Tom Holkenborg’s Godzilla Vs. Kong is loud, ferocious and overall, a pretty well-crafted monster-battling soundtrack that features several excellent new themes; it’s just a bit of a shame that Akira Ifukube’s iconic Godzilla motif isn’t one of them.
As you might expect, Holkenborg’s score for Godzilla Vs. Kong is centralised around two primary motifs; one for Godzilla, and the other for Kong. The motif for the former is introduced in opening cue Pensacola Florida (Godzilla Theme), and it starts as loudly, boldly and dramatically as fitting in order to represent the monstrous Titan. Brass is naturally the instrumental centrepiece of the track, playing Holkenborg’s new Godzilla theme menacingly and intimidatingly for two incredibly boisterous minutes. Style aside, the motif itself pays some notational homage to Akira Ifukube’s classic theme for the monster (one that featured heavily in Bear McCreary’s exquisite score for Godzilla: King Of The Monsters) but mainly goes in its own unique direction. While the lack of proper Ifukube is a bit disappointing, Holkenborg’s new piece here certainly does a good job of musically representing Godzilla (i.e. big, loud, boisterous brass). As such, I find myself at a bit of an opinion-based crossroads with this theme; one the one hand, I can see what Holkenborg’s doing here, and his style totally works for Godzilla, but on the other… come on, why wouldn’t you just use Ifukube’s classic theme? It worked so well for McCreary’s King Of The Monsters score, and with Holkenborg’s naturally bombastic compositional style I bet it would’ve worked really well here too. Still, the theme he does give us works too, and I’m admittedly intrigued to hear what Holkenborg does with it across the album.
So then, let’s move on to the other Titan’s motif; Skull Island (Kong’s Theme). This interestingly is a much lengthier piece than the other one, coming in at just over seven minutes long. Much like Godzilla’s theme, it opens loudly and boldly with imposing brass and crashing percussion, but then it gets really interesting; the track quietens down after a minute or so with melancholic strings and ethereal woodwinds. Here the Kong theme plays in a gently solemn style, and despite coming to this album expecting a giantly loud orchestral monster soundtrack – it’s here that the score starts to win me over. After a somewhat rocky start with the anti-Ifukube theme, Kong’s piece here with its pensive woodwinds and jungle-esque percussive style actually works really well in representing both Kong and Skull Island, and the fact that his theme here appears in both loudly dramatic and quietly pensive style shows just how varied both the motif and Holkenborg can be.
Apex Cybernetics opens malevolently, with low-pitched electronics setting an eerie tone for the first few seconds before thunderous brass and deafening percussion then break through and the pace begins to quicken. Tension rapidly rises over the next minute or so, with bursts of brass fleeting across the music every few seconds until Godzilla’s new theme then erupts in dramatically imposing form just as the cue draws to a close. A New Language then returns to the quiet pensivity from earlier cues, as solemn strings and gentle electronics turn the tone ethereal with woodwinds then playing a few sombre notes from Kong’s motif. As the similarly short track begins to close, the orchestra then starts to swell, with loud brass then delivering an almost heroically epic musical finish to the piece. Atmosphere takes over in the again rather short Just Now, setting a quietly ominous tone with electronics playing gently yet rather forebodingly in the background. This tonal setup then leads directly into Tasman Sea; the first proper action setpiece of Holkenborg’s score. A faster pace is established almost immediately as electronic percussion starts to build tension, with loud, in-your-face vocals then turning the tone downright terrifying a few seconds later. Deafening brass then practically flattens the musical atmosphere as Godzilla’s new theme arrives. At this point, frantic percussion and worrisome vocals take centre stage, with tense electronics keeping the tone agitated for a minute or two before crashing brass then bursts in, introducing Kong’s theme to the action. Percussion then starts to rise around it, building the tension and increasing the pace until Godzilla’s motif then bursts back into the fray, and the two main themes finally do some musical battle. It’s a short interaction here, but the way the two motifs swirl and appear to almost musically antagonise one another is actually pretty interesting, and certainly makes for an entertaining action setpiece overall.
The tension continues in Through There, with light percussion and frenetic electronics keeping the pace high until dramatic brass then pushes through for a few seconds of loudly epic score, with the track then ending a few seconds later. The pensive woodwinds for Kong return in Antarctica, with his theme playing quietly at first before ominous brass then enters the fray and the motif turns low-pitched and almost mysterious. This accompanied by haunting strings sets quite a gloomy atmosphere overall, though it doesn’t last for long as Godzilla’s loudly grandiose theme then breaks through in Hollow Earth. Worrisome percussion then kicks into gear for a minute or two of dramatic action, with Kong’s theme also making a swift appearance before the track then slows to an atmospheric crawl for its closing moments. Here Kong’s motif plays again, this time in an almost heroic rendition complete with ethereal-sounding vocals. Dramatic brass then takes over in the loudly epic The Throne, where the volume is practically dialed up to eleven as imposing brass, crashing percussion and emboldened vocals then reach a particularly emphatic musical crescendo. The electronic percussion returns in Lunch, with mysterious-sounding strings and the occasional flurry of agitated brass making for a particularly tense two minutes of atmosphere that then takes us into the next big action cue; Nuclear Blast. Here (as you’d probably expect) Godzilla’s theme features pretty heavily, establishing itself in particularly menacing form on its usual deafening brass in the opening minute with vocals and strings then taking over for some lengthy dramatic build-up before Kong’s motif then arrives. Sadly though the two themes stay apart for the remainder of the cue, with the electronic percussion from earlier giving us a good few minutes of tense action before then building to a worrisome crescendo.
The final action sequence of the score begins with Royal Axe, with a brief burst of Kong’s theme leading the fast-paced musical charge. Emphatic percussion accompanied by boisterous brass then takes over for a few minutes, building and growing with frantic strings and crashing drums until a big orchestral upsurge is reached, and the action then suddenly grows quiet. Low-pitched, menacing brass notes then lead the track to its end, with seven minute action setpiece Mega taking over where it leaves off. Deep, imposing electronics open the track, with Godzilla’s theme then playing through dramatically on brass. From here on though the action turns frantic, with Godzilla’s motif also turning worrisome as a new theme begins to play; one for a particularly villainous new Titan (and one that shall remain nameless for spoilerous reasons). This new motif utilises dark, dramatic electronics as a thematic baseline and to great effect, combining them with the emphatic brass that previously belonged only to Godzilla to overall create one particularly hair-raising and malevolent-sounding theme. As the track continues, both this new motif and Godzilla’s mix and intertwine, engaging in musical battle at several intervals with the ever-present foreboding electronics swirling around them until Godzilla eventually emerges triumphant, with a short yet loudly triumphant rendition of his motif playing as the cue closes out.
Final track Hong Kong is the biggest of the entire album, coming in at a whopping thirteen minutes long, and it begins with the creepy electronics from the new Titan motif setting a particularly menacing atmosphere. It isn’t long though before Godzilla’s theme arrives; erupting into the foreground and then establishing itself with several grandiose renditions on the now typical deafening brass and ethereal vocals. Frantic percussion then takes over for a few tense minutes with a few notes playing here and there from both Godzilla and the new Titan motifs as they continue their fight, before Kong’s theme then emphatically joins the fray. Here the music takes an almost heroic turn, with both the Godzilla and Kong themes playing along with the new Titan motif for several minutes of brassy, percussion-heavy, monster-battle-centric action score. As the track then starts to draw to a close the music slows, pausing for breath for a minute or so of quiet electronics before then building up into an epic crescendo as the Godzilla and Kong motifs play one last time in loudly epic fashion, closing the score on a poignantly loud and pretty perfectly monstrous note.
Overall, Tom Holkenborg’s score for Godzilla Vs. Kong is nothing short of epic. His main themes for the two titular Titans are well-crafted and recognisable, though I have to say Kong’s is the absolute star of the show – see Skull Island (Kong’s Theme) just because of how versatile the motif is, going from quietly peaceful to loudly menacing multiple times across the cue (and the album). The electronics-heavy theme for the villainous other Titan is also great; it mixes well with the two main themes, and its various renditions across the lengthy action setpieces Mega and Hong Kong are very entertaining to listen to. It is a little disappointing however that Holkenborg chose not to use Akira Ifukube’s classic theme for Godzilla, especially considering its thematic establishment in prior film Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, not to mention just how amazingly it was used throughout Bear McCreary’s score for that movie. That being said, Holkenborg’s new motif for the iconic Titan works pretty well too, particularly in its darkly foreboding form on crashing, boisterous brass in thematic setpiece Pensacola Florida (Godzilla Theme). Naturally, of particular highlight as well are the spectacular action sequences dotted across the album, with standout cue Hong Kong being the natural highlight as it features all of the monster motifs at their loudest and boldest, and the use of orchestration and electronics weaved across the piece is particularly amazing to listen to. In short, if you’re after a near-deafeningly epic score for the legendary battle between two iconic monsters, then look no further than Holkenborg’s Godzilla Vs. Kong.
Standout Cue: 15. Hong Kong
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