Sporting a highly enjoyable and wonderfully 90s rock sound and a catchy, uplifting main theme, Days Of Thunder is a true Hans Zimmer classic from start to finish.
Now here’s a film score I hadn’t listened to in a while. It’s one of Zimmer’s earliest works, and in all honesty one of his greats. Despite the movie being released back in 1990 however, the score didn’t see the light of day until 2013, where La-La Land Records came to the rescue (as it often does for us lucky film score fans) and released it in all its 90s over-the-top action rock glory. Bringing us forward to 2020 – earlier this week, La-La Land announced a re-release (as the 2013 edition sadly went out of print) and seeing that, I thought it was about time I tackled a review for this wonderful score, and so here we are.
By far my favourite thing about Days Of Thunder is the main theme. It’s bold, uplifting and incredibly catchy – I found myself humming it again even just after one recent listen of the opening Main Title cue – and that’s where this review begins. The track opens quickly, with light, upbeat electronic beats kicking things off before an electric guitar then joins the fray, and we’re thrown back to pure 90s Zimmer-esque rock. As the Title continues, the music starts to build, with the beats rising in intensity and the electric guitar pushing from light to epic. After a short while it all reaches a climax – and the eight notes of the main theme are played for the first time in particularly rousing form. It’s a great musical moment, and one that I never get tired of. The theme then plays through in two more loud and absolutely fantastic-sounding renditions before the cue concludes. Overall as album openers go, in a word – wow.
Frantic beats then open Rowdy Drives/Who Is This Driver, and yeah – once again, we’re really in the classic Zimmer world now. Light beats alongside a now much less in-your-face electric guitar play for much of the track, with the occasional few notes from the Main Title popping up, particularly towards the end of the piece. Let Me Drive/Cole Drives Rowdy’s Car then begins in a similarly light manner, before loud drums and epic synth arrive at about ninety seconds in, hinting once again at the main theme before then disappearing as quickly as they arrived. The tone is almost a solemn one in Car Building, with a rather pensive electric guitar occupying the track’s opening minute before the score begins to rise once more. Quiet beats then arrive, though they don’t stay quiet for long as the music gets louder and louder until a short burst of guitar-based grandiosity then arrives, teasing moments of musical glory before then once again disappearing into the background.
A rapid electric guitar bursts into fray at the start of Darlington/Cole Wins, with fast-paced and very Zimmer-y action beats running up alongside. The catchy Days Of Thunder theme then arrives in all its uplifting glory at about seventy seconds in, playing through quickly to emphasize the tension of the track before then rapidly fading out. For the next few minutes the upbeat guitar and anxious drums continue the action before things slow down a tad as the track nears its close, and the main theme reprises once more in a loud and rather victorious fashion to finish it up. You’re Home – Daytona Race/The Crash then begins very similarly to Main Title – kicking in with a loud and heroic rendition of the main theme with action drums in tow – a style that enjoyably continues through three glorious minutes before then coming to a sudden and rather dramatic close. Tension forms much of the tonal backbone of the subsequent The Hospital, with worrisome electronic beats occupying the opening minute before quiet synth-based solemnity then takes over for the remainder.
A spark of hope arrives in the thirty second electronics-heavy Wheelchair Race, which is then blown into flame with the slightly more upbeat Rental Car Race. Like several cues before it the track begins slowly, rising in both instrumentation and hopeful tone until some very 90s and rather lively percussion and brassy synth arrive towards the end. A love theme of sorts is then introduced with Physical Kiss – like much of the score, on light synth. Motif-wise it isn’t quite as memorable as the main theme (though we wouldn’t really expect it to be anyway) but its an enjoyable piece nonetheless. Within thirty seconds though the new theme disappears as quickly as it arrived, followed shortly afterwards by the end of the track. The action then returns for the next two cues, starting in a rather dark and downbeat manner in the rather short Cole Blows His Engine before then picking up the pace and tone slightly with Wheeler/Cole Smashes. Tense percussion and an apprehensive electric guitar occupy much of the cue’s two minute runtime, before solemnity then takes over once again.
A pensive main theme starts off Cole At The Laundry, with quiet, patient electronics and occasional percussion then driving the rather depressing tone for the rest of the track. Hope however then starts to re-emerge as Cole In The Truck/Pre-Race opens, with a few disheartened notes from the main theme appearing here and there. Things then starts to pick up at around the ninety second mark, with the dramatic percussion from earlier cues reappearing alongside some rather optimistic-sounding synth. All-in, it makes for a pretty good introduction to the score’s best (and happily lengthy) action cue – The Last Race. It’s a ten minute 90s rock action extravaganza where Zimmer simply (and finally) goes all out, blasting fast-paced beats, epic electric guitars and rousing synth along with many an appearance from the main theme (and one from the love theme) that all together make for one of the most enjoyable tracks on the score – and a fantastic album conclusion.
Overall, Hans Zimmer’s score for Days Of Thunder is utterly electrifying, and a hell of a lot of fun. The main theme is epic, uplifting and incredibly memorable, and I have been completely unable to get it out of my head for the past few days. The action is great (see The Last Race), and the compositional style is so fantastically, enjoyably 90s – complete with loud and over-the-top electric guitars and upbeat synth – that by the time this seventy minute burst of classic Zimmer is over, you’ll wonder how on earth we managed to let this type of score go. They certainly don’t make them like this any more.
La-La Land Records have the re-release up for pre-order right now, so what are you waiting for? Click here.
Standout Cue: 1. Main Title