September 2004

Hans Zimmer - King Arthur (Original Score)
Hollywood 162461
Released: 2004

by Anthony Di Marco

Musical Performance **1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

German-born film composer Hans Zimmer uses a mix of live orchestra and synthesizer that exhibits the bombast of Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner combined. This recipe of full-bodied elements targets the heartstrings with an overload of percussion and throbbing "Zimmer-bass." Zimmer’s technique is emotionally thrilling. It is music that gets the blood pumping.

Zimmer’s score for King Arthur contains similar ideas and themes he’s used in Gladiator, The Rock, Armageddon and more recently The Last Samurai. Unfortunately, this effort is a bit light on ideas. The main theme weaves through the opening song "Tell Me Now (What You See)" and is solid enough. What doesn’t work is Moya Brennan’s voice. The Irish vocalist doesn’t trigger the raw emotional response I’ve experienced with Zimmer’s other frequent collaborator, Lisa Gerrard.

Track two "Woad to Ruin" (sic) doesn’t waste time building the epic fortitude characteristic of all of Zimmer's previous work. The dirge of timpani gives the cut remarkable force and an intoxicating hook. Track two would later prove to be my favorite. The remaining tracks all have their moments; subtle desperate string melodies, like the sample at 4:30 on "Hold the Ice," are peppered throughout. Still these succulent tidbits are not enough to compensate for an overall lack of variety -- every cut, less track two, sounded irritatingly similar. Where Howard Shore created a surplus of interesting and unique cues for each Lord of the Rings film, King Arthur wallows in the same basic theme with too few deviations. Even Zimmer’s The Last Samurai possessed distinct flavor on every track. King Arthur deteriorates into a monotonous heap after a few listens.

The recording is another disappointment. No matter which system I listened through, the slight euphoric shimmer I associate with texture and harmonic richness was missing. Strings and vocals on Gladiator and the Last Samurai both had this quality, which caused shivers to develop at the base of my skull. King Arthur’s lack of sweetness made me realize that the recording had more to do with Moya Brennan’s unexciting performance than any lack of passion on her part. The recording also sounded muddy. Strings were moderately rich while the lower midbass and bass region lacked definition.

King Arthur is not without some exciting moments. Still the recording’s lack of low-frequency clarity, coupled with Zimmer’s uninspired writing, makes it a marginal disappointment.