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Fury (Steven Price)

October 9, 2014

Cover_FuryFURY

Steven Price, 2014, Varese Sarabande
19 tracks, 66.56

This is the difficult “first score since winning an Oscar” for Steven Price. Will “Fury” push him in a whole new direction; or is he staying in “Gravity’s” space?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. The film is directed by David Ayer, who has four previous directorial credits, but may be better known for his screenplays for “U-571”, “Training Day”, “S.W.A.T.”.

The original score is by Steven Price, whose “Gravity” did not only earn him a 2013 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Award for “Best Action/Adventure/Sci Fi Score” (I am sure he keeps a printed copy of that post above his fireplace… you know, in case he needs to light the fire), but also several more prestigious awards such as an Oscar. All eyes (and ears) are on “Fury” then to see how the Nottingham-born composer’s career continues. Inevitably, it’ll all be measured against “Gravity” – both its style and its success.

What does it sound like?

Let me start by saying that I wasn’t sure what I expected (or indeed wanted) “Fury” to be. I loved “Gravity”. It was such an intense, innovative and captivating score. Undoubtedly a total ball-ache to compose, but it paid dividends. On the one hand I was hoping for a little more along those same lines, yet I was also keen to hear something very different; something that would show how broad Price’s musical spectrum really is. As it turns out, it’s hard to escape “Gravity”.

I sought to honor the characters’ bravery; to create a score that was honest and true,” says Price of his score for “Fury”. “At the same time, for a film accurately portraying mechanized warfare, the score needed to be primal and guttural. We used armory and weaponry as instruments to give a sense of a constant grinding forward whilst the orchestra carried the emotion.

From the get-go (“April, 1945”) we are greeted by whispering, mysterious synth pads and the clattering noise of a tank’s caterpillar tracks. Heavy, trudging rhythms and that fat, granular synth sound that permeated “Gravity” join moments later. As does German-sounding choral chanting (possibly sampled, as no choir is credited). It’s a dense cue. As noisy, but in an organised way, as anything in “Gravity”. While Price hints at melody (a solo cello here, a two-note horn motif elsewhere), it is nothing more but a hint at this stage.

The following few tracks continue with moody synths and sound design; though strings, piano and vocals provide an acoustic counterpoint. The eerie vocals in “Fury Drives into Camp” remind me somewhat of Trevor Jones’ work on “Excalibur”. Towards the end of “Refugees” Price briefly reveals his main theme, on a piano. It’s like a seven-note line that goes up, then comes down.

Variations on the theme are heard throughout “The Beetfield”, a lengthy and intense cue for orchestra, choir and all the electronic trickery Price is so capable off. It should be noted that, really, the synths take the lead. Not just here, but throughout the score. The orchestra provides and acoustic, and emotional backdrop, but it’s really about the tanks, the machinery and their sound and rhythm.

There’s a real mechanized feel to the score, the music is heavy treading,” explains the composer. “There are very heavy rhythms in the action sequences that keep trucking along and, amongst that, you get these emotional reactions that draw you in.

When Price does allow the piano, the vocals or the orchestra to take centre-stage it has a great emotional effect. Exactly like it did in his Oscar-winning score. Strings, cello and piano perform one of the strongest variations on the main theme in “Emma”, though chanting and flickering string effects are still competing for the limelight. “Tiger Battle” is a monster track with chanting choir, stabbing brass and strings, percussion and a plethora of sound effects. “On the Lookout” is a mostly mysterious affair, though ends with a touching rendition of the main theme.

Contrary to what you might expect, the track “Machine” is, for the most part, a heart-felt cue for strings, cello and piano. The cue expertly builds to a singular performance of the main theme. It’s so beautifully done, it feels like the entire track is about that theme, even though it only actually appears for twenty seconds or so.

“Crossroads” is another powerhouse cue heavy on synth effects, percussion, chanting, but also features strings and brass. There are moments here, and throughout the score, where I wonder whether Price is trying to musically emulate the sound of distant explosions and gunfire — is that what the granulated noises are about? It’s cues like this that make the score live up to its title. The solo cello and vocal, towards the end, add a melancholy touch.

The last handful of cues provide a stoic and melancholy finale, with especially “Norman” providing the strongest, and likely most appealing, rendition of the main theme. It keeps reminding me of “The Last Samurai” by Hans Zimmer; probably unfairly so, because I think it’s only the last two notes that trigger that thought. Still, there are numerous moments where I want to describe the music as “Gravity” meets “The Last Samurai”.

Is it any good?

Steven Price’s “Fury” is certainly an impressive sounding work. As with “Gravity” it’s a fascinating piece of music that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The sound is so dense, yet so well organised – every little sound is audible, in spite of this faux chaos. The heavy, plodding rhythms seem to perfectly capture a sense of tanks working their way through mud, with war going on around them. I’d say it’s another technical triumph for Price.

Yet, where I do struggle a little – especially not having seem the film yet – is how this very modern score will work against a story that is set in 1945. Now, I’m not at all against this sort of juxtaposition; it’s just that “Fury”, on album, sounds so futuristic. It certainly conjures up images of modern warfare, though maybe not of a war that’s actually fought outside, in green fields and mud, on country roads, amongst trees, or in historic towns and villages… as WWII was. So, I will reserve judgement on how it works within the film.

As a soundtrack album, it’s an immersive listen. Of course, there will be people who will be disappointed that this is as close to “Gravity” (or to “The World’s End” for that matter) as it is; though I’m sure there will also be plenty who will enjoy it just as much. Clearly, I fall in the latter category, though I do prefer Price’s previous effort. The sound and style just seem to make more sense there. The chugging rhythms as well as those swelling synth sounds on “Fury” can wear you down, like the muddy fields did to those tanks and soldiers. And the whole thing does feel like a sequel-score, though with a slightly wider sound palette. That said, Price seems to have developed quite a unique style; unlike anyone else’s ventures into synths and sound design. It’s a venture I happen to enjoy. So whilst I do want to hear something else from this composer, “Fury” is an impressive follow-up.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1. April, 1945 (4:15)
2. The War Is Not Over (1:48)
3. Fury Drives Into Camp (1:51)
4. Refugees (2:42)
5. Ambush (2:07)
6. The Beetfield (7:59)
7. Airfight (3:05)
8. The Town Square (2:18)
9. The Apartment (0:59)
10. Emma (2:36)
11. Tiger Battle (6:18)
12. On The Lookout (3:04)
13. This Is My Home (3:43)
14. Machine (3:22) 15. Crossroads (8:06)
16. Still In This Fight (3:39)
17. I’m Scared Too (3:46)
18. Wardaddy (2:39)
19. Norman (2:51)

Availability

Steven Price’s “Fury” will be released by Varese Sarabande on October 14th, 2014.

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4 Comments
  1. “This is the difficult ‘first score since winning an Oscar’ for Steven Price.”
    True. It is always hard for a composer to follow-up when the expectations are high based on his previous work. This doesn’t disappoint, though!

  2. Artaxerxes permalink

    The funny thing is I actually think it works better in the film than on the album. The film has a certain intensity that is reflected in the score, and somehow the synthetic elements never really stood out while the angry chanting did.

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