Claims that Frank Herbert's Dune is pretty well unfilmable seem to have been confirmed by both the infamous feature film and the more recent epic television series. Quite how its offspring, Children of Dune will do is anyone's guess, but at least one component seems in place and that's Brian Tyler's thunderous score. Rather than Toto's rock chorus or Graeme Revell's distinctly underwhelming synth meandering, Tyler goes for a huge, orchestral onslaught, with more than a dash of world music type percussion. The opening few tracks grab the listener with massed brass and driving rhythms as the main themes are introduced, all of a vaguely heraldic nature, even if there is a slight nagging feeling that underneath all the surging orchestration, the tunes themselves are a touch simplistic.
For the first third, rarely a track goes by without at least one tumultuous orchestral swell, Tyler endlessly striving for a dignified gravitas as if every action is an earth (or dune) shattering moment, but the quality is enforced by a fairly original sound. Around halfway through, a distinct world music vibe starts to establish itself, notably Inama Nushif and later in Children of Dune, both of which take fairly clear inspiration from Now We Are Free from the unstoppable Zimmer and Gerrard machine of Gladiator, infused with a hint of light choral Adeamus music, so desired of television advertising executives. Similarly, several of the central tracks have a distinctly Zimmer inspired mixture of percussion and what sounds like a Duduk (of the north?). However, it was unlikely that Tyler would escape certain constraints and there's enough elsewhere to convince of Tyler's own merits. After the first dozen or so tracks, the pace does sag somewhat, just a few too many slightly slower tracks mixed with ethnic percussion segments which all begin to sound alike after awhile.
This is a long album and even though the music is distilled down from 174 cues (goodness knows how many hours that comes to), Tyler hasn't quite developed the sense of musical architecture that marks the best epic scores. The rather abrupt ending is particularly unsatisfying. However, television scoring tends to demand shorter tracks, which doesn't help, although Tyler does a good job keeping the ball rolling, even when the music doesn't really have a great deal to say. It is lucky that Tyler had such an understanding director and judging by the director's brief, but rather gushing note (I'm not convinced that Tyler's a genius - full of potential maybe), the collaboration was a happy one and even if it doesn't quite hit the upper echelons of epic fantasy scores, the ingredients are certainly there. If only the album had been a little shorter and the tracks a little longer. As it stands, Children of Dune has some plenty of great moments and despite the weaknesses, well worth hearing. Recommended.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad