Bear McCreary’s score to Godzilla: King Of The Monsters has everything you could hope for as a full-on monster score; it’s orchestral, dark, foreboding, and comes with vocals a-plenty.
As you might be aware if you’ve read any of my reviews, I do like a good theme, and McCreary has really outdone himself in the thematic department for this score. The album has individual theme tracks dedicated to each of the four behemoths that appear in the film; Rodan, Mothra, Ghidorah and of course Godzilla himself. We’re going to start with those. Godzilla Main Title is the piece for the title monster, and I must admit that even though I have never dabbled in the Godzilla or indeed any monster-related soundtracks, I almost immediately recognised Godzilla’s theme as the track opened. However, my exact thought was; wait, is that Ready Player One? Alan Silvestri of course used Godzilla’s theme (by Akira Ifukube) in the finale of last year’s Ready Player One score, and having never heard the titular monster’s theme outside of said score, I thought Godzilla Main Title was from that film. Oops.
The track opens with loud, dramatic and extremely foreboding brass, getting across that monster music feeling within the first few seconds of the album. Dark and rapid strings then take the forefront for much of the track, reprising Ifukube’s original theme in glorious form with a fantastic-sounding combination of brass, strings and powerful chanting vocals. Towards the end of the piece the brass then begins to rise, climaxing in an almost heroic fashion before it ends.
Rodan is a far more frightening piece of music, opening with frantic strings and rather daunting brass. Every so often, the brass pushes its way to centre stage, playing out several loud and high-pitched notes before then letting the strings return. I found this particular musical choice quite effective, as the sudden onset of intense brass that then fades away as quickly as it appeared is pretty eerie. Mothra’s Song is up next, and I have been reliably informed that it’s a reprise of a classic theme for the monster, and thematic throwbacks are always cool.
Unlike the other themes, this one starts off quiet and slow, with slow percussion and rather melancholic strings. It then slowly builds up as time goes on, gradually replacing strings with brass and upping the dramatic percussion until by the end it’s as dread-inducing as the others. Ghidorah is Godzilla’s arch-nemesis, and so he gets perhaps the most chilling of the monster pieces with Ghidorah Theme. Deep brass takes prominence for much of the track with ominous vocal chanting a constant in the background. Overall it’s an incredibly grandiose piece of music, being as in-your-face as it is scary.
Onto the score, then. The Larva is one of the first tracks to follow the intense opening Godzilla Main Title, and it continues in much the same vein, with rapid strings appearing right at the start in combination with quite atmospheric vocals. The brass then shows itself not long after for a particularly dramatic appearance before things go from eerie to downright horror. The strings return in a very Cloverfield-esque fashion, and with the brass together they make for a good few minutes of pure, bone-chilling atmosphere. It’s a tone that’s continued through into Outpost 32, a more action-central piece that uses a great-sounding percussion and strings combination to hammer home this rather terrifying feeling that everything’s gone wrong. I felt like I should be running away as fast as I can just listening to the track.
Queen Of The Monsters opens uncharacteristically quietly for this album, but however it doesn’t last long before the familar percussion of Mothra’s Song makes an appearance, this time with some very imposing vocals that do a great job of letting you know that the monster has arrived. Later on, agile strings make way for almost heroic-sounding brass, then making for an unusually upbeat ending to the track. The Key To Coexistence then does a similar tonal switch-up, except its focus is on a rather somber mood. Slow and solemn strings steal the show here, making for a particularly sad two minutes before things then get dialed back up to a hundred in the next few tracks.
Godzilla’s theme returns in Rebirth, the near-standout cue of the album. Strings open the piece, with the familar Godzilla-style vocals gradually moving in before the music then literally explodes with a bold and triumphant full rendition of the title monster’s theme. It’s a sadly short burst of pure epicness, but a welcome and highly enjoyable one nonetheless. Rodan’s theme then opens the seven minute Battle Of Boston, with a rather dramatic appearance from Godzilla’s just behind it. Tense strings, rapid percussion and imposing brass then take over the next few minutes before Ghidorah’s theme makes its return, and it’s as terrifying as ever. As battle cues go, this one’s simply amazing. The album then draws to a close with King Of The Monsters, a track that features many a welcome reprise from Godzilla’s theme before then ending on a particularly dramatic and brass-heavy note.
Overall, as monster scores go, Bear McCreary’s score to Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is mind-blowingly good. The fact that each of the featured monsters has their own theme is a great compositional choice, and the various reprises of their classic themes just makes the experience even better. The album is also breathtakingly well-orchestrated throughout, being as dramatic as it is terrifying, and featuring many a welcome action cue. I’ve been quite the fan of McCreary for a while now (after hearing his Cloverfield scores) and he really doesn’t disappoint here.
A truly superb effort, Mr. McCreary.
Standout Cue: 2. Godzilla Main Title