonic quality that makes them anything more than pleasant dramatic music.

 

The sharp IV scale Shore uses in his Main theme - starting in lydian and later in kind of Hungarian minor - has more identifiable quality than the rest of themes.

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12 hours ago, Drew said:

Shore must have been forced to write something generic-is for the theme. McCreary's "Galadriel" theme is already better than Shore's theme.

 

Yeah Shore's theme is probably the weakest part of the score. Why was he even invited to write this? McCreary could have provided a much better theme.

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The choral work throughout is quite nice and very much in sync with Shore's use of chorus in his two trilogies. Water and Flame has an epic, dramatic sound not dissimilar to Shore's Mt. Doom stuff. Been listening to the album all day and I'm finding more and more to like.

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I would go one step further and say, it's impossible to be given the opportunity to write a sort of Tolkien opera and not have some heart in it.

 

All composers have more or less personal voices, and I think Bear McCreary has enough skills as a composer to understand Howard Shore's music and carry over if not all, then at least some tapestry of his. So there is only the question how willing he is to do so.

 

I also think McCreary is a smart enough guy to understand that Fans expect, if not outright themes, then at least a type of music for certain things. Again, when people wondered what kind of theme Numenor would get, I don't think anyone thought "some egyptian music would be great".

 

The thing is, Shore's music rarely goes into pure underscore-mode. There is rarely just pure unrelated underscore.

With this score, mostly also because the themes have relatively standardized language, there is tons of boring underscore.

 

 

 

 

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Sauron's theme is indeed IMO the weakest part of the score. I don't dislike it by any means but given all the material they had, I'd have chosen perhaps Khazad-dum as the other track to release in that EP.

 

What's certainly noticeable is that the recording for the more action-oriented or dramatic tracks isn't very vibrant. It doesn't as full and strong as Shore's scores did. Bear's action style is noticeable and similar to some TWD material.

 

I think someone else has pointed out that one of the themes is dangerously close to one of Djawadi's GoT themes, and another one  (the bagpipes one) is very similar to Veil of Time from Outlander. However, anyone downgrading the score due to thematic similarities really should have better stuff to worry about.

 

However, I've had the themes going through my head all day, and the tracks that focus more on the orchestra and choir and thematic content absolutely soar.

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Now that I've started to break down the actual themes used in the score, I do see a few worrying trends:

  • Too many ostinatos. It's endemic of the times that modern composers can just invent a nice one-bar rhythmic phrase and then copy-paste it through the whole cue. Think of all the different accompaniments Shore made use of, and how seldom they stagnated (just Concerning Hobbits uses 4!), while Galadriel, Sauron, Khazad-dûm, Halbrand and The Stranger all have 1 accompanying idea each that undergo no change.
  • Weirdly superfluous elements. As Bear has explained, “Each of the themes had an A section, a B section, an intro, a development”. Indeed, all the first tracks (the suites) are built this way, and that's great, but where are these sections in the rest of the score? I know I've not had the time to go through it all more than once, but all I hear are the A themes.
  • Mostly character themes. Of course it makes sense to have themes for Galadriel, Halbrand, Elrond, Sauron, Nori, The Stranger etc, but so far the only "culture" themes I can make out are Khazad-dûm, Valinor and Númenor. So how do we represent Celebrimbor or Gil-Galad? There's a Bronwyn/Arondir love theme, but how do we portray the Southlands?
  • Where are the abstract/conceptual themes? Remember themes like Weakness and Redemption, Minas Tirith, A Hobbit's Understanding, Grey Havens (or even the intricate red thread of the Good and Evil intervals)? Is there no place in this era of Middle-earth for themes relating to hope, corruption, loyalty, impending doom?
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I think you're making the unfair act of comparing anything to the tapestry Shore created which was a one in a generation level of thematic detail.

 

Most scores would kill to have the level of thematic content and detail displayed by Bear.

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9 hours ago, Mephariel said:

 

Yeah Shore's theme is probably the weakest part of the score. Why was he even invited to write this? McCreary could have provided a much better theme.

 

Shore probably wrote a lot of different ideas and the filmmakers went with this generic one.

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