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Quite simply, The Omen is Jerry Goldsmith's most evil score.  Ask anyone what they remember most from the score and there's no doubt they'd say "the choir."  In all honesty, I have never in my life heard sounds like this come from a human voice and I can't imagine what Goldsmith had to do to make them do it.  Although the first track is more traditional, with an evil Latin chant, in other places they scream, bark like dogs, and do lots of other unnatural stuff.  That's not to say the entire score is one long black mass (which Omen II is subtitled due to the overwhelming choral forces), since there's actually a really good "family" theme to represent Gregory Peck and his wife.  What's really great is when Goldsmith intertwines it with the unyielding chanting.  If you can't tell by now, this album is definitely not for the squeamish - atonality and dissonance pervade almost every track.  In fact, The Omen sounds like The Mephisto Waltz, Alien, or Planet of the Apes with a choir.  Or you could say it's POLTERGEIST squared.  The movie was about the American ambassador to England adopting a child.  A bad child.  The Antichrist.  The visuals themselves weren't that scary, but when coupled with Goldsmith's uncompromising score the film became a modern masterpiece.  Oh, and Goldsmith won his first and so far only Oscar for the effort, although I can think of about a billion other scores of his that deserved it more.  That's not to say this is bad - it's actually one of Goldsmith's best.  The album is one of those early Varese releases, and thus has about 35 minutes of music.  I'm definitely not complaining, though - 35 is almost more than enough.  As a final note, the National Philharmonic seems to be missing a few of its players here - the orchestral parts are more of a chamber-music variety.  That's fine with me - they pull the job off admirably.  Sound quality is great, especially considering its age.  JAWS doesn't sound nearly this crisp.  In the end, most collectors will probably want to get this, even if you don't like atonal music.  If you do, though, you'll be greatly rewarded by one of Goldsmith's best.


Track by Track Analysis:
1. Ave Satani (2:32)
Goldsmith begins his Black Mass with a chanting anthem.  Surprisingly, this was nominated for the Best Song Oscar in 1976.  I always knew the Academy was in league with the devil :)  Anyway, after a short, uncertain choral introduction and the first statement of the love theme on piano, the song develops into a funeral-like dirge complete with pipe organ and chimes.  The choral part here is fantastic - somehow they manage to synchronize the dissonant chords perfectly, and the higher parts have an awesome wailing quality to them.  Also noteworthy is the way the composer inserts hints of the love theme as a minor section of the song.  Oh, and I really don't see where people can compare this to Orff's O Fortuna - the two pieces completely contrast each other.

2. The New Ambassador (2:33)
The first of the calmer tracks comes next with a fully orchestral concert version of the love theme, relying heavily on Golden Age strings.  The piano part actually makes it sound more like a pop song, although it's not too noticeable.  The love theme is a soaring, integral part to the score, although most people won't be expecting it after "Ave Satani."

3. Killer's Storm (2:52)
We're back to ominous choral moanings with another Stravinsky-esque action cue.  This time they're doing unearthly chromatic glissandi both up and down the scale.  Like the rest of the score, it's extremely unnerving, especially when the strings join them in the glissandi.  Finally, this exhausts itself with a towering vocal glissando that mutates the music into a chopping string figure with the chorus jumping in at odd intervals yelling out "Satani!"  What's really unnerving is when Goldsmith somehow makes the men do this in a soprano register.

4. A Sad Message (1:42)
It seems that Varese is taking the "concert" approach with assembling this album, alternating violence with love theme cues.  This one isn't particularly noteworthy - just a variation on the love theme followed by ominous suspense music.

5. The Demise of Mrs. Baylock (2:52)
Goldsmith is back with his demonic chanting, making the singers do even more unnatural things with their voices.  This one begins with yelling sopranos echoed by the bass, all over a chopping, descending string ostinato.  More of the dissonant orchestra/chorus march forms the middle section, which is probably the most dissonant we've had so far.  Next, the orchestra continues with an Alien-like dissonance section while the chorus does some kind of weird hissing effect, climaxing in a huge yelling of "Satani!"  More of the first section leads into the final battle - bass voice glissandi followed by high-pitched screaming.

6. Don't Let Him (2:48)
Now we alternate again to another love theme cue.  This one seems like the second half of A Sad Message, although Goldsmith inserts more orchestral dissonance into it.

7. The Piper Dreams (2:39)
This is the only unfortunate track on the album.  Apparently, the producers also thought the love theme sounded like a pop tune, so they turned it into this.  No more needs to be said.

8. The Fall (3:42)
This one begins like an even more dissonant recap of "Don't Let Him" with the love theme, but later turns into almost a comic version of the "Ave Satani" theme.  It's quite entertaining, actually.  Of course, at the end of this the chorus goes back to yelling dissonance and grotesque orchestral effects.

9. Safari Park (2:04)
Again, Goldsmith blends the score's two contrasting styles.  This track begins like any of the others with a carefree rendition of the love theme, but eventually degrades into yet more choral chanting.  That material sounds like a dream-like recap of "Killer's Storm," complete with string glissandi.  At the end of the track is an unnerving variation on the love theme.

10. The Dog's Attack (5:50)
Out of all the tracks, I think this one has the most to be scared about.  The first few minutes are completely unnerving: low, unearthly mumblings in the bass that sound like grotesque permutations of Catholic monks.  Also of note are a few orchestral interludes with high, dissonant strings that sound like what he would later use for Alien.  After a gradual building into a fortissimo level, the voices perform yet another huge glissando into darkness.  In the second half of the cue, Goldsmith perhaps takes the cue's title a little too far and has the bass voices barking like dogs in a hugely frightening action cue.  Also in this section is a return to the main theme with the choir turning it into an action cue.

11. The Homecoming (2:43)
This track is probably the most noteworthy of the quieter tracks.  The composer creates some sympathy for Damien's parents by playing their theme helplessly in the background of deathly quiet dissonant strings for the majority of the cue.

12. The Altar (2:00)
For the giant finale cue, Goldsmith reprises The Dog's Attack, but now with pipe organ and virtuoso piano runs.  After a short episode with the choir whispering out of control, we get a final reprise of Goldsmith's "Ave Satani" theme.

Overall, fans of Goldsmith, horror scores, and/or atonal music are the people that would enjoy this the most.  Just don't listen to it alone in the dark.



 
The Omen: The Final Score
Music Rating 9/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 7/10
Sound Quality 7/10
Length 10/10
Orchestral Performance 10/10


The Omen is Copyright 1976 by Varese Sarabande.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.