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Centurions of the Moon (Zaalen Tallis)

June 6, 2014

cover_centurionsofthemoonCENTURIONS OF THE MOON

Zaalen Tallis, 2014, MovieScore Media
20 tracks, 42:56

We love concept albums. It allows people to be creative without the usual constraints. Tom Hoover wrote a story about Romans fighting aliens and Zaalen Tallis composed an epic-sounding score to go with it.
Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Centurions of the Moon” is a concept album with music by Zaalen Tallis inspired by a story from Tom Hoover. It tells the tale of Rome’s famed Serpent Legion who are abducted one night by mysterious sirens from another world. The Ashas, as they are known, had systematically lost their men due to a devastating conflict that they were now on the brink of losing. The Serpent Legion were now tasked with fighting this war for them – which would be the only way they would be allowed to return home… The composer notes that he wanted to write a score “with a classic sound and style.” He also says that “writing thematically is always my top priority. Whether it’s a simple theme or a more elaborate one, themes are essential in helping us engage in a world we are asking to invest in.

What does it sound like?

Tallis’ thematic approach is clear from the start; and indeed throughout the album. The music is always harmonic, moving forward and engaging. I guess the great thing about a concept album (and story) is that you don’t have to worry about bland underscore. You can simply focus on the highlights of the story. However, what actually strikes me the most about this album is its use of powerful but inventive rhythms. Not only in the percussion, but throughtout the strings and brass sections. It’s a lively and infectious album; and before long your head’s bobbing along with the beat. It’s hard to sit still through this one!

The album opens with the title track “Centurions of the Moon” which features racing strings and a powerful brass theme. It’s not the most memorable of themes, but it is effective in creating an epic atmosphere. “Shoreline Battle” is remarkable, courtesy of its fantastic rhythmic drive; whilst “Abduction” creates tension through low growling noise (brass and male choir) and a syncopated rhythm incorporating the ever creepy col legno strings.

“Welcome to Asha” uses ethnic percussion to create an otherworldly atmosphere; whilst “Flesh and Steel” returns to the masculine soundscape of string ostinatos, brass chords and lively rhythms. “Remembering Home” offers a quiet moment away from the bombast. Strings and woodwinds dominate, though choir makes an appearance late in the cue. The alien protagonists “The Rezeks” are presented in much the same way as our heroic legion. War drums, lively strings and powerful brass chords (and ostinatos). Whilst it sounds a little more imposing than the legion’s music, it is shame there isn’t a clearer distinction in sound and style. “Serpent Formation” and “Infiltration” make great use of percussion to portray the Romans preparing for battle and sneaking into enemy territory.

Cues such as “And So It Begins”, “Battle Plans” and “To Be a Centurion” sound much alike. They’re exciting, rhythmic cues for full orchestra with a prominent role for percussion; but if you were to skip from one to the next you wouldn’t really hear any difference. “War of All” manages to raise the bar and sound a bit more epic than the previous cues. This is partly due to its grand opening chords; and partly due to the percussion taking on a rock-like rhythm. It’s very cool. “Make Them Bleed” and “We Fight as One” continue that rhythmic style we’ve heard throughout the album, with the former managing to sound quite dark and brooding, thanks to some low-level growling brass.

“Victorious” sounds like the title suggest, but there is a hint of melancholy, as many comrades fell to achieve this victory. The fallen are remembered in the following introspective cue; taking the “Victorious” theme and rearranging it for soft choir and woodwinds. “Mass Seduction” is a polite title for a cue that centers around ethnic percussion as celebrations take place all over Asha. The album concludes with “Return to Earth”, which reprises the main theme. It brings the album to satisfying end.

Is it any good?

“Centurions of the Moon” by Zaalen Tallis is a very enjoyable album, with great energy. Particularly noteworthy is the constant rhythmic drive that runs all through the album. There are some very infectious rhythms to be found here. The overall sound is big and epic with plenty of racing strings and forceful brass chords and themes. The music is entirely synthesised, using high quality samples. There is plenty to enjoy in the music not to be distracted by its sampled performance. Whilst it is a very melodic score, I find the rhythms the most memorable here. Many of the melodies are too much alike to really differentiate between them. In fact, I find the whole soundscape a little too homogenous, making virtually no distinction between the good guys and the baddies. It is a very colourful and playful score, don’t get me wrong, but I wish there was a clearer difference in either sound or style between the Centurions and The Rezeks. Any differences that may exist are very subtle, and as a result I’m missing a real sense of drama, because there isn’t that obvious clash between the enemies and their music. Nonetheless, “Centurions of the Moon” is an exciting and engaging album. The booklet deserves a mention as it explains the storyline behind each cue. It makes for a good read and it’s particularly useful to help put each cue into context.

Rating [3/5]

Tracklisting

1. Centurions of the Moon 1:47
2. Shoreline Battle 1:40
3. Abduction 1:34
4. Welcome to Asha 2:05
5. Flesh and Steel 3:00
6. Remembering Home 2:05
7. Asha History Lesson 2:37
8. The Rezeks 2:09
9. Serpent Formation 1:38
10. And So It Begins 2:14
11. Battle Plans 3:01
12. Infiltration 1:09
13. To Be a Centurion 2:30
14. War of All 3:30
15. Make Them Bleed 1:37
16. We Fight as One 2:00
17. Victorious 1:50
17. The Fallen 2:00
19. Mass Seduction 2:08
20. Return to Earth 2:22

Availability

Visit the MovieScore Media website for more information.

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