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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Bear McCreary)

October 11, 2015

Cover_AgentsofSHIELDAGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Bear McCreary, 2015, Marvel Music
18 tracks, 77:52

Do we need another hero? How about another super hero score?  McCreary’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is a rousing score with a killer theme.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Phil Coulson heads an elite team of fellow agents with the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as SHIELD (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division), as they investigate strange occurrences around the globe. Its members — each of whom brings a speciality to the group — work with Coulson to protect those who cannot protect themselves from extraordinary and inconceivable threats, including a formidable group known as Hydra.

What does it sound like?

Included on the soundtrack are some of Marvel and McCreary’s favorite cues, including the main title theme, “Aftermath of the Uprising”, “0-8-4” and “Cello Concerto” from the episode “The Only Light in the Darkness”, an episode that centered around Coulson’s ex-girlfriend, a cellist.

Bear McCreary on the scope of the score: “The first season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was the most ambitious season of television I have ever been involved in. The sheer scope of this project was daunting: to score 22 episodes in 22 unique orchestral sessions, with orchestras ranging from 55 to 95 players, at the best sound stages in Los Angeles, with each episode requiring minimally 30 minutes of score!”

The album opens with the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Overture”, which offers a bold and rousing brass-led theme, backed by pulsing strings and electronic accents. Despite the modern orchestrations, there is something satisfyingly old-fashioned about the melody and the harmonies. The main theme will recur several (even: numerous) times throughout the score. The album continues with the near 7-minute “Showdown at Union Station”. It’s an energetic cue that’s a little too chaotic in some places, but absolutely thrilling in others.

The  main theme and its pulsing accompaniment open “0.8.4”, which briefly has an air of David Arnold about it. Elsewhere, the music may remind of Williams and Elfman. At a shade over 9 minutes, it’s the longest cue on the album, but it’s so tightly arranged that it flies by in no time. The main theme makes several prominent appearances throughout this relentless action cue.

McCreary on the “0-8-4” episode: “this episode is almost entirely one giant action cue (or so it felt when I was writing it) so I relied on the heavy synths and pounding percussion to cut through the chaos during moments when the orchestra alone would be unable to compete with the sound design The South American setting of “0-8-4″ gave me an excuse to bring an ethnic component to the score.”

The album does harbour a number of quieter cues. “Rocket Launch” is a lovely cue for folksy guitar and light strings, whilst “Aftermath and Uprising” offers an electric guitar-driven theme, that reminds me of Hans Zimmer’s “Thelma & Louise”. The percussion is excellent and drives the cue forward. Unsurprisingly, “Cello Concerto” relies heavily on virtuoso cello performances. It sounds impressive, but I struggle to recognise any form in there.

“My musical fascination with Coulson’s ex began in Episode 11, “The Magical Place”. There was a scene where Raina mentions The Cellist to Coulson and strikes a deep, emotional nerve,” said McCreary. “I was thrilled as I read the script for “The Only Light in the Darkness”, realizing that the episode would not only provide a chance for me to expand the Cellist Theme, but that the character herself would actually play it on screen.”  McCreary worked closely with the actress who played The Cellist, Amy Acker, on set to make sure it appeared she was a cello virtuoso.

Various action cues pass by, all relying heavily on string ostinatos, electronic percussion and hyperactive brass flurries. I mean that in the nicest possible way. The writing is energetic and the orchestrations are colourful. The album concludes with a, or another, rousing performance of the main theme.

Is it any good?

Bear McCreary’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is a rousing, full-bodied action score with a killer theme. At 77 minutes the album can feel a tad long and a wee bit exhausting, but that main theme and the colourful orchestrations hold everything together quite nicely. A little incessant, but a highly enjoyable album.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

01. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Overture (2:51)
02. Showdown at Union Station (6:56)
03. 0-8-4 (9:01)
04. Rocket Launch (3:03)
05. The Obelisk (3:56)
06. Aftermath of the Uprising (4:36)
07. Gravitonium (4:20)
08. Cal (2:41)
09. Cello Concerto (4:48)
10. Willing to Sacrifice (4:30)
11. Alien DNA (5:57)
12. Fzzt (3:49)
13. Garrett (2:08)
14. Hail Hydra (1:46)
15. Helicopter Rescue (2:04)
16. Terrigen Crystals (4:21)
17. The Big Bang (7:03)
18. The Rising Tide (3:45)

 

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