Stargate (La-La Land Records) – Soundtrack Review

David Arnold’s masterful score for the Stargate movie finally gets its long-awaited and expertly-crafted expansion here, courtesy of the fantastic La-La Land Records.

Through the 90s, David Arnold composed three uplifting, adventurous film scores that went on to become pretty damned iconic in the world of soundtrack enthusiasts – these were Godzilla, Independence Day and of course; Stargate. While it could most certainly be argued that ID4 has the better overall score, in my eyes nobody could ever say that David Arnold composed a better main theme than his one for Stargate. Incidentally enough, said piece happens to be the starting point for La-La Land Records’ long-awaited expansion of Arnold’s fantastic score, and so that’s where the review shall now begin; with the Stargate Overture.

The track opens softly, with light and slightly ominous-sounding strings then slowly starting to build in the background until the orchestra practically explodes with a loud, grandiose and superbly epic brass-heavy introduction for the Stargate main theme. This seven note motif was so well composed that it went on to play theme to the SG-1 spinoff series that then lasted ten seasons, and it is still widely appreciated to this day. But anyway, enough gushing. After the theme debuts, the music starts to quieten down with majestic strings once again taking the spotlight. This doesn’t last long however before harsh vocals start to appear in the background, building in intensity until the track is completely taken over by loud, imposing and quite evil-sounding score that then closes the piece just as mysteriously as it began.

Tense and rather frightening strings then start Abduction, with dramatic brass then elevating the cue’s alarming tone throughout its back half, building both in terms of volume and intensity until the music reaches a loud, intimidating climax and the track then ends. Subsequent cue Giza, 1928 would have been the standout cue if not for the magnificent Overture, as the main theme returns in gloriously epic form with powerful brass joined by these grandiose, utterly breathtaking vocals in the final minute of the piece. If ever you needed a track to convince you just how fantastic Arnold’s work is here (besides the overture, anyway) then this is it. Things then quieten down a tad for Unstable (Film Version), with light and very 90s-sounding strings playing a somewhat somber variant of the main theme before militaristic drums then kick in towards the end to introduce another motif, herein dubbed the “military theme”.

Notably, a small new motif appears at the beginning of The Coverstones that while seemingly insignificant here, actually goes on to form the opening notes of the Stargate SG-1 main title theme arranged by Arnold himself (the small motif then segues pretty seamlessly into the main Stargate theme). Translation/ In Case You Succeed then brings back the powerful brass for a short burst of dramatic, ethereal score before seguing into Orion (Film Version), where rousing strings and stirring brass start to build up an exciting, anticipatory tone that then reaches its peak in the opening minute of The Stargate Opens. Here the main theme returns on strings with backing brass elevating the rendition into truly wondrous territory. The pace is then kicked up considerably in the cue’s back half, with the military theme making a tense and dramatic comeback that then builds to a particularly loud climax, with quiet and rather wistful vocals then ending the track.

Worrisome vocals and frantic brass take up much of Send In The Probe‘s two minute runtime, with the now rather tense military theme then returning accompanied by very military-esque percussion in the back half of You’re On The Team. Low and rather anticipatory brass then opens Entering The Stargate (Film Version), with frightening, almost horror-like strings then completely taking over for a few seconds, rising in intensity until the tension breaks with another wondrous appearance by the main theme. This doesn’t last long however as frantic brass then arrives alongside rapid percussion that overall make for a particularly suspenseful ending to the cue. Quiet strings and almost pensive vocals then begin The Other Side, with brass slowly building in the background until the orchestra practically bursts at the ninety second mark with a loud and very grandiose finale to end the track.

Ominous brass forms the baseline of Bomb Assembly, a just over a minute long cue that I believe has been released for the first time ever here with the La-La Land Records’ expansion. While it isn’t quite the best track on the album, it does add some nice atmosphere before things then switch up pretty rapidly with Mastadge Drag, where loud brass and rapid percussion arrive for a joyous, fun-filled action piece thats only flaw is that it’s only a minute long. Pensive strings and solemn vocals then play a drawn-out and rather oppressed rendition of the main theme in The Mining Pit, which then segues pretty earnestly into King Of The Slaves (Film Version), another short piece that utilises heavy strings and backing brass to great tonal effect. The first hints of evil then arrive in The Eye Of Ra, where deep and rather ominous-sounding strings occupy the majority of its very short forty second runtime. Arnold then introduces another theme with Daniel And Sha’uri, thematically showcasing the love between the two characters with light, upbeat strings and gentle percussive instruments.

The horror-like strings then return in Spread Out, with loud and imposing brass arriving towards the end of the piece to hammer home a oppressive and dark tone. This doesn’t last for long however as a quietly hopeful Stargate theme on strings opens and then forms the baseline of Symbol Discovery, with the occasional hint of light percussion in the background until the cue ends at just over a minute long. The main villain theme of the score then debuts in the rather frightening Sarcophagus Opens, with frantic and high-pitched strings working alongside harsh and imposing vocals to musically establish the film’s tyrannical villain; Ra. Light woodwinds and gently building brass then start Daniel’s Mastadge (Film Version), becoming louder and more upbeat until the main theme arrives in particularly triumphant form. The militaristic drums then return in Leaving Nagada (Film Version), with the strings turning solemn and brass building with almost frightening intensity to prepare the album for its next track.

Ra – The Sun God (Film Version) then fully descends the score into oppressive darkness, opening with low and ominous brass and then gradually building in intensity with chanting vocals that then reach a loud and particularly dramatic climax at about the one minute mark. Worrisome strings then take over for a few seconds before the brass rumbles back into view accompanied by emphatic percussion and playing a particularly poignant rendition of Ra’s theme. Sorrow then envelopes the score with The Destruction Of Nagada, with high-pitched and saddened strings opening the piece followed by low and rather pensive brass playing slow, somber variations of both the military and love themes. The main Stargate theme then returns in curiously villainous form at the start of Procession, with loud brass and vocals then taking over the back half with an even more dramatic playthrough of the main villain theme. Hope then arrives with Slave Rebellion, as a fast-paced and rather upbeat main theme arrives to rejuvenate the cheerier side of things before the album then moves into strings-based solemnity again in We Don’t Want To Die, a slow, two-minute track that emphasises the softer elements of Arnold’s score.

A rather sinister Ra’s theme on strings opens Execution that’s then shortly joined by loud brass bursting in to once again emphasize the oppressive nature of the character. Daniel and Sha’uri’s love theme then gets an uplifting reprise in the sadly short The Kiss before melancholic strings arrive to introduce The Seventh Symbol (Extended Version). At about the forty second mark however things start to get more hopeful with the introduction of light brass, and before long the main Stargate theme returns alongside a rather triumphant rendition of the military theme. Tense strings and reluctant brass then form much of Quartz Shipment‘s ninety second runtime, with the military motif occasionally appearing to keep up the musical morale before the score’s big action cue arrives – Battle At The Pyramid (Film Version). Here more than anywhere else on the album you can hear stylistic similarities to the action music of Independence Day, and that combined with loud heroic brass, fast-paced and tremendously composed action and a thankfully lengthy five minute runtime overall makes it one of the best pieces of music on the entire score. The Surrender then continues its rapidity and high volume, bringing back Ra’s theme in menacing style along with several very brief appearances from the main theme.

Transporter Horror then doubles down on Ra’s theme, injecting an element of fear into the otherwise pretty epic action sequence started by Battle At The Pyramid. Frantic brass and bombastic percussion do the majority of the work here, building in intensity until heroism finally gets its musical release seconds into Kasuf Returns with a loud and particularly triumphant rendition of the main Stargate theme. David Arnold is in full over-the-top ’90s action score mode here, and as a result it sounds absolutely sublime. Going Home then slows things back down for the score’s finale, playing a light and hopeful main theme on strings before brass then starts to build in the background, slowly growing in both intensity and volume until the orchestra once again bursts with one final victorious punch to the air. End Credits then reprises the fun Mastadge theme alongside the back half of the main Stargate motif, ending the score just as orchestrally ’90s as it began.

Overall, David Arnold’s score for the Stargate movie is simply, utterly wonderful. His main theme is fantastic, being heroic, wondrous and inspiring as well as very recognisable even to this day. The motifs for Ra, the military and the love between Daniel and Sha’uri are also great, and get plenty of album time (though I confess I would have liked a little more love theme). As per usual with this composer the action scoring is superb and of course highly enjoyable, with major highlights being Daniel’s Mastadge, Kasuf’s Return and naturally Battle At The Pyramid. La-La Land Records have also done an incredible job with this expansion, adding in those last few elements that were missing from the previously released Deluxe Edition and remastering it to the point where Stargate has honestly never sounded better (the Stargate Overture is so crisp I could cry).

An iconic score expanded and remastered to godlike sound quality. What more could you ask for?

 

Score: 9/10

Standout Cue: 1. Stargate Overture

Buy the 2-CD Stargate expanded set from La-La Land Records right here.

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