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S T A R G A T E

by David Arnold

Wow, what a theme!  David Arnold literally leaped onto the film scoring scene with this epic, sweeping sci-fi score.  He writes in a lush, Williams-esque orchestral style (very little synth.) that simply cannot go without being noticed.  Additionally, there's a giant chorus, which adds great depth to a large handful of cues.  Going back to the theme, I think its one of the very best from '90s scores.  From the thundering chordal brass arrangement to the romping scherzo in "Mastadge Drag," the main theme lends itself masterfully to all scoring purposes.  Overall, if you love loud, and I do mean LOUD, adventurous orchestral music coupled with tribal chanting, you could do no better than Stargate.  For those who enjoy the more romantic, sweeping, quiet music, this album still warrants a listen, as it has a number of great tranquil arrangements of the theme.  My only qualm is that some of the quiet tracks tend to get on the boring side, but don't let that deter you from purchasing David Arnold's magnum opus.  The CD release is quite good, featuring liner notes, as well as 60 minutes of music.  IMHO, they could have combined a few of the shorter tracks (there's 30 tracks in all) but I guess it's too late for that.

Track by Track Analysis:
1. Stargate Overture (3:01)
As I've already stated numerous times, I LOVE THIS THEME!  It begins with low choral mumblings and a building string/woodwind motif, which leads into the first statement of the grand theme.  This is probably the best presentation of it, with gargantuan pounding brass chords ringing out from the orchestra, augmented by flute flourishes.  The second part of the theme is much quieter, played on strings.  Eventually the chorus enters again, which chants itself into a frenzy, reaching a thunderous climax accompanied by a final brass chord.
2. Giza, 1928 (2:10)
Another excellent cue, this begins with ethnic percussion with a solo female vocal.  The percussion continues, and the orchestra introduces another theme, which is quite ominous and foreboding.  The score relaxes, however, with another motif, now augmented by the vocal.  Following this is a short interlude with the main theme played on horns, building to a glorious choral section accompanied by brass chords.
3. Unstable (2:07)
Things become decidedly calmer, with a tension-building string line which is enhanced by harp and celeste.  Thematically, nothing substantial occurs.
4. The Coverstones (:58)
Another new motif appears, slightly based on the main theme, but with a more Arabian flavor.
5. Orion (1:29)
Returns to the tone set by track 3 for the first few seconds, but eventually builds, hitting a full statement of the foreboding motif (from track 2) played on horns.  The main theme comes at the end in a woodwind orchestration.
6. The Stargate Opens (3:58)
This opens with a totally lush string melody, which disappears after the first minute.  Next comes a tender horn passage based on the main theme.  The music quiets in anticipation of the events on screen, and the foreboding motif makes a brief appearance, overshadowed by an upbeat, jaunty woodwind melody somewhat like the ever-present main theme.  As the Stargate finally does open, Arnold surges the orchestra into operatic proportions, and there's a brief choral part at the end.
7. You're On the Team (1:55)
The first minute is home to another tranquil, moving string section, and the second minute returns to the foreboding motif.
8. Entering the Stargate (2:57)
After a minute of unremarkable underscore, a horrific dissonant section with growling brass comes up for a while.  It lightens, however, with a great passage which uses the third motif from "Giza."  Another atonal section appears, even more dissonant and scary than the first.
9. The Other Side (1:44)
Pretty unremarkable for the first minute, but an awesome choral brass fanfare crops up eventually.
10.  Mastadge Drag (:56)
Another one of my very favorite cues, this is the breathtaking scherzo based on the main theme.  A pity it's not longer, but I'm not complaining. :)
11. The Mining Pit (1:34)
At first I thought this was going to be mediocre underscore, but it quickly redeems itself with yet another fantastic brass/choral duo, a minor key transcription of the main theme.
12. King of the Slaves (1:15)
It's a good track, but pretty unremarkable when compared alongside the touches of genious that this score has so many of.  The track's more low key variations on the main theme.
13. Caravan to Nagada (2:16)
Opens with a nice string interpretation of the M.T. followed by more weavings from the orchestra.  Finally, a full statement of the M.T. appears, and the supporting chords in the strings and woodwinds are changed somewhat, stronger than usual.
14. Daniel and Shauri (1:53)
This lush, moving track sports more permutations of, you guessed it!, the main theme.
15. Symbol Discovery (1:15)
Another one of those Arabian-esque "discovery" track.  Even though they're all great, they begin to run together at the halfway mark of the score.
16. Sarcophagus Opens (:55)
This is probably the most disturbing track on the album.  It's basically a conglomeration of unsettingly atonal brass chords supported by chromatic dancing woodwinds.
17. Daniel's Mastadge (:49)
Written in much the same way as "Mastadge Drag," this is another scherzo based on the main theme.  On its own it's excellent, but I don't think it holds up to the greatness of its predecessor.
18. Leaving Nagada (4:09)
This is a mournful track, with snatches of most of the themes.
19. Ra- The Sun God (3:22)
Pretty much like the previous track.  (Can you tell I'm running out of praising things to say?)  One of the best parts is an apocalyptic trumpet motif, which continues to build throughout the track.
20. The Destruction of Nagada (2:08)
Okay, now the mournful strings are starting to get on my nerves. The main redeeming quality of the track is an oboe performance of the third motif from "Giza."
21. Myth, Faith, Belief (2:18)
At this point, the score digs itself even deeper into the hole of mediocre underscore.  Fortunately, it regains its former momentum for the final string of cues.
22. Procession (1:43)
This dirge-like march begins with a section based on a motif from the previous track, but later becomes an awesome choral march.  Mention should be made to the impressionistic choral/string writing at the very end.
23. Slave Rebellion (1:00)
Another excellent track, this is almost like the two Mastadge tracks, with the beginning based on the second part of the M.T.
24. The Seventh Symbol (:57)
This short cue resurrects a stirring motif not used since one of the earlier tracks.
25. Quartz Shipment (1:27)
There's not a whole lot to say about this, it's more variations on various motives.  Not bad, but not one of the best parts.
26. Battle At the Pyramid (5:02)
Arnold lets loose after the string of underscore with this cataclysmic action sequence.  There are a number of exciting ostinatos. as well as a couple breaks in the tension.  Surprisingly, there's not a ton of thematic material, mainly new action motives and ostinatos.  It's one of the many highlights of this incredible score.
27. We Don't Want to Die (1:57)
A final yearning string-filled track.  I think it's better than all of the low underscore tracks.
28. The Surrender (1:44)
In the style of "Battle At the Pyramid," this final stunning action piece builds on the material from that.
29. Kasuf Returns (3:06)
For the beginning of the end of this score, Arnold gives us yet another simply incredible cue.  Previously unheard is a rendition of the main theme on some ethnic flute instruments.  Later comes one of the truly awe-inspiring statements of the M.T. with full orchestral tutti.  And finally, a giant, towering, cataclysmic choral chanting passage.  It's almost too much! :-)
30. Going Home (3:09)
The first few minutes allow us to say goodbye to the marvelous main theme.  In the last few seconds, the orchestra builds into a gigantic fanfare, ending on an awesome cadence.

I know you're probably sick and tired of me raving on about the greatness of the main theme, but it's impossible to ignore.  This album gets a 10, mainly for the theme.  It would have gotten the Choice Award, but it had a few too many low underscore cues with not much happening.  Overall, however, I can wholeheartedly recommend this marvelous album to anyone.



 
S T A R G A T E: 
The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 8/10
Performance 10/10
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 6/10



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Stargate is Copyright 1994 by Milan Records.  Its appearance on this site is for purely educational use.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  Opinions expressed are not those of Tripod.  Get over it.