With a wonderful blend of synth and superhero, Rupert Gregson-Williams has created yet another amazing DC score in Aquaman.
Last year, Rupert Gregson-Williams delivered a pretty solid score for DC’s Wonder Woman movie. While it did rely somewhat on a theme (an awesome one, mind) composed for the character in Batman V Superman, the score also had its fair share of uniqueness; something that was primarily encompassed in a bold and majestic secondary theme that complemented the first well, and allowed the score to flourish in its own way without being tied down to previous thematic styles.
This was an aspect I very much enjoyed with Wonder Woman, and I very much hoped that it would happen again in Aquaman. Danny Elfman composed something of a motif (if you can even call it that) for the character in Justice League along with setting a fairly dull musical style for the DC universe as a whole, and my fear was that this would be continued in movies to come. Thankfully, my fear has not been realised; the score to Aquaman is heroic, unique and most importantly; synth.
I love synth scores. Blade Runner (not to mention its sequel 2049), Drive, Thor: Ragnarok – and that’s just to name a few. There’s just something about the structure of synth and the way notes are played out on the synthesizer itself that I just love. So you can imagine my sheer glee then when I first listened to the main theme and incidentally standout cue of the score to Aquaman: Arthur.
The track opens softly and rather suspensefully, with percussion slowly building in the background until broad, high pitched synthesizer notes then play out the first rendition of the main theme. It’s a rather hopeful and dramatic melody, and to my delight it also gets a much more interesting playthrough a few seconds later. The synth gets louder and brass appears in the background as the theme comes back around for a much bolder and more heroic go, and it’s at this point that the score feels like it’s for Aquaman. The theme fits the courageous, comedic “surfer dude” Aquaman that we were introduced to in Justice League rather well, and the initially unusual synth style choice suddenly makes complete sense. The main theme was one of my biggest worries for this album, and I’m happy to say we’re in safe hands with Mr. Gregson-Williams.
Kingdom Of Atlantis then introduces another theme into the mix; this time for (rather obviously) Atlantis itself. It begins with some very Blade Runner-esque sweeping synth notes before rolling out some rather spectacular sounding vocals. Brass then once again creeps into the background and this fantastic musical combination then plays out a frankly breathtaking and indeed epic motif for the lost city. This level of grandiose unfortunately doesn’t last for long as the volume fades back down as quickly as it rose, but we did get a good minute of Atlantis theme and it was amazing.
The vocals make a return in the surprisingly orchestral It Wasn’t Meant To Be, where the synth pretty much vanishes altogether – instead we get a rather epic brass-heavy opening minute before strings and piano then take over for some pretty inspiring score. This doesn’t last long either however before the brass returns and we are treated to a short yet powerful segment of the Atlantis theme.
Darkness falls with the villain theme of the score; The Black Manta. The synth makes a hell of a comeback here with low pitched and rather evil-sounding notes before percussion then hits; the combination making for a kind of electronic-y yet synth-y thematic style overall. Unfortunately, Black Manta’s theme is sadly nowhere near as interesting nor as memorable as Aquaman’s, as it’s more a series of beats rather than a cohesive set of notes. It’s a pretty enjoyable track, just not a particularly noteworthy one, which is a shame. Villain themes can be tough to get right though (I can only think of a handful of scores that have good ones honestly) so I won’t dwell on it too much.
Permission To Come Aboard begins the more action-oriented side of the album, with heavy percussion and backing synth going loud pretty much as soon as the track begins. That random, almost silly synth note style that Thor: Ragnarok relied on heavily features for the first minute or so here, before an electric guitar is then introduced for a few good seconds of epic as the cue draws to another unfortunately short close. Suited And Booted thankfully then continues what the previous track started, opening with a loud and heroic rendition of Aquaman’s theme using that fantastic synth and brass musical combination.
He Commands The Sea was very nearly the standout cue, being easily the most interesting of the action pieces on the album. It’s filled with heroic synth, dramatic vocals and hopeful brass, and the Aquaman theme features heavily in mainly roaring and triumphant form. Overall, it’s a pretty satisfying four minutes – taking much of what has been built up both thematically and instrumentally over the course of the album and simply going all out. If it wasn’t for Arthur being so damn stellar, He Commands The Sea would have had that top spot.
The score then draws to a close with Reunited, an initially slow and strings-based piece that suddenly explodes with brass and percussion as it plays out a loud and victorious rendition of Aquaman’s theme. Vocals then join the fray as the theme makes the rounds again, and all-in it’s a pretty grand finale for an even grander album.
On the whole, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score to Aquaman is simply fantastic. I knew from Wonder Woman to expect something good, but the composer gave us great instead. His expertly chosen synth and brass approach was a very welcome surprise, and the emotional highs and villainous lows make the musical style and thematic range of the score simply a joy to listen to. These combined with a solid main theme for the titular character and some very enjoyable action cues make Aquaman one of the if not the best superhero score we’ve had in a good while, and I don’t say that lightly.
Honestly, I kind of want to go see the film now.
Standout Cue: 2. Arthur