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Conquest 1453 (Benjamin Wallfisch)

August 3, 2013

Cover_Conquest1453 CONQUEST 1453

Benjamin Wallfisch, 2012, MovieScore Media
32 tracks, 72:08

Asked to write a score that sounds like it could come from a Hollywood blockbuster, Benjamin Wallfisch has done just that. Well no… he’s actually written a score that sounds far superior to anything that could come from a Hollywood blockbuster.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Conquest 1453” is a Turkish film (original title “Fetih 1453”) by director Faruk Aksoy and centers around the Ottoman invasion of Istanbul in the 15th century. It’s an ambitious looking film that tries to convey the same sense of sweep and grandeur of some its Hollywood counterparts (e.g. “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Gladiator”), though falls short due to restricted budgets. The filmmakers wished for a Western-sounding soundtrack and brought in relative new-comer (where film music is concerned) Benjamin Wallfisch. A seemingly bold choice (why not hire an American), but one that’s paid off big time.

What does it sound like?

Exactly as the filmmakers asked for, it sounds like an epic Hollywood-produced orchestral score, with plenty of percussion and synthesizer. Straight off the bat, the opening cue “Mehmet Theme” has an air of familiarity about it as it appears to take its inspiration from Hans Zimmer and maybe even a little Vangelis (“Conquest of Paradise” briefly comes to mind). “Duel” is a high-energy track that combines traditional orchestral action music with electronic percussion and synth sounds, recalling Marco Beltrami at times; whilst “The Prophecy” features ethereal chanting before a lively woodwind performance of the main theme takes centre stage. It may sound familiar, it is a strong and likeable theme; and thankfully Wallfisch is not afraid to use it, as it return many time, in many guises throughout the album (most notably in “The Promise”, “Mehmet’s War”, “Leader of Men”, “My Life for my Flag” and “Child of Istanbul”).

“Conquest 1453” is a long album that hardly ever lets up. “Basilica” contains choral chanting over dark chords and percussion making it ideal trailer music; whilst “Harbour” introduces acoustic guitar in order to create a lighter atmosphere. “Journey” reminds the listener that synthesizers are never far away in this score. The album is predominantly orchestral, but when Wallfisch brings the synths to the fore they tend to be quite striking. As such it reminds me a little of how Elfman or Horner use their synths (fans of the “War” track from “Avatar” should find plenty to enjoy here). “Arrows of Fire” is a particularly exciting action cue; where “Era and Hassan” is a romantic cue with a lush melody for strings and woodwinds.

Tracks such as “War Drums”, “Attack” and “Mehmet’s War” deliver the visceral punch you’d expect from such titles. Heavy on percussion though they may be, they are primarily orchestral cues; and with some very exciting writing for strings and brass at that! Use of choir (especially the chanting variation) is generally sparse, but when Wallfisch does call upon them, it very effectively raises the music to that next level of epicness. To me this album proves that Wallfisch has a perfect understanding of ‘balancing’ the various elements, so that when he does lash out it is genuinely exciting.

“Isolation” and especially “The Stone of Eyüp” offer a moment of reflection and utter beauty. Strings and an airy flute create a magical atmosphere before a female vocal reprises the main theme. For a moment, we are allowed to forget about the war; until “Pulling the Ships” takes us back to the action with its percussive hits and incredibly dense string writing (a little reminiscent of James Newton Howard perhaps). The album closes with the aforementioned tracks “My Life for my Flag”, a ball-to-the-wall orchestral and percussive rendition of the main theme; and “Child of Istanbul”, which offers a more reflective approach to the theme.

Is it any good?

Comparisons can be unfair at times, and I’ve made a few throughout this review. Simple truth is: when asked to mimic a typical Western blockbuster sound, you can’t really get around people like Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Brian Tyler or Marco Beltrami. That’s not to say the music is derivative; it is only meant as an indication of what to expect from this score for a film that most of us will not have seen. Clocking in at just over 72 minutes it is a long album, but Wallfisch manages to keep things interesting… just by writing proper orchestral music, with strong themes, satisfying chord progressions and plenty of musical titbits. The orchestral writing is very satisfying and the clear mixing allows you to hear every detail of it. “Conquest 1453” is a big orchestral score first; and one with distinct synth sounds and plenty of sampled percussion second. Wallfisch manages to bring a level of sophistication to this type of score that’s rarely heard in the Hollywood counterparts it tries to sound like.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1. Mehmet’s Theme (2.46)
2. Duel (3.35)
3. The Prophecy (2.22)
4. The Promise (1.57)
5. Basilica (1.45)
6. The Resistance (1.50)
7. Harbour (0.49)
8. Nightmare (1.34)
9. Journey (2.03)
10. Destiny (4.03)
11. Diplomacy Fails (1.55)
12. Arrows of Fire (3.55)
13. Era and Hassan (2.01)
14. Hippodrome (2.13)
15. Halil Summoned (3.32)
16. Easter (2.03)
17. War Drums (1.51)
18. Attack (1.49)
19. Mehmet Contemplates (1.20)
20. Era’s Transformation (0.53)
21. Factory (1.47)
22. Mehmet’s War (2.17)
23. Aftermath (1.09)
24. Tunnel (2.42)
25. Isolation (2.17)
26. The Stone of Eyüp (3.46)
27. Pulling the Ships (2.10)
28. Leader of Men (1.35)
29. Goodbye (1.29)
30. End Game (3.41)
31. My Life for My Flag (2.20)
32. A Child of Istanbul (3.00)

Availability

Available digitally and on CD. For details visit Movie Score Media

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