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Game of Thrones Symphony (Ramin Djawadi)

March 13, 2017

GAME OF THRONES (SYMPHONY)

Ramin Djwadai, 2017, Silva Screen
21 tracks, 69:06

Ramin Djawadi’s score moves from the small screen to the big stage… This release celebrates the rich tapestry of music over the six series with the full firepower of an 80 piece symphony orchestra and choir.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Game of Thrones really is a television phenomenon. HBO’s epic small screen adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series of fantasy tomes continues to draw in record audiences around the world, and shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed some 8.9m people tuned in to the Season Six finale in the US and with repeats, recordings and on-demand viewings taken into consideration, it is estimated that Game of Thrones enjoys an average of 23m viewers per instalment. With a whopping thirty-eight Emmy Awards (and counting), this series remains the darling of prime-time pay TV.

What does it sound like? And is it any good?

For reasons I don’t even fully understand, I never got into Game of Thrones; neither the show nor its music. In some ways this compilation (sorry… symphony) seems ideal for people like me. It’s a concise collection of highlights from six seasons of music. And yet, I’m not impressed. Far from it. I mean… I’m chuffed to bits for Djawadi to have landed this gig. His main theme has pretty much become part of modern pop culture; and he’s done well developing and extending the many ideas that appear throughout the score. And I must add, and stress, that the original score releases are quite satisfying. I’m not their biggest fan and I do believe that Djawadi’s writing leaves a little to be desired at times; but he more than makes up for it with varied and interesting orchestrations and excellent production values. They’re well recorded and mixed. This Silva album is everything but.

My gripe? It sounds so thin. Even here – especially here – performed by this 80-piece orchestra, I get no sense of scope. Maybe it’s intentional, but if so then the intention is lost on me. Even at its most dense, there only seem to be a few voices layered. There are plenty of really neat ideas, dozens of ‘m, but the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra fails to execute them in a satisfying way. This is particularly noticeable when the music tries to be big and epic. On the one hand I wonder whether there’s enough complexity in the writing to raise the music to the level it’s aiming for. That said, on the original albums Djawadi manages to pull it off. Here, CoP does not. Here it feels unfinished, doing no justice to Djawadi’s work. The dry mix doesn’t help matters either. People around the world have raved about the “Light of the Seven” cue (I don’t fully agree, but I can see why), yet here it sounds dull, devoid of any passion, because it’s so dry. And thin. And everything is so slow, so tediously slow. There appears to be no urgency here; and as a result no excitement.

I like the evilness of “Dracarys”, but what should be a highlight is reduced to simplistic chanting over boring chords and repetitively sampled percussion. The original had some weight to it. This version does not. “The Children” promises to be a lovely rendition of the main theme; and for a moment the choir is indeed enchanting. Before long though, it’s just a bleak vocal with a thin string arpeggio. No depth, no urgency. A few interesting chord changes come off gimmicky here. “Son of Harpy” offers an attempt at action music, I think. Again there is no depth. There’s an action ostinato performed by solo violin (I mean.. come on!), later joined by a few brass instruments. It sounds like half the arrangement is missing. Whoever arranged this is seriously deluded as to how ‘action packed’ a solo violin can sound.  To say ‘it lacks gravitas’ would be a massive understatement. I do frequently struggle with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra’s recordings; and this is one such recording. In this particular instance it seems to me (and I’m probably wrong) that they don’t have the equipment to properly replicate the electronic side of the score; and lack the knowledge to arrange a suitable alternative. It just leaves massive gaps in the arrangement where they couldn’t match the original.

There are few decent moments on this album. I like “Mhysa”, in which choir takes on the main theme and transforms it into a solemn adagio (though it’s still no match for the original). I enjoy the juxtaposition of male and female choir in “Khaleesi” and its interpretation of the main theme, though I wish they’d crank up the tempo a bit. “Winter Has Come” is quite pretty, but by now the main theme is performed so slowly I could swear it’s going backwards.

One of the final cues on this album is called “Hear Me Roar”. Now, I don’t want to be pun-tastic, but this album does everything but ‘roar’. I hate to be negative about such an incredibly successful and popular franchise, though I must stress it is just this particular presentation of the music that irks me so much. This album is duller than a nun’s sex life. It’s so slow, and uninteresting. It lacks the rich sound that Djawadi has created for the show. I desperately tried to find something good in these 69 minutes; and whilst there are plenty of nice ideas, the whole thing just doesn’t take off for me. If you like what you hear in the show, then buy the original albums (or individual cues); don’t be tempted by this poor interpretation.

Rating [2/5]

Tracklist:

01. Main Title
02. Goodbye Brother
03. Finale (From “Season 1”)
04. Warrior of Light
05. Winterfell
06. Mother of Dragons
07. A Lannister Always Pays His Debts
08. Dracarys
09. Mhysa
10. Two Swords
11. You Are No Son of Mine
12. The Children
13. Blood of the Dragon
14. Dance of Dragons
15. Atonement
16. Son of the Harpy
17. Light of the Seven
18. Khaleesi
19. Winter Has Come
20. Hear Me Roar
21. The Winds of Winter


Review (C) 2017 Synchrotones

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