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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.

CD2:
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 theme.
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 score.

Oh yeah, this site has a great analysis of a lot of the cues, giving instrumentation and chordal information.
 Film Score Rundowns



 
Krull: The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 7/10
Orchestral Performance 8/10
Sound Quality 7/10
Length 7/10





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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 Drannon.