Although Atli Örvarsson’s formal debut for soundtrack fans was the action thriller Vantage Point (2008), scored with heavy electronic and processed percussion textures, he sort of stumbled by selecting a series of lesser projects – notably The Fourth Kind (2009), and the rescored clunker Season of the Witch (2011) – and only revealed his knack for writing atmospheric and dramatic cues via epic films.
As clunky as Babylon A.D. (2008) was, it contained lovely choral passages, and The Eagle builds upon that film’s variety of melody, ethnic instruments, and lesser electronic sounds to create the ancient world of Roman-conquered Britain.
The Eagle is Örvarsson’s best score to date largely because it captures the scope of an ancient era through abstract thematic concepts – the rustic, coarse string tones in “Barbarians” being a perfect example – and the flawless use of acoustic instruments with light orchestral and electronic elements.
Because little remains of Roman music, composers often have to make educated guesses based on known instruments, and likely cultural influences from nearing countries or conquered lands. Being set in ancient Britain / Scotland, Örvarsson was free to incorporate percussion, pipes, harp and fiddles, giving a rich impression of a nascent Anglo culture finding its own identity under the duress from an occupying force.
The score’s main theme is more like a call for citizens and rebels to be wary, rather than a straight character theme, and it gives Örvarsson a wide berth to create variations for softer renditions (“Honorable Discharge,” or the cimbalom gem “Edge of the World”) as well as the ominous “Fleeing the Village,” dominated by a swirling cluster of gnashing metallic textures and exotic pipes.
The brief “Edge of the World” showcases a solo male vocal with droning, gnarling tones, and “Esca’s Freedom” is comprised of abrasive sounds under which a child’s voice softly hums a delicate melody. The final cue, the percussive ripple “Beyond the Territories,” runs under a minute, and closes the album rather quickly, but even at 48 mins., this is a satisfying work by a composer who’s slowly stepping away from the influences of the Media Ventures sound, and finding his own voice.
Silva Screen’s CD is also a gorgeously mastered album, and several cues were mixed to envelope the listener, layering sounds to the point where one is right in the center of Örvarsson’s wonderful acoustic menagerie.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan