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Thor: Ragnarok (Mark Mothersbaugh)

December 3, 2017

THOR: RAGNAROK

Mark Mothersbaugh, Hollywood Records 2017
23 tracks, 72:51

Okay, I’m late to the party… but what a party it is! I hope this score comes with insurance, as it’s blown the roof off!

Review by Pete Simons.

I’m not really into these superhero movies, but I’ve been reliable informed by the internet that – and I do quote – Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok (that’s basically armageddon). But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger: the Incredible Hulk!

So without his mighty hammer, there’s no hammering in the morning or in the evening. He needs his hammer to hammer out danger, to hammer out a warning and to hammer out the love between his brothers and sisters. And, I guess, to hammer the shit out of his enemies. There is really no better composer for this film than Mark Mothersbaugh who can pound out a rhythm that will wake up the neighbours.

Truth be told – I ignored this score for a while. I’m not really interested in the movie (for which I’m sure I’m gonna receive a lot of abuse) and the psychedelic cover art doesn’t look hugely inviting to me either. When I eventually found myself so bored that I thought “let’s give this thing a go” I was blown out of my seat, brought to my knees, eager to hail the Asgard king.

The album opens with a lengthy suite in which Mothersbaugh presents his theme for Thor – an almighty epic tune for full orchestra (emphasis on brass) and snarly synths. It’s a surprisingly long-lined melody with an a- and b-phrase. As the suite continues, there’s a synth variation of the Thor theme; and several additional themes. Orchestra, vocals and synths circle around the melodies like vultures circling their prey – eager to dive in a take off with the bait. It all ends with a massive crescendo – and if you’re ever only going to listen to one cue from this album, make it this suite.

The suite sets the tone for what’s to come as orchestra and (often retro) synths continue to lead the way. It is totally bonkers, there’s no other word for it, but it also totally works. You’ve gotta hand it to Mothersbaugh and the filmmakers – it’s a bloody bold score that is at times laugh-out-loud funny and frequently cheesier than Cheesy McCheeseface; and yet it is powerful, heroic, very well written, very well orchestrated and above all: memorable. I had no idea Mothersbaugh had this in him. The score was conducted and orchestrated by John Ashton Thomas; with additional music by Wataru Hokoyama and Tim Jones. It’s always hard (and often nigh impossible) to judge who’s responsible for what. In this case, having explored some music by these gentleman, Tim Jones’ work seems closest to Ragnarok. He seems to have a knack for combining lush orchestral writing with quirky synthesizer sounds. That said, Mothersbaugh was in Devo, typically described as a rock band but they extensively used synths. It was all rather weird and unique.

There are many highlights throughout this score; too many to mention really, but I will pick out a few favourites with all contain the score’s main theme (that’s no coincidence, because it’s a belter of a theme). I’m loving “What Heroes Do” (featuring a somewhat slowed-down version of Thor’s theme) which is entirely electronic with a pounding beat, arpeggios and Vangelis-like leads. The second half of “The Revolution Has Begun” sees the main theme again performed by synths. It’s just amazing how well this theme works in both an orchestral and an electronic setting. “Planet Sakaar” is again fully electronic, incredibly cheesy and upbeat, and very much in the vein of 80s videogame music; but make no mistake, it is very cleverly put together and sounds amazing. My favourite cue of all is “Where To” which opens very quietly with strings and choir, before quoting (or should I say ‘reprising’) Patrick Doyle’s theme for Thor! It’s an awesome piece of music that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The real treat however is when Mothersbaugh tags his own theme to the end of Doyle’s – it is absolutely brilliant how well these two themes go together.

So, I’ve learned my lesson! Do not a score judge by its cover! The score is as big and epic as they come. The way Mothersbaugh combines a huge orchestral sound with all kinds of weird and wonderful synths is commendable. Mothersbaugh’s Thor: Ragnarok easily finds itself in my top 3 for this year… and I doubt it’ll be challenged much in the few remaining weeks. [4.5]


(c) 2017 Synchrotones

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