SPOILERS Two Towers Soundtrack Review - Shore's Masterpiece Continues...
Howard Shore sees <I>The Lord of The Rings</I> as his chance to create an opera. The first act, being <I>The Fellowship of The Ring</I> mesmerized us all with the depth of its themes and its power to bring us into Middle Earth; the joy and warmth of Hobbiton, the fear of darkness, the otherworldliness of the Elven kingdoms, the destruction of nature, and the heroism of the Fellowship were all encompassed within. It is now November 2002, and <I>The Two Towers</I> is approaching. Act I is finished, and the intermission is over. The lights dim...
1. Foundations of Stone
"Yet it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge," said Gandalf. "Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone. He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake." - Gandalf, The White Rider, The Two Towers
What looks to be a big opener for the film is mirrored in the music. This music feels like opening music. You can almost picture where the Main Title will go. This track begins with some very heroic notes. The Ancient Ring theme from <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> makes an appearance, as well. It is followed by a depressing series of notes that remind you of the Fellowship's journey on Caradhras. Very fitting for Gandalf's fight... which begins now! The percussion thunders to life restating bits of "The Bridge of Khazad-dum". A huge trumpet blast thunders by and we fall into the abyss, in a restatement of the <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> music when Gandalf is struck by the Balrog's wip and pulled down. This has a lot more punch to it though. The Moria choir blasts into the track restating the music from the stairs of Moria. Duel of the Fates has got nothing on this track. The Moria music now turns into a tease of Gandalf's win against the Balrog before we hit silence.
2. The Taming Of Sméagol
"Things would have gone ill with Sam, if he had been alone. But Frodo sprang up, and drew Sting from its sheath. With his left hand he drew back Gollum's head by its thin lank hair, stretching its long neck, and forcing his pale venomous eyes to stare at the sky." - Tolkien, The Taming of Sméagol, The Two Towers
We are back in Hobbiton! The shire theme starts this track off, followed by a female/male choir and long held low notes. I think Gollum is creeping up. A light flute comes in as an interesting type of string instrument is plucked at producing an very unique and sickly sound. The orchestra comes to life suddenly and fast runs of flute and clarinet build up and up, until the sickly string comes back. This track comes off as trying to make us feel sorry for Gollum, while at the same time trying to keep very wary of him and what he does. Again, very nice!
3. The Riders of Rohan
"He stands not alone," said Legolas, bending his bow and fitting an arrow with hands that moved quicker than sight. "You would be dead before your stroke fell." - Legolas, The Riders of Rohan, The Two Towers
The beginning of this track starts off with a variation of the Weathertop sequence from <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> ("A Knife in The Dark"). Soon, however, we hear light sharps emerge from the dark music, which are soon accompanied by the brass. A strong, foreboding sequence follows which gives way to the Riders of Rohan theme - a very fitting and noble arrangement of brass and fiddle, that really gives a sense of the ancient culture of Rohan. Their pride and dignity is not forgotten in this track! However, the foreboding returns at the end, leaving us hanging in darkness.
4. The Passage Of The Marshes
"All dead, all rotten. Elves and Men and Orcs. The Dead Marshes. There was a great battle long ago, yes, so they told him when Sméagol was young, when I was young before the Precious came." - Gollum, The Passage of The Marshes, The Two Towers
Brooding notes start this track off, which are soon followed by fast moving runs of high strings - a big part of this track. The strings keep building up and up into a very horrific sequence. You can hear the moans and screams of the dead. A loud blast pushes into a very Bree sounding movement. You want the Ring theme to come through, and it tries and tries but just can't make it. It leaves you hanging. It will be interesting to see the sounds matched with the film.
5. The Uruk-hai
"Pick up those prisoners!" shouted Uglúk. "Don't play any tricks with them! If they are not alive when we get back, someone else will die too." - Uglúk, The Uruk-hai, The Two Towers
This track starts with a slow, dark version of the Fellowship theme which tries to build and build, until finally it does and it comes back in major form! Very nice! It drops down into lower notes and as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli track their friends. The Fellowship theme fades into a hint of the Rohan theme. The Sauron/Barad-dûr theme is back in a darker version and it feels much more powerful. It pushes forward in two versions, and builds unbelievable high into the Uruk-hai theme. The adrenaline will be rushing for sure! This track is fast paced and never gives you a chance to breath. Amazing.
6. The King Of The Golden Hall
"Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? I have passed like rain on the mountains, like wind in the meadow. The days come down in the west, behind the hills into shadow." Theoden, The Two Towers Film
This track comes to life with a restatement of the Fellowship theme while beginning their journey down the Anduin. Gandalf and the Three Hunters now enter Edoras as hints of the Rohan theme begin with a lovely violin sequence. Slow tones now emerge stating Theoden's sickly state. The violin now returns with a full orchestra behind it. Both the orchestra and violin build as Theoden is revived from his sickly state and the shadow in the music is crushed. Silence. Low tones return, sounding like the Treebeard track. The orchestra thunders to life pounding out notes and ending with a decrescendo. Low, sweeping notes and a choir now kick in as we build up to a slow, quiet, ending. Very nice.
7. The Black Gate Is Closed
"They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor; the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing - unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion." - Tolkien, The Black Gate Is Closed, The Two Towers
The first thing this track made me think of was `Ringwraith'. Sauron's theme blasts into life and fades off into a hopeless push of dark notes. Light returns into this scene in a soft restatement of the Fellowship theme. The creepy effect used for the Weathertop and Bree scenes in <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> is back and turns the track back to the Dark side. Foreboding tones fill the rest of this track.
"Dark is the Shadow, and yet my heart rejoices; for you Estel, shall be among the great whose valour will destroy it. I will cleave to you Dunadan, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin." - Arwen, Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, Return of The King
Isabel Bayrakdarian, the female soloist in this track, is beautifully haunting. This entire track a dreamlike quality to it, fitting for its place in the film. After a sad and tragic opening, the noble Rohan theme returns with her accompaniment, obviously signalling Eowyn's love for Aragorn - who in turn is surrounded in grief for his love of Arwen Evenstar. As this track progresses, a ray of hope appears in the music with a low string/flute sequence. However, it is soon shattered by Isabel's despairing voice and the return of the "Evenstar" theme. Beautifully tragic.
9. The White Rider
"They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say." - Tolkien, The White Rider, The Two Towers
This track starts off with a dark alteration of the Isengard war march mixed with a muffled Rohan theme. A small, rising string/brass sequence leads into an enchanting, female vocal/harp progression. This progression ends with a building male rendition of Isabel's "Evenstar" theme, and finally, a short sneak peak of the epic Rohan theme to close the track. "The White Rider" is a very interesting combination of theme variations.
"One felt as if there was an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present: like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or the ripples of a very deep lake." - Pippin, Treebeard, The Two Towers
Mysterious is the word! This track is very deep, almost like an electric guitar. Female vocals soon kick in and we build up to the male vocals, which bring the music to an abrupt halt. Strange noises fill the rest of this track. Very interesting percussion work. I felt like I was in some forest in Jamaica! Appropriate for Fangorn Forest? A lot of this track sounds more `silly' than anything to me. I hope the music doesn't add to what can/will be an audience's bad perception of a giant Tree saying "Hoom!". The deep building starts up again and keeps growing louder, until the most mysterious sounds from the Soundtrack begin their crescendo. Very interesting indeed!
11. The Leave Taking
"When Elrond learned the choice of his daughter, he was silent, though his heart was grieved and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure" - Tolkien, Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, Return of The King
A peaceful feeling starts this track. Back in Rivendell... A toned down version of the opening Rivendell music from <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> sets the mood. However, this time the voices go up rather than down, and turn into a lament for Rivendell. The mysterious Lorien theme returns and takes us into the depth of the Elven fading theme of the film. The voices begin building into the music from Galadriel's glade. The Ancient Ring theme returns into play as well, as resonating notes bring the track to a close.
12. Helm's Deep
"The sky now was quickly clearing and the sinking moon was shining brightly. But the light brought little hope to the Riders of the Mark. The enemy before them seemed to have grown rather than diminished, and still more were pressing up from the valley through the breach." - Tolkien, Helm's Deep, The Two Towers
A blasting Uruk-hai theme opens this track and short bursts follow into a movement sounding of defence. It is quite fast moving. The percussion leads us into the boy's choir who build this track as Theoden and company arrive at the old fortress. The Battle for Mankind begins now. This track has a very warm quality to it, actually. The Rohan string theme comes into play now in a foreboding way. It plays for quite a while and then drifts away as a lone voice rises and leads us into Battle.
13. The Forbidden Pool
"Frodo turned to watch the sleek necks of the water as they curved and dived. Then he lifted his eyes and gazed far away. The world was quiet and cold, as if dawn was near." - Tolkien, The Forbidden Pool, The Two Towers
A sly movement opens this track. Nothing too major yet. It builds into a weaving sequence of lower notes. This is very much a background peice. The music stays low and quiet for most of the track. There are lots of long, help notes. They add to the mystery of the soundtrack. Gollum's theme returns and plays out for a while. At the end of this track the music begins to take more shape and grows louder. The boy's choir comes in with the Ring Seduction theme as Faramir is tempted. It ends the track. Nothing too spectacular, which is a good thing.
14. Breath Of Life
"To Aragorn I was bidden to say this:
Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar? Why do thy kinsfolk wander afar? Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth, And the Grey Company ride from the North. But dark is the path appointed for thee: The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea." Gandalf, The White Rider, The Two Towers
A very interesting, soft-metallic sound starts us off. Sheila Chandra's voice rises over the dreamlike noises. She has a very beautiful voice. The orchestra now takes over with slowly moving low notes reminding me of the Fellowship's entrance into Lothlorien. Sheila's voice returns for a short while restating her theme. The orchestra picks up again playing a sleepy, slow to be fast, sequence that clings to your mind, but is always changing. Interesting track, and will sound good with Aragorn's dream of Arwen while he is left for dead.
15. The Hornburg
"It is said that the Hornburg has never fallen to assault," said Theoden; "But now my heart is doubtful. The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure." - Theoden, Helm's Deep, The Two Towers
This track begins with a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. But of course, the shadow takes over once again, with a frightening female choir transforming the Lorien theme from <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> into a dark, hopeless, marching of the elves. You can feel their sense of hopelessness, yet they choose to come to aid of men. Brooding background notes soon fill the track as a shortened Fellowship theme emerges from the darkness. It is cut short as the impending doom approaches. The track bursts into percussion (timpani) and a dark Uruk-Hai march proceeds as the vast numbers of orcs pile into Helm's Deep. A symbol rises above the music, quelling it, and the timpani pounds alone, until a fast moving war fanfare takes over and fades into the end of the track with a fast rising symbol.
16. Forth Eorlingas
"Arise now, arise Riders of Theoden! Dire deeds awake, dark it is eastward. Let horse we bridled, horn be sounded! Forth Eorlingas!" - Theoden, The King in The Golden Hall, The Two Towers
The first thing I thought when I heard this track was that the beginning reminded me of the Music of the Ainur; many voices working together to create a grand theme. This theme builds and progresses into a lively brass/string, Rohan fanfare, which in turn progresses into the Fellowship theme. This familiar theme ends with a variation of the last few notes which adds a growing sense of evolvement from <I>The Fellowship of The Ring</I>. Ben Del Maestro, the soloist for this track, brings us into the building conclusion which ends with a mighty version of the Rohan theme, in full force. "Forth Eorlingas" is a very exciting track that is sure to push the film forward and get some emotion from the crowd.
17. Isengard Unleashed
"Devilry of Saruman!" cried Aragorn. "They have crept in the culvert again, while we talked, and they have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet. Elendil, Elendil!" - Aragorn, Helm's Deep, The Two Towers
Elizabeth Fraser opens this track with an even darker version of the Lothlorien "Lament for Gandalf" in which she is accompanied by a few other female vocals. The "lament" soon gives way to a smashing, clash of themes and runs. The Isengard theme bursts into play here, with the brass and timpani blasting it out. The Isengard variation soon gives way to a variation of the Amon Hen battle sequence from <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I>. There is a slight pause as the themes regroup. The boy's choir now rises into an altered Moth/Amon Hen conclusion, again from <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I>. Ben Del Maestro takes over and leads us into a rapid, up-beat sequence combing the Uruk-hai marching with the Fellowship theme, which soon turns into a transformed Rohan theme that keeps building, almost frighteningly, up and up into silence. An extremely powerful track. Period.
18. Samwise The Brave
"But he could not go, not yet. He knelt and held Frodo's hand and could not release it. And time went by and still he knelt, holding his master's hand, and in his heart keeping a debate." - Tolkien, The Choices of Master Samwise, The Two Towers
Did tears swell up in your face during "The Breaking of The Fellowship"? If so, better get out a Kleenex before listening to this track! "The Breaking of The Fellowship" makes an appearance in this track, in a very heart-warming way. You can feel Frodo and Sam's struggle. You know their friendship is holding strong, even if their have been a few "mishaps". Gollum's theme emerges from the darkness, and his Slinker/Stinker fight resumes as he debates if he should lead them into Shelob's Lair or not. This is one of my favourite tracks for sure!
19. Gollum's Song
"He hates and loves the ring, as he hates and loves himself. He will never be rid of his need for it." - Gandalf, The Fellowship of The Ring Film
This is the featured track of the film, and will play over the credits. One word. Tragic. The depressing music sounds like it would accompany the death of a main character - which I guess is technically correct. Emiliana Torrini brings an interesting sound to this song. If you are thinking this will be another "May it Be", think again! "Where once was light, now darkness forms." Emiliana's voice takes a lot of getting used to, and I can see quite a few people not liking it at all. I'm still getting used to it myself. But I don't hate it. The music accompaniment to Emiliana is a mixture of the Ring theme and Gollum's duel between Slinker and Stinker. You're either going to love it or hate it. Either way, it sounds like a Credits song, and will play nicely with them.
20. Farewell to Lorien
"I asked for one hair from her Golden head... she gave me three." - Gimli, Fellowship of The Ring Film
For all those people who own the <I>Fellowship of The Ring</I> Extended Edition DVD, you know how fitting this music is. This subtle track warms my heart ever time I hear it - which is hard with all the new Celeborn lines. This track touches lightly on the Fellowship theme, and places the emphasis on the Lothlorien type sounds. Hilary Summers' voice brings it all together beautifully.
The music Howard has scored for this film is truly awesome. Those who loved the Fellowship score, will be pleased to hear the presence and the additions to the themes you loved in the first film. Those who await new themes and ideas will be blown away by what Shore has delivered. This soundtrack reminded me, as has already been said by others, of Lawrence of Arabia mixed with a touch of the Music of the Ainur - if that is possible. There is lots of building. I enjoyed it, dare I say it, even more than the Fellowship Soundtrack. I gave the Fellowship Soundtrack 8.5/10. It fell short of 10 because it lacked a certain something. I really can't put my finger on it. I know, it sounds stupid. But the "something" is present in The Two Towers, and for that reason it gets full marks! Almost.
I can't wait to hear what Shore has in store for <I>Return of The King</I> - (Yes, it is possible to get 11/10). Be sure to pick up this Soundtrack, but try to wait and not listen to it, because it will only enhance your theatrical experience all the more!