2. Bait and Chase (4:40)
Here Goldenthal introduces his main compositional techniques used in the score - dissonant action music in the orchestra highlighted by synth and rattling sounds to represent the alien. It begins with a tremolo string action ostinato with percussive hits and low brass growls on the off-beats, accompanied by one of the creepiest fluttering percussion instruments I've ever heard. Squealing tremolo strings take over, and the fluttering percussion becomes the highlight. Later the ostinato returns, now completely on percussion. It quiets, and suddenly the horns enter playing some awesomely insane glissandi. The string line from the opening comes back, and eventually the tribal drums are the only things playing. Later, the brass get the opening ostinato, still with the percussion, and Goldenthal uses some desperate inhuman brass calls the likes of which I've never heard before. Everything comes back for another climax, and the fluttering percussion gets center stage. One of the best things on the album is the way he uses the fluttering percussion to give you the feeling that you're in the orchestra. He does this by moving it throughout the speakers, which is especially creepy if you're listening through headphones. A dissonant bassoon line enters, and he bases the final section on the shortened main theme. Overall, this is one of the best, but also one of the scariest, tracks on the album.
3. The Beast Within (3:07)
While still not very melodic, this is definitely a great respite from the previous track. This time, the strings play the main theme over various ambient sound effects, getting louder with every note. It climaxes in a giant dissonant chord, which fades into a high violin note. The rest is made up of foreboding low brass and string lines.
4. Lento (5:48)
By far one of the best tracks on the album, this highlights the soprano again, now finally singing both settings in their proper forms, the first being an Agnus Dei, the second a Dona Nobis. The settings are based on the main theme again, and are highlighted by a mournful piano line, bassoon solo, and oboe solo. It quiets, and suddenly another action cue attacks the orchestra, with high string arpeggios, pounding bass drum, and desperate horn notes. This action segment is infinitely more listenable than "Bait and Chase," although a few of the chords are still atonal. It doesn't last long, and segues a mournful string section with some genuine "sci-fi barren planet" chords. Eventually the full orchestra plays the 2 chants. There are a few synth effects in the track that sound somewhat like a wailing synth chorus, which I suppose was the desired effect. One of the dissonant sections from Bait and Chase makes a comeback, now accompanied by these harrowing voices. I just realized, this album hasn't had a bad track yet!
5. Candles in the Wind (3:20)
Another highlight of the album (will the tracks ever get bad?!) The majority of this is more of the dissonant ambience that opened the album, but it climaxes in more awesome brass glissandi that literally sound like nothing of this earth. That string ostinato from Bait and Chase is back, even faster than before, and the pitchbending horns get center stage for a while. The very end is a giant, awe-inspiring atonal chord progression that's more akin to his Batman or Sphere scores.
6. Wreckage and Rape (2:41)
I know you're sick of hearing me rave about this score, but too bad. ;-) Anyway, here's yet another highlight. The first section is home to some real development of the main theme in the orchestra. However, the second section is one of the most geniunely terrifying pieces of action music I've ever heard - the tribal drums are back, highlighted by some kind of electronic instrument almost like an electric guitar (but it's not) as well as a screaming synth vocal. Don't listen in the dark.
7. The First Attack (4:18)
Another great track. It opens with high range strings and an ingenious technique of playing a major key piccolo theme under all the atonality. This goes on for a few minutes, and we get another trademark action track with growling low brass, synth, high strings, and glissandi. Goldenthal should be applauded for this ingenious track. Later a new motif, somewhat like the warped pastoral piccolo melody, now in the lower woodwinds enters, and the track ends with more grating atonality.
8. Lullaby Elegy (3:39)
Now we get somewhat of a respite from all the atonal action. It doesn't really have many thematic occurences, more like strings of foreboding orchestral chords with the occasional dissonant brass outburst. Although I'm not sure if this counts as a theme, but it sounds as if based somewhat on the opening low strings from "Wreckage and Rape" and there's a second section reminiscent of the main theme in the piano. The ending is comprised of alternating high violin notes and ambient synth noises.
9. Death Dance (2:15)
And we're back to the trademark atonal action music! It opens with dissonant high tremolo strings, which quiet into a roaming low brass theme, which leads into a glissando/pitchbend section. The string action ostinato comes back, and it's now transformed into a theme. Tribal drums get the spotlight again, but the new theme's back after a few seconds, and it lasts longer now and is accompanied by pitch bending. Next is an absolutely horrific section strictly for the spitting, growling low brass and drums. Call me insanely morbid, but I love this track!
10. Visit to the Wreckage (2:02)
Now we're back into quieter territory, and this track is based on the main theme, carried in strings. Like "Beast Within," it eventually builds in volume with every note. Next comes a lengthy section exclusively for drums.
11. Explosion and Aftermath (2:19)
By far the most tonal action track we've had so far, even though it's still quite dissonant. Some of the music sounds like his trademark Batman action music, but melded with the new atonal style. The main centerpiece is a series of high brass notes and horn glissandi accompanied by racing strings. Eventually the tribal drums come in, and the paganistic frenzy finally exhausts itself into a quiet string statement based on a permutation of the main theme.
12. The Dragon (3:05)
Mostly typical ambient rumblings with various foreboding high string notes. I have no idea how he did this, but one section has a clarinet doing that pitchbending thingy. A "creeping around" line in the bass comes next, and the piece climaxes into a harrowing dissonant chord.
13. The Entrapment (3:40)
It opens somewhat like "The Dragon", but now with racing synths in the background not entirely unlike one of the instruments in ST:TMP. One of the variations on the main theme that we've heard before enters, and our trusty old action string ostinato comes back, now outlining the notes of the main theme, eventually carried by horns with a trumpet descant. After climaxing in an awesome dissonant chord, the strings perform a classic descending passage that is totally uncharacteristic of this score (much more classical.) However, these eventually turn dissonant, and a pitchbending trumpet ends the track.
14. Adagio (4:14)
Goldenthal ends his magnum opus with one of the best tracks in his canon, a mournful elegy for the immolated Ripley. Eventually the descending strings from "Entrapment" come back, but much more somber and slow now. The horns get the main theme, and more elegaic string sections travel around for a few minutes. Later a completely new theme manifests itself, this time in a major key (the only real peaceful section on the album.) This is almost Wagnerian in its scope, and may be the most moving passage Goldenthal has ever written (although I haven't heard his oratorio yet - which is supposed to be quite good.) After the theme has exhausted itself, the album ends with minor key string lines.
The bottom line: Only (and I mean ONLY) fans of either Goldenthal or 20th century classical music should even touch this score. They will be rewarded with some of the best music composed this century by one of the most talented film composers to ever approach the arena. Others are advised to listen to the suite on the Alien Trilogy compilation, which contains the tracks "Lento," "Candles in the Wind," and "Adagio," as well as an in-depth analysis of the score (which the OST sadly lacks - although it's got some great pictures in the insert.) Sound quality is fine, the orchestra handles the virtuoso material admirably, and it's almost an hour long. Add to that the fact that you can usually find it for under $10 new. For me, the 50 minutes fly past, making me hungry for more. Alien3 is much more than a score - it's an experience that has to be heard to be believed.