Brian Tyler’s score for Rambo: Last Blood is epic, bombastic and action-packed, though thematically I must say it needs a little work.
While admittedly I have never dabbled in the musical (or movie, for that matter) world of Rambo, for this review I made sure to check out Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the first movie made way back in 1982; First Blood. Upon then listening to Brian Tyler’s work for Rambo: Last Blood, the absolute first impression I received was that it is absolutely nothing like Goldsmith’s. The 80s-esque orchestra and electronics are gone – replaced by a modernised orchestral sound that while I admit sounds more up to date also completely loses both the stylistic and thematic identity of Goldsmith’s score.
The album opens with Rambo: Last Blood, where rumbling drums set a much darker tone than the 1982 album immediately before brass then kicks in with a loud and dramatic introduction to the score’s main theme. There are small and subtle hints to Goldsmith’s score here, but they are very few and far between to the point where they’re very nearly unrecognisable. The dramatic brass then joins forces with imposing percussion and near-heroic vocals for the remaining two and a half minutes of the cue, where the theme plays out multiple times in a fast-paced, action-beats-style before then coming to an abrupt finish. Overall, as main theme tracks go it’s a pretty enjoyable one, being very epic and heroic in typical Tyler fashion, though admittedly it did take me more than a few listens to actually grasp the main motif.
Slow and pensive strings then open The Ranch, a much slower and calmer piece in comparison to the previous cue (at least initially, anyway). After a few seconds of light strings some rather melancholic brass is added to the mix, making for quite a militaristic/funeral-esque opening minute or so before things then start to ramp up again at the ninety second mark. Percussion kicks back into gear in combination with the established brass, and the pace then dramatically increases as a short yet epic rendition of the main theme is played out before the track then draws to a quick close. Subsequent cue Dusk then returns to the solemn nature of the first half of The Ranch, quietly playing the main theme again before then introducing some great-sounding vocals and long brass notes for a rather pensive yet quite dramatic cue overall.
Fast-paced action beats open Vengeance Eternal (great track name, by the way), with loud percussion and short bursts of intense brass notes leading the musical charge. Things then slow down for a minute or so as the score catches its breath with gradual, almost hesitant brass which then builds up into a loud and dramatic final few seconds. The pensive strings then return for Homeward Bound, and Tyler seems eager to show off the variety of his main theme as it returns once again – this time in slow and rather saddened form, particularly towards the end of the cue as vocals then join the fray. Destination then returns the theme to heroic action territory, accompanying it with rapid percussion and many a loud brass note for a very dramatic and rather enjoyable three minute action setpiece.
John And Gabrielle is a particularly elegant piece of music, utilising slow strings in combination with deep and rather sombre brass for the opening minute before then introducing piano notes and a light-hearted guitar, switching up the mood slightly into more upbeat and happier musical territory, which while unusual for Rambo doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It also doesn’t last for long before the action then swings back in with Rescue At Night, a percussion and brass-heavy piece that doesn’t hold back on the epic main theme renditions or loud, intense action score. Love Unconditional then brings the score back into the lighter setting, but then gradually transforms it over the course of its opening minute with deep brass notes and increasingly saddened strings until the mood is almost mournful, before then quietly fading the music away.
The solemnity continues in They Will Come Back, where vocals take centre stage for the first thirty seconds or so before they’re then replaced by loud and threatening brass with almost horror-esque backing strings. The vocal work for this score has actually been one of the most interesting things about it so far, though unfortunately it has been overtaken by loud brass for much of the album’s runtime. Said brass opens subsequent cue The Tunnels, which then acts as a fast-paced pretty intense introductory track to Preparing For War, a three-minute action setpiece where Tyler’s main theme appears in all its dramatic and epic glory. This track also kind of brings the album full circle, as it draws considerable structural and compositional similarities with opening track Rambo: Last Blood. To close the album Tyler then slows things right back down with Sunset, where light strings and slow, emotional brass play one final rendition of the main theme before the score then ends.
Overall, Brian Tyler’s score for Rambo: Last Blood is pretty decent. The opening (and standout) cue is an excellent showcase of his main theme, which while not containing much in the way of thematic references to Jerry Goldsmith’s work on the franchise is still a dramatic, epic and rather heroic piece of music overall. Intriguingly, the elements of the score I found the most interesting were actually the vocal parts (with Dusk and Sunset being good examples) so it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t hear more of those. The action setpieces are also quite enjoyable, though I did find them a tad generic-sounding at times – the score could’ve done with a bit more in the way of themes to fix that, I feel. All-in though, it’s a pretty enjoyable album.
Standout Cue: 1. Rambo: Last Blood