K R U L L
by James Horner
I'm sure some of you out there have never heard of this, so I'll give a
complete introduction. Krull was an ambitious fantasy movie created
in 1983, but it bombed horribly when the public realized how lame the script
was. The only true redeeming quality was James Horner's epic score
which captured the true tone and meaning of the movie. Unfortunately,
the film pulled down the score, so now it's not readily available in any
form. The original LP and CD was 45 minutes long, hitting a few of
the main highlights. A few years ago, SCSE put out an expanded edition
with 78 minutes of music, which would be the ideal presentation of the
score. Of course, this was a "super limited edition," and it usually
receives an excess of $100 at auctions. All of this changed, however,
when in 1998 Super Tracks finally released the complete score, made better
by some remastering. The 2CD set is still not widely available, and
I ordered mine last year for about $40 from Intrada. When I listened
to it the first time through, I was thinking, "I paid $40 for THIS?"
Needless to say, I wasn't too excited. After a few more listenings,
Krull found a seemingly permanent place in the CD storage rack. However,
about a week ago I dug it out of mothballs and gave it a fair listen.
I couldn't believe how great it was and said to myself, "What was I thinking??"
Since then, Krull has risen to the top of my Horner collection, and I place
it slightly behind Star Trek 2 as the best James Horner score of all time.
(I still haven't bought Willow, so that could easily change.) The
two central themes are the main title, which is an enthusiastic, complex
showpiece, and the love theme, a moving theme that makes great use of layered
strings. Even though the orchestra is the London Symphony Orchestra,
Horner gives them a run for their money with 10 minute long cues full of
excruciatingly difficult brass runs. They break under the pressure
sometimes, but overall give a convincing performance of the complex material.
The sound quality could be better, since it sounds as if it was recorded
in the room next to the orchestra, but I've heard a lot worse. The
packaging looks very professional, with mounds of colorful photos and a
short analysis of the movie and score in the liner notes. Two weeks
ago I wouldn't have done this, but now I can safely recommend this to anyone
and although you may loathe it the first few times through, it will eventually
grow on you and you won't be able to keep it out of the CD player.
Track by Track Analysis:
1. Krull Main Title and Colwyn's Arrival (7:35)
If I had to pick one word to describe this score it would have to be
"celestial." Most sections of it have some kind of starry, unearthly
motif whether it's in the chorus, string arpeggios, harp, or true celeste.
If only James Horner still wrote music like this! All of the key
motives and themes are introduced in these two lengthy opening tracks.
Krull opens much like Star Trek II with a throbbing bass note. The
Ambrosian Singers come in singing a slightly corny "spacey" melody.
One of the first key motives is stated by distant horns, followed by more
choral utterances. The horn call modulates several times into the
key of D major, giving an awesome trumpet/horn fanfare passage. Fluttering
strings take over, and the true main theme is finally played in the strings.
It's one of Horner's most complex melodies, having several sections.
Also, trumpets play an impossibly difficult building motif in the background.
More of the horn call, and a full presentation of the grand, heroic main
theme appears. After a short bridge passage, the tone abruptly changes
into terror with groaning men's chorus, huge looming chords, cannon-like
descending strings, and an ostinato from Holst's The Planets (I. Mars)
Horner lightens up after a few minutes of that, introducing a new motif,
the fluttering Glaive motif played in woodwinds. Also, a passage
gives us our first listen of the love theme, although it's never actually
stated. Other highlights include an adventurous march near the end
of the track, and some final statements of the horn motif at the end.
2. The Slayers Attack (9:20) See what I mean
about the track lengths?
This is another awesome track, shifting between
variations on the love theme and action pieces as the main characters'
wedding is suddenly crashed. The first few minutes give a complete
demonstration of the love theme and its layered strings. The first
action segment contains a return of the Holst ostinato and "string shots,"
my name for the cannon-like string runs. Next comes more love theme,
as well as more of the action music, now with a great horn accompaniment.
After more love theme, the music turns sinister just like the previous
times, but this is different, giving a desperate march without the ostinato
and string shots. Instead, we get a minor key version of the horn
motif, as well as intricate string runs. More high points include
an action segment with the horn motif, and a cataclysmic section at the
end with falling orchestra and howling male chorus.
3. Quest for the Glaive (7:24)
Well, Horner's now 3 for 3 on great tracks.
After the crushing chorus, this is a welcome respite. Nearly all
of it is in a major key, constantly accompanied with celestial runs.
Slightly corny is the children's chorus, and there's a wistful statement
of the main theme at the beginning. Ascending string passages come
next, and at about the 3 minute mark, trumpets and strings enter with a
motif heard before, which leads into another great arrangement of the theme,
now with fluttering flute arpeggios. Another statement of the horn
call comes next, always with string flourishes and celeste. An impressionistic
section follows with the chorus over a dissonant bass chord. The
rising brass accompaniment that we've heard too many times joins it, and
the bass mutates into a major chord with the horn call coupled with the
choir and synths. After the major chord leaves, dissonance
returns, with a pleading flute statement of the love theme peeking out
over the tumult.
4. Ride to the Waterfall (:54)
Not very noteworthy, this just has a statement
of the Glaive motif over strings.
5. Lyssa in the Fortress (1:29)
The opening of this is dissonant to the point
of madness, but it gives way to another pleading statement of the love
theme over minor chords. Another presentation of the horn call rounds
out the track.
6. The Walk to the Seer's Cave (4:11)
Opens with a charming march, which segues into
one of the most downright weird parts of the album. It's basically
celeste, strings, and synth playing sleepy major chords for about
3 minutes. I'm serious, this is a great cure for insomnia! You could
just loop this section and fall asleep in minutes. Uh...........oh..................<snore>
7. The Seer's Vision (2:19)
It's a little like the previous track, full of
mounds of synth/celeste. One of the violin chord progressions from
"Quest for the Glaive" appears briefly, followed by hints of the love theme,
segueing into another dissonant section with crawling strings. This
lasts for about thirty seconds, leading into a small fanfare based on the
horn call. One final minor chord ends the track.
8. Battle in the Swamp (2:41)
I don't think it's a direct borrow, but the opening
of this sounds strikingly like the desert music from Star Wars. Don't
be fooled by the chromatic strings/vibraphone, though, as it quickly dissipates
into a great action cue. Most of the material here will be built
upon in the climactic cues, and this sounds the most like some of his last
action scores like Rocketeer, etc. Not much thematic material, apart
from the horn theme, appears.
9. Quicksand (3:39)
We're back into horrific dissonant material,
evidenced by the moaning male chorus and atonal chords. One gleam
of light, however, is a quick statement of the love theme. A new
fanfare appears, but dives back into dissonance. The atonal bass
chords become a foundation for a new chromatic trumpet section, extended
by drifting piano notes.
10. The Changeling (4:05)
More growling male chorus and dissonant bass
begin this track. A triplet motif in the string bass builds into
a new motif: the tension-building ostinato from "Kirk's Explosive Reply"
in Star Trek II! Obviously Horner acute case of plagiarism began
even with his earliest scores. (Just as a note, I don't really care
about his borrowings, I just list them for completists' sake) That
chromatic motif from "Quicksand" plays a big part in this track, and a
small snippet of one of the Slayers' themes pops up. The end features
another action-like motif, which falls into an insanely atonal conclusion.
11. Colwyn and Lyssa Love Theme (2:35)
It's only been heard in full once, so Horner
gives us a full concert arrangement of his extravagant love theme.
It sounds a little like that of The Rocketeer, although not much, and it's
got awesome layered strings and hints of the celestial Glaive theme.
1. Leaving the Swamp (2:01)
We return to the upbeat melodies reminiscent
of "Quest for the Glaive." Unlike "Quest," however, this lacks the
corny high chorus, and adds another great rendition of the main theme.
Like all the rest of the tracks, it has exquisite violin flourishes in
the upper register.
2. The Widow's Web (6:20)
Opens with fluttering synths with howling chorus
and dissonant strings and brass. Not to be nitpicky, but the brass
reminds me a lot of one of Khan's tracks from Star Trek II. In the
midst of the scary ambience are horrific brass and chorus outbreaks.
Later there's woodwind glissandi, a pulsing motif in the low brass, as
well as the howling women's chorus. However, a giant major chord
progression crops up, leading to a climax straight out of Trek II.
More dissonance continues, but the atmosphere becomes wondrous again, only
to dissolve into another menacing low brass line with yelling voices, etc.
The very end is a welcome respite. Overall, this is one of the most
atonal/scary cues out of the entire Horner repertoire, and is definitely
not for the squeamish.
3. The Widow's Lullaby (5:03)
Continuing in the manner of the end of "Web,"
the woodwinds play a statement of the Glaive theme. That insanely
corny children's chorus sings a new motif, highlighted by small stretches
of the love theme. Luckily, they don't last long, and the orchestra
plays that same motif again. It's overtaken by dissonance, followed
by one of the most unabashedly beautiful sections of the entire score.
This is a variation of the love theme accompanied by harp arpeggios.
More dissonant chords follow, and of course the annoying chorus enters.
Following this is a full-fledged action segment, giving a chasing brass
motif, wind machine, and vocal chords.
4. Vella (3:47)
We begin with another full presentation of the
love theme; this turns horribly evil with droning piano notes and minor
chords. It's pretty cool how Horner manages to mutate the calm love
theme into almost an action cue.
5. Ynyr's Death (1:42)
This is a tender cue that revisits some of the
"Widow's Web" material as Ynyr dies. Hints of a climactic motif to
be heard in full pop up at one point. However, the last minute is
a giant dissonant chord that takes one completely by surprise.
6. Ride of the Firemares (5:23)
Horner really lets loose with this unabashedly
enthusiastic "concert suite" of the main theme. The opening is like
the rendition used in the end credits, and next comes a solo horn variation
accompanied by harp. A few other sections of the main title figure
in prominently, but they're taken at a blazing tempo. Although the
orchestra buckles at a couple select points, they manage to keep up with
Horner's impossible trumpet lines. The last two minutes turn into
a minor key, featuring the main Slayers motif heard in the first two tracks.
Out of all the great moments of this score, "Firemares" is near the top.
7. Battle on the Parapets (2:53)
Yet another excellent track, this resurrects
one of the main motives from "Battle in the Swamp." It's infinitely
more thematic, however, utilizing both the first horn motif and the main
8. Inside the Black Fortress (6:16)
The first of Horner's mammoth climactic action
cues, this opens with atonal woodwind glissandi and moaning male chorus.
Next is a military march based on the Slayers' themes, possessing snippets
of the main theme. Some of the action segments from the opening suites
reprise themselves, and a new horn motif (the one hinted at in Ynyr's Death)
appears. It's hard to hear, but the bass accompaniment in the next
section is actually the love theme. One of the highlights of the
track is a gargantuan chord progression coupled with swirling strings.
After about 2 minutes of pretty unremarkable atonality, a short statement
of the sweeping love theme appears. Next is another highlight with
the horn call joining that chord progression.
9. The Death of the Beast and the Destruction
of the Black Fortress (8:32)
This final action cue opens with one of the motives
from Trek II, followed by the Slayers' motif against harp. The next
minute is previously heard material from the climax of Track 2. This
quiets, and a horrific outburst of dissonant music from all sections of
the orchestra comes quite unexpectedly. Next is more of the Slayers'
motif. That awesome love theme variation from "Lullaby" makes a final
appearance, and the following section is a building chord progression with
droning bass vocals as the foundation. One part of the love theme
comes in for a few seconds, and a final dissonant outbreak complete with
harp glissandi. For the final action segment, we get a march based
on the Slayer/Beast material.
10. Epilogue and End Title (4:50)
For once the tone is completely joyous, giving
a quick reprise of some of the material from "Widow's Web." The chorus
builds into the glorious end credits, containing a full-bodied presentation
of the main theme orchestrated like "Firemares," but adding chimes.
Next comes a final statement of the love theme, played much like the concert
arrangement. Krull ends as it began with high chorus and low bass.
In summation, you couldn't do much better than
to pick up Krull. I think it's nearly James Horner's magnum opus,
containing everything rabid film score fans want and then some. You
may be like me and hate it the first few times, but repeated listenings
will have it grow on you enormously. I don't think we could ask for
better packaging, but the liner notes were a tad skimpy. Also, I'm
going to have to deduct points from the length category, because sometimes
the album seems simply too long. Overall, however, you NEED this
Oh yeah, this site has a great analysis of a lot of the cues, giving
instrumentation and chordal information.
Krull: The Final Score
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Krull is Copyright 1998 by Super Tracks. Its appearance on this site
is for purely informational purposes. Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew