Alan Silvestri’s The Witches is an excellently-crafted score, one complete with several standout action setpieces and a thoroughly enjoyable main theme that harkens back to the epic action orchestral likes of Ready Player One.
The score opens gently and rather mysteriously in Witches Are Real, with swirling strings evoking a quietly magical tone before some very Silvestri-esque action percussion begins to rise in the background. Swiftly accompanying it is then some dramatically bold brass which (after a few seconds) then introduces us to the score’s main theme; an uplifting, pensively heroic set of notes that (in typical Silvestri fashion) pretty much instantly establishes itself both in terms of musical leadership and thematic recognisability. After its introduction the theme then swings back around towards cue’s end for a louder and more powerful rendition before the music then comes to a close. As opening pieces go, you really have to hand it to the composer; in just over two minutes we’re thrown into a dynamic musical world that manages to be both brand new while also very much of the Silvestri action style. It’s also a breath of fresh, properly orchestral air that I haven’t felt in a good long while this year.
The album continues with My First Witch, which within the first few seconds sets an ominous and rather mysterious tone with high-pitched horror-esque strings, before then calming down with some much softer, gentler strings and quiet brass notes. The more sinister side of the cue then creeps back in towards the end, with the brass becoming louder and leaning heavily towards action territory. Also hinted at briefly here before becoming more prominent in subsequent cue What You Saw is another new motif, this being a rather malevolent-sounding piece for the evil Grand High Witch. It receives several playthroughs in this cue, firstly on low-pitched and rather foreboding brass notes before then heading into rather spooky territory with slow, creepy woodwinds and higher pitched strings later on. The theme then picks up speed alongside dramatic percussion partway through Chickenified, with the main theme also receiving a few dedicated though sparing notes. The mysterious tone from earlier then returns on strings in Enter The Witches, with the Grand High Witch’s theme echoing through to propel the now darkened mood forward. This then works as a pretty good introduction to subsequent cue Grand High Witch, which is (as you may have guessed) a track dedicated entirely to the aforementioned character and her rather ominous motif – complete with low-pitched brass, horror-like strings and the creepy woodwinds recurring from earlier.
Brass and percussion begin to pick up the pace in Witches, a cue that opens with a quietly menacing Grand High Witch’s theme before then hinting towards dark action territory with the aforementioned instruments; a tone then completed by magical-esque strings and some rather ethereal-sounding vocals. The brassy Grand High Witch theme then becomes much more grandiose in Instant Mouse, a cue that holds to particularly dramatic form assisted by loud, in-your-face vocals and powerful blasts of percussion. The score then finally hits its action stride in A Narrow Escape, opening rather darkly with strings before then practically bursting into a briskly paced and emphatically heroic rendition of the main theme. Rapid strings then set a decidedly frantic tone for the remainder of the cue accompanied by infrequent barrages of rather frenzied brass. Things then calm down a tad in the subsequent Fourth Floor, with high-pitched strings and brass setting quite a lighthearted and mischievous mood for the first two minutes before the fast pace then kicks into gear once more with epic brass and a few brisk notes from the main theme. The score then settles back down again in the melancholic It Can Be Very Dangerous, with a rather pensive piano playing the main theme before slow strings and slightly more upbeat brass then join the fray, with the latter instrumentation hinting once more towards action territory as the cue then closes.
The theme for the Grand High Witch appears in typically malevolent form at the start of The Potion, with hopeful brass appearing after a few seconds and playing the main theme alongside some rather energetic percussion. Let’s Make A Potion then keeps things quiet and gentle for the most part, with slow strings and light brass notes occupying the first few minutes and stylistic nods towards action then starting to appear towards the end of the piece. These then segue into the much more action-oriented The Mission; a few sinister notes from the Grand High Witch’s theme kick things off with frantic strings and loud, bold percussion then rapidly joining the fray. The main theme also gets a few sporadic notes before being treated to a full and rather worrisome-sounding rendition as the cue then closes. Soup Is On brings some rather militaristic-sounding drums with the main theme playing quietly on top before the mood then becomes particularly creepy with high-pitched horror-like strings and low, moody brass. This ominousity then continues a little ways into Pigtails before loud percussion then bursts into view at about a minute in, with a rather desperate-sounding main theme playing frantically at several interspersed intervals through the action.
A Stolen Key opens with some rather curious-sounding electronics that sound very much like a ticking clock (intentionally, I imagine), then accompanied by the now standard fast-paced strings and occasional rumble of percussive-based danger. The ticking clock counts down to its end at the two minute mark, at which point some particularly in-your-face brass arrives with a typically worrisome main theme running alongside on rapid strings. The brisk pace continues in Let Me Out, with the epic Alan Silvestri brass/percussion combination out in full force for two and a half glorious action minutes. I Didn’t Hear A Thing then almost brings the action to its conclusion with the loudest, boldest and happily victorious rendition of the main theme yet, before Pea Soup then kicks it back into gear with frantic percussion and dramatic strings just when you thought the score was starting to settling down. To close out the album we are then treated to the standout cue; End Credits. Here the main and Grand High Witch themes receive final, epic swan song playthroughts with the former getting both heroic and action variations, and at six minutes long it’s naturally the perfect finish to the album as well as an excellent summary of its best parts.
Overall, Alan Silvestri’s score for The Witches marks a welcome return to the action-orchestra film score style of the likes of Ready Player One at a time when such scores are very few and far between, and it’s actually a really good score to boot. The main theme is well-crafted and quite memorable, and its use both in frantic and heroic form during its journey across the score give it decent variation and also make for some highly entertaining cues. The Grand High Witch’s theme is then an excellent villainous counterpoint to the main motif, with it too being memorable and quite intriguing in its use in the album’s darker moments. As always of course with Alan Silvestri the action music is also simply superb, with the weaving of the main themes throughout the various rapid cues being of particular highlight. All-in, The Witches is everything you’d want out of a new Silvestri score.
Standout Cue: 21. End Credits (The Witches)