The Musical Anthology Of His Dark Materials (Series 3) – Soundtrack Review

Lorne Balfe’s dramatic conclusion to the Musical Anthology Of His Dark Materials is just as excellent as you’d expect, with his exquisite musical style from seasons one and two returning in fantastic form playing some particularly enjoyable new themes (see “Asriel’s Republic” and “Lord Roke” for standouts) which overall fit rather seamlessly into the established musical world for the series, and provide a very thematically fitting and indeed entertaining series finale.

Two years have passed, but now at last here we are with the highly anticipated third and final season of His Dark Materials. Like with the first two seasons, the score release for this will be coming twofold; the first aspect, which incidentally is the album we’ll be tackling today, is the “Musical Anthology” side and tackles the new main themes for the season. The second will then be the actual score for each of the season’s episodes, and will be releasing incrementally with four sequential albums as the series airs throughout December. The themes though I find often tend to be the best aspect of Lorne Balfe’s exquisite work for the series (indeed that was the case for seasons one and two, at least for me), and so it is with pretty hefty excitement that I unlock the hotly-anticipated box of thematic jewels that this third and final season’s anthology album hopefully will be. The score opens rather curiously with “A New World” (unusually not a new rendition of Balfe’s main title theme, as adorned the albums for seasons one and two), overall a quietly mysterious piece led initially by sweeping, ominously grand strings and low-pitched backing brass until additional, louder brass then erupts at the eighty second mark as the first actual new motif of the album begins to play. It’s a rather grandiose new theme that echoes the mysterious nature of the cue’s opening instrumentation while also leaning a little into hope, and runs through several further renditions here before ending the track a minute or so later on a quietly fading, somewhat pensive note.

The grandly mysterious nature of the opening cue then continues into the subsequent “Emissaries”, a piece that starts off quietly with low-pitched, moody vocals and gentle strings before then gradually building up as its two and a half minute runtime continues until loud, thunderously powerful brass takes centre stage, and the music then thunders emphatically along right up until the final few seconds. It’s with the next track “Asriel’s Republic” though where things get really exciting; quiet, melancholic brass debuts a six note motif for the cue in the first few seconds, with additional strings then starting to build a more dramatic atmosphere until at just over the eighty second mark. Here, loudly triumphant brass and emphatic vocals take centre stage holding the new theme proudly high, with additional instrumental also hinting toward the main His Dark Materials title motif throughout. This much bolder side to the cue then lasts a pretty glorious two and a half further minutes before then closing enthusiastically out, and overall is tied for Standout Cue with one other piece (to be revealed later), that’s just how good it is. Quiet, ominous strings and brass then calm the orchestra down in the subsequent “The Land Of The Dead”, echoing a much slower, almost mournful tone with what sound like music box notes also giving the piece a rather creepy musical edge all the way through its two minute runtime.

Quietly pensive strings open “Father Gomez”, but the music doesn’t stay this way for long as loudly malevolent-sounding vocals and notes from an organ then begin to play at the one minute mark, overall emphasizing a much darker switch-up in tone that then echoes ominously throughout the remaining three minutes of the piece (particularly in the final ninety seconds, as the music get almost deafeningly loud). The shorter “The Boatman”, then retains the quietly mysterious nature of the previous cue’s opening, with morose vocals and serene strings playing front and centre in slow and pensive form. “Opposing The Authority” then reprises the semi-heroic theme from “Asriel’s Republic”, playing quietly at first before then bursting into the forefront on loud vocals and thunderous strings in the back half of the four minute track. I must say it is one hell of a theme, and a welcome surprise indeed to hear it playing again here after its debut cue. This orchestral optimism then continues into the subsequent “General Ogunwe”, where the ever emphatic orchestra introduces yet another new motif; much like with the aforementioned Asriel theme, this one also opens slowly and pensively on strings before then becoming louder and much bolder in the back half, with dramatically swelling brass and fast-paced strings holding the new theme heroically high throughout.

“Lord Roke” is the other Standout Cue of the soundtrack; it starts off gently but then takes much less time to get off the ground than previous tracks, utilising increasingly frenetic percussion to boost its pace in the first minute or so and then introducing its new theme for the titular character at the seventy second mark. This grandiose new motif then continues to build alongside the percussion for a few further seconds before the full orchestra then bursts into the fray and just lets utterly loose, playing proudly and heroically all the way to the finish line of this happily lengthy, five minute musical extravaganza. “The Gallivespians” then turns the score somewhat “folk-like” in nature, with light string plucks echoing this musical mentality throughout the first minute until low-pitched brass and thundering backing drums then take over for the remainder of the piece, hammering home a grand and dramatic, and also rather darkened musical tone overall. “Metatron” then turns the mood quite sinister; quiet, electronic whisperings open the piece, with ominous strings and moody brass arriving together with worrisome, high-pitched vocals. As the cue continues the instrumentation then gradually becomes louder and more intense, until an almost deafeningly dramatic crescendo is reached and the track draws to a close a few seconds later.

Ethereal vocals are then (perhaps unsurprisingly) the stylistic centrepiece of “The Banished Angel”. Said vocals echo a rather solemn, almost regretful new motif in the first minute of the track, which is then repeated on similarly downtrodden strings in the second minute until louder, more dramatic brass then arrives accompanied by the aforementioned vocals to bring the sorrowful theme home in the third and final minute of the cue. With the end of the anthology album now fast approaching, “The Threads That Bind” seems to hint back toward Lyra’s theme from the first series track “Scholastic Sanctuary” (though I admit that could just be me hearing things), with slightly more hopeful (though still somewhat downtrodden) string and brass instruments occupying centre stage for much of the track’s two minute runtime. Final track of the album “Love Across Worlds” then ends the score on a thankfully optimistic high note, with emphatic strings playing the album’s final new theme for the first sixty seconds and louder, thunderously enthusiastic brass then holding the motif triumphantly aloft for several happily lengthy renditions in the back half until the music then starts to die back down, and thus ends the Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials.

Overall, Lorne Balfe’s thematic work here for the third and final season of His Dark Materials is, much like with previous seasons, pretty spectacular. The new tracks integrate rather seamlessly into the composer’s established musical world for the series, feeling right at home alongside the original main title piece for instance (though sadly a new rendition of that particular theme is unfortunately absent from this anthology album) as well as many of the other themes, if you play all the albums back-to-back as I have. The musical style is gorgeous as always, and the composer has created some pretty solid actual motifs for this third go-around as well, with the thunderously triumphant one for “Asriel’s Republic” being particularly standout (so standout in fact that its used in two tracks on this theme album!) as well as the instrumentally exquisite cue for “Lord Roke”. The new love theme in “Love Across Worlds” is also rather amazing – particularly in its back half – and so all-in, I must say I very much enjoyed this third and final outing of Balfe’s His Dark Materials. In essence, if you enjoyed the first and second season anthology albums as much as I did, you’ll more than likely love this one too.

Score: 8/10

Standout Cues: 3. Asriel’s Republic/9. Lord Roke


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3 thoughts on “The Musical Anthology Of His Dark Materials (Series 3) – Soundtrack Review

  1. Isnt’ the Thread that Binds a slowed down version of the Lyra/Will theme Children of the Prophecy from the second Musical Anthology album? That’s the one I immediately thought about when I first heard it. It is exquisite as expected though.


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