It's funny how reactions to films can change over time and I don't think my opinion about a film has changed so much as with The Matrix. From being thrilled by its impressive stunts and effects first time around, it now strikes me as rather hollow science fiction that could be an episode of Star Trek Voyager, but with ultra-flashy effects and direction. Still, it was a world wide hit and the 'much awaited' sequels are upon us, this time separated by mere months, but firstly with The Matrix Reloaded; what a geeky title. Although most orchestral film music fans aren't thrilled by albums that combine songs and score, Matrix Reloaded is a double CD release with songs on one and score on the second. We are treated to 21 minutes of pure Davis and another 15 or so combined with the work of others, much in the manner of David Arnold's collaboration with the Propellerheads on a couple of the cues from Tomorrow Never Dies. Needless to say, I shan't be commenting on the songs.
Davis' Main Title takes us straight back into his pungent Matrix soundscape, with those infamous overlapping trombone textures and cyclic string motifs. The time since the first film hasn't really stretched Davis' style, with more family friendly flicks such as Jurassic Park III (John Williams vs. The Matrix) and a couple of decent horror scores, notably House on Haunted Hill. Unfortunately, on that evidence and what we have here is that maybe The Matrix seems more of a slight fluke, a sudden rush of inspiration. It's not that The Matrix Reloaded is bad in any way, but aside from the collaborative tracks, there is little in the way of new material. The longest portion of Davis' score, the 17 minute Suite could easily have been assembled from the original album - there are plenty of impressive moments, particularly the biblical, choral finale, but not much that shows a composing expanding greatly on his original conception.
The co-composed tracks are the only real departure from the music from the original, even if they are very much in the David Arnold, Bond style of modern digital percussion, with the Juno Reactor and Davis cues effectively mixing waves of digital percussion with bursts of the orchestra. The integration is occasionally a little superficial, but for the most part works well and compares favourably to Arnold's Bond scores. Indeed, Teahouse by Juno Reactor and featuring Gocoo could easily be from one of them, although the trumpets chatter more in the manner of Davis' own music. This is staggeringly unsubtle stuff, but Davis and company elicit enough bravura excitement that the listener is sufficiently thrilled by the sheer relentlessness, particularly when the choir, orchestra and synthesiser are trying to drown each other out during Burly Brawl.
For those not pre-disposed towards heavy bass and a heavy digital aspect, The Matrix Reloaded should probably be avoided at all costs, but these really do constitute the only obvious addition to the score's soundscape. This is perhaps unfortunate as they are far more crass and obvious than the creativity Davis showed with the orchestra dominated original. The production could have been a little more balanced; Chateau, Mona Lisa Overdrive and Burly Brawl represent almost 20 minutes of relentless pounding and a bit of relief would have been welcome, as it all becomes just a touch wearing after a while. Following it with the bulk of Davis' music in a suite doesn't really do it or the disc as a whole, any favours. This is a distinctly more of the same sequel score, carefully frothed up with a bit of Bond style digital extravagance and well worth a listen all the same.