After having done Conan and Conan the Destroyer, you'd think that Basil Poledouris would have been a little loathed to cover the same kind of territory again, but with a different film, after all, there are only so many ways to score a sword and scorcery type film. Rather annoyingly released through the Varese CD Club (and hence difficult to get hold of these days), this is very much like Conan even if the score is consructed more simply and basically alternates action cues with moody romance music. I guess with such a portentous titles as Flesh + Blood you wouldn't expect the action cues to be fun and light but rather more gutsy and loud and indeed you get what you expect. The main theme is constructed of parallel fifths and so often sounds like that Roman music that Miklos Rozsa used in his biblical epics, but you wouldn't really mistake this for a Rozsa score, there are enough obvious Poledouris stylings. This is naturally introduced in the main title, which also features some of the softer music and so pretty much sets both tones for the score.
Siege of the City, Wagon Attack and Castle Invasion are all jolly exciting action cues with a fun game of 'let's see how many brass instruments we can have playing at once' which is always fun to play. However, the action high point would have to be The Box (which doesn't exactly sound like an action cue I admit), but it's a riveting five minutes of extremely loud brass, percussion and everything else flailing around in the background. Mind you, I wouldn't say that it was overorchestrated though, but then again this is music that isn't shy of making an impression. Poledouris uses lots of interesting harmonies to keep a bit more interesting than it might have been. I don't know what it is about Poledouris' harmonies, but they seem to be his maojr asset and it is the harmony that usually makes it easy to tell whether he wrote the score or not. The romantic music I thought was verging on naff for some reason, but it is exactly the kind of Conan inspired romance that I'd expect so I wasn't too disappointed. The finale track neatly sums everything up and provides some more light hearted music which goes cunningly combine with the main theme and weave in the romance as well.
Since this sells for large sums of money, the chances of anyone wanting to give up their copy is very small, especially since it's an extremely enjoyable score all round. While it is rousing, it never becomes too much or overbearing and there is always some interesting orchestral device or quieter moment to provide the required rest periods between stirring loudness. If you have Conan then you're not really missing a great deal, since this is much along the same lines, although I hasten to add that it's not a clone; like I said, there are only so many ways of scoring this kind of film and not many directors are willing to part with formula and Poledouris was almost certainly asked based on his experience of Conan. Good stuff and worth hearing for sure, so beg, borrow or steal a copy.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
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