News flash. Zimmer gives co-composers credit on the album cover! Read all about it. Well, you just have, well done. After so many 'Zimmer' scores with Hans getting sole cover credit, it really is quite refreshing to find Henning Lohner & Martin Tillman (also a 'Featured Cellist' along with Anthony Pleeth) credited prominently alongside. True, the inside notes reveal additional credits for James Dooley and Trevor Morris, plus the enigmatic credit of Ambient Music Design by Mel Wesson, Clay Duncan and Bart K Hendrickson, but I'll let it pass. After staring at the floor through the entire length of the Japanese original (I don't like being scared shitless), I didn't see either remake or remake sequel, but evidently this album edits together the best parts of both scores into a kind of chilling rhapsody for strings and synths.
Horror is not an obvious Zimmer genre, yet he did score Hannibal for Ridley Scott, however The Ring is more pure, palpable terror than Mr Lecter's mixture of psychological games, urbane conversation and brutal murder. Not being a typical slasher flick, the music doesn't have to punctuate the actions of stupid teenagers and so there is no need for stingers or the kind of orchestral effects that make horror scores so routinely dreadful on disc. Here, the approach is to use a smaller group of instrumentalists, predominantly strings with some synthetic additions, but done in the best possible taste. Curiously, the fine acoustic passages (which make up the majority) made me think of a flip side to Zimmer's delightful As Good as it Gets, with many of the same edgy touches, but twisted into a eerie, dreadful lullaby (not as cliché as it might seem) and the lengthy, low key opening tracks set the uneasy and unsettling mood.
The first half bears comparison to James Newton Howard's work for M Night Shyamalan; restlessly spooky, but not melodramatic or obvious. This is Going to Hurt cranks up the tempo somewhat, but there are no intrusive bursts of typical Media Ventures percussion, but cycling string motifs that get wilder as the cue progresses. Not Your Mommy gets a little more percussive, but more to emphasize the momentum than anything else. Although from two films, at over an hour, the album does run a bit long; all the variations in tone and tempo seem to have been exhausted before the end, but there is a genuine haunting beauty to many passages (Shelter Mountain has some gorgeous moments) and only a few parts are horrifically chilling or terrifying. With the images, I imagine it to be most effective, but on disc enjoyable in an almost Herrmann-esque way.
For some reason, the last three tracks are remixes of the earlier material and are the kind of naff synthetic backdrops that give Zimmer and chums such a bad reputation. Pointless, cheap and best avoided. It is gratifying that Decca have embraced releasing both scores on one disc (although the London recording helps considerably) and the album actually mixes and matches music from both films, apparently within tracks. Those who want the music exactly as it is in the film will no doubt suffer an apoplexy, but it certainly isn't obvious and the album was clearly produced with some care. In any event, this isn't strict narrative underscoring (unlike the original Star Wars albums which do fundamentally change the ebb and flow of the musical storytelling) and the work of Messrs. Zimmer, Lohner and Tillman blends together seamlessly. Spooky.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad