Many film music fans got their hopes up quite high, when it was announced that newcomer Harald Kloser would score Roland Emmerich new disaster flick, The Day After Tomorrow, this being the composer’s first big budget Hollywood production. I was hardly the only one who thought about how Emmerich in 1994 took David Arnold out of obscurity, hiring him to score Stargate. That score was a gem to say the least, and many hoped that Kloser would be able to make the same strong first impression as Arnold had done on his first big budget score. Unfortunately though, that is too high an expectation; The Day After Tomorrow lacks that spark it would have needed to be a real success. It is an enjoying score, with its fair share of memorable moments, but it lands miles away from previous scores to Emmerich films.
The Day After Tomorrow is essentially a dark and brooding score, and the sense of foreboding in the first few tracks is very clear. That is of course very fitting for the beginning of a disaster movie; a taste of the mayhem to come. The 38-minute album focuses much on the dramatic scoring of the film, though, rather than the action music. Those wanting action music will get their fair share as well, worry not, but gladly Varese Sarabande has not fallen into the trap of over-representing the action material on a short release, leaving all too much of the dramatic underscoring out.
The thematic material is not really of any big stature – there is a quite strong main theme presented in the opening track, but then this nice long-lined, dramatic melody is not presented again in the score until the 14th track, “President’s Speech”. There are actually many other themes in the score, but it is hard to get a grip of them, since many are very similar, long-lined, sombre structures. One theme is more prominent though, first presented in the middle of “Bedtime Story”. This theme is a nice romantic melody that returns several times, most notably in “The Human Spirit” where it gets its final full treatment. It would have been very nice, however, with more use of the main theme since this is definitely the score’s strongest theme and one of its real assets. Had that been more used the score would have felt more linked together, but without a strong thematic link it does not really engage you when listening.
But one thing that will engage you is the action music – most of it is brilliant huge orchestral work. And the orchestra assembled for this recording was huge – the list of performers in the liner notes lists no less than 160 players! It is not likely that all of these performed at one time though – the sound is never that huge; otherwise the mixing is surprisingly bland. Anyway, the gigantic brass and percussion section is allowed to shine in the action music, especially in “Tidal Wave” and “Superfreeze”, both being huge action set pieces. The former allows for some low brass effects with horns in the front, as well as some harmonically daring string work later in the track – the best action track on the CD, in my opinion. The percussion gets its fair share of exercise, often underlining the rhythms in all the score’s action music, as well as some time in the spotlight with almost solo thundering in “Superfreeze” and “Russian Ghost Ship”.
Other tracks of note are “Rio Grande” which sound very much like a Media Ventures with its techno-like percussion and strings/brass melody, the moving “Cutting the Rope” and the aforementioned “The Human Spirit” with its nice thematic work. But the album’s real highlight is its longest track, “President’s Speech” where the main theme is allowed to shine in full orchestra in a rather rousing rendition.
Having such a large orchestra to work with, I would have expected some advanced orchestrations that really take advantage of this ensemble, it being one of the largest ever assembled for a film score. Unfortunately that is not the case. The orchestrations are quite simple, lacking contrapunctal work throughout and actually is rather bland overall. The themes are presented mainly on strings and horns, as well as solos on flute and clarinet, but not much else is happening in the others parts of the orchestra. I would have appreciated some more innovation, given that such a large orchestra had been assembled. What on the other hand is one of this score’s large strengths is the authenticity of the orchestral work. It all has a very acoustic feel that is appreciated, at least by this reviewer, the score having something in composition in common with Media Ventures scores but a sound that is much more acoustic compared to the heavy synth enhancement of MV scores. There are electronic percussion present, but very much in the background, while the real orchestra is what dominates – hat off to Kloser for that!
In the end, The Day After Tomorrow is a score that would have benefited from a more innovative use of the orchestra and some stronger thematic work to tie the score together, but actually this is still a decently good score. It is nothing new and not very memorable, but it is a balanced listening experience on CD. The dramatic tracks are not bad, but you will likely not remember much of them when they are over, even if they sure will satisfy you in the moment of hearing them. It is neither boring nor particularly engaging – perhaps the quintessential average score.