Tyler Bates’ score to John Wick 3 wastes no time in bringing back the unique musical style of the first two films, and this mixed with some great new themes and several standout action setpieces makes the album the best Wick score yet.
Having previously composed two entries for the series of John Wick film scores, Tyler Bates now has a pretty much set-in-stone musical and thematic style for them, and overall it’s a rather unique and pretty interesting one. Musically the films revolve around rather low and dark-sounding electronics, with titular character John Wick’s theme being a simple set of notes that is not only pretty recognisable on its own but in combination with Bates’ compositional approach it works even better, serving as a particularly fitting motif for the rather badass main character that is John Wick. Having previously listened to and highly enjoyed both of Bates’ scores for the franchise, I was very pleased to hear that he was involved in the third, as I feel his musical style for the series is a solid breath of fresh action air in the film music industry, and so as you can imagine I was rather excited to see what the composer might have in store for the third act.
The album opens with Parabellum (Opening Titles), and as opening tracks go, this one is pretty great. The composer gets the rather gloomy tone of the movie across pretty much immediately with low electronic percussion, and after a few seconds you suddenly feel the world of John Wick opening up around you as the music dives straight into that dark yet fantastic-sounding musical style from the first two films. An electric guitar then takes centre stage about halfway through for a brief rendition of Wick’s theme before the sadly short piece of music then draws to a close. As an introduction to the score, Parabellum works astonishingly well, reintroducing the familar musical world of the series as well as hinting at something thematically new all in the space of about forty seconds.
Excomunicado works essentially as a bridge track; bringing the original John Wick theme together with some new thematic ideas to create a theme-based hybrid of sorts, and a great sounding one at that. The track begins with a recurring series of notes that sound almost videogame-like in nature, having that same chiptune-esque style of properly classic game scores. This new theme doesn’t last long however before the electric guitar then makes its return, taking the forefront with a particularly dramatic rendition of Wick’s theme. The new then makes a brief comeback towards the end as it works in tandem with old before the track then comes to another sadly short ending.
The action then gets kicked up a notch with He Shot My Dog, a electronic and percussion-heavy piece that switches up the tone slightly from pure gloom to dark fast-paced drama. Strings take prominence for the first few seconds of the cue before things then rapidly accelerate, with the aforementioned percussion speeding ahead of the strings for a tense back half of the piece. Short tracks seem to be something of a recurring thing with John Wick, as so far the best ones have only been a minute or so long, a concept that I’ve always found rather detrimental when it comes to album experience. Luckily however, the faster-paced action tone is continued in sequel cue Grand Central Station, a slightly lengthier two-minute piece that keeps both tension and excitement high while at the same time adding just a dash of sinister into the mix, making for a pretty entertaining track overall.
The score has fully embraced its dark action tone at this point, with Cycle Samurais being the next major musical setpiece. The previously established electronics take prominence here, combining with rapid percussion and a gloomy tone lurking in the background that all together make for an edge-of-your-seat exciting and thankfully lengthier four minute cue. It’s here that the new thematic choices for the third John Wick score become most prominent, with the near videogame-esque electronics coming out of the shadows towards the end of the piece. Winter At The Continental continues in a similar vein initially, before then moving into something entirely new and rather curious; a electronics-heavy rendition of some very classical-sounding music. It might even be an actual piece of classical music that Bates has remixed in the style of John Wick, as the track’s finale in particular sparks serious musical déjà vu. I’m not particularly well versed in the classical world, but I definitely recognised something there.
Things then start to draw to a close with Zero Vs Wick, a particularly dramatic piece that relies heavily on the established Wick-esque electric guitar, though at points I could have sworn I also heard thematic elements from Bates’ two Punisher scores. The John Wick theme returns somewhat here, making short and sporadic appearances throughout the track as the fast-paced electronics-heavy musical battle rages on. The standout cue is up next, a minute-and-a-half-long end credits piece that brings both the new and original John Wick themes together for one last dramatic hurrah before the album closes. As the electric guitar picks up towards the end, the music feels somewhat victorious, and even heroic at points, a tonal choice that I found particularly intriguing.
Overall, Tyler Bates’ score to John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (what a title by the way) is pretty great. It continues in the same musical vein as the first two scores, using that unique mixture of electronics and a rather gloomy tone to both emphasize the dark character of Wick and get across the particularly dramatic nature of the films as well. This third entry also adds some new and rather interesting thematic ideas to the world of John Wick and then expertly mixes them with the original themes, and this combined with some near breathtaking action setpieces not only makes Parabellum a highly enjoyable album, but also the best John Wick score so far.
Standout Cue: 24. Really Pissed Off (End Credits)