Anyone who regularly reads my reviews will know that I'm not exactly Trevor Rabin's greatest fan. His scores, more than any other, seem to be devoid of much in the way of technical merit and make their point by beating the listener over the head long and hard, in an attempt to convince of their merit. Fortunately, the type of film that Rabin routinely scores - action films mainly - don't require much in the way of classy composition and so his subset of the Media Ventures sound is just about right. The blaring rock anthems, chopping action and a general inability to produce anything that could remotely be deemed subtle or well composed means that for Armageddon, the style is nigh on perfect.
The film itself was awful, I had never before had the experience of my brain shutting out the sound from a film because it was so incessant and overwhelming, even at the tinny hole that passes for a cinema where I live, which is as far from THX super blaring death ray volumes of sound as is possible - that it isn't mono is a surprise. The last half hour was just relentless noise which is loud to the point of redundancy, making Independence Day seem thoughtful and urbane. If there was music, I didn't notice it, but fortunately the earlier, quieter parts of the film have sound and music at a more sensible level. The albums opens with the Armageddon Suite, which starts out with truly awful synthetic selection of samples, but once the main theme kicks in, because a plausible rock anthem arrangement. The main theme ever so simple and earnest, but perfect for the film as it functions well for both heroic and weepy, the latter in a quite fetching acoustic guitar arrangement.
In fact, considering how loud and obnoxious the film was, it's pleasing to find a score that does manage reasonable levels of restraint. Harry & Grace Make Peace uses the aforementioned gentle version of the main theme, while Oil Rig features some nifty electric guitar riffs. The longest album cue, Launch, has a tense first half, with chopping strings that are distinctly Media Ventures inspired and (sampled?) choir, before surging into a quasi epic presentation of the main theme. For all the previous bombast, the pinnacle moment of the cue seems strangely under orchestrated, although it does get louder and more overripe towards the end as Rabin piles on far too much percussion and even an electric guitar.
As a Media Ventures type action score, this is a distinctly superior effort, with a few moments that stick in the mind afterward - certainly the gushing main theme and the pleasing harmonies of the terse string motifs. Much of it is a synthesised or augmented with synths, but there are enough acoustic instruments to keep it real (as it were). As with most Media Ventures style scores, if you like them, you'll probably get a kick out of this, but otherwise probably one to which to pass. It does admittedly have the bonus of not being a wall to wall action score and the quieter moments are quite effective, although I suspect it's the pounding action that'll draw in most fans. Mind you, for (almost) the end of civilization as we know it scoring, David Arnold's Independence Day is in another league.