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Meister des Todes (Ian Honeyman)

October 3, 2015

Cover_MeisterDesTodesMEISTER DES TODES

Ian Honeyman, 2015, Ian Honeyman
20 tracks, 57:20

A contemporary score, using ancient instruments such as the oud and rebec.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Daniel Harrish, “Meister des Todes” tells the story of a German arms company that begins selling guns to conflicted Mexican states. It’s an exhaustively researched film about greed, loyalty, politics and conscience. “Meister des Todes” premiered at the 2015 Munich Film Festival and set off a political firestorm all over Germany as German parliament begins to investigate the facts behind the film.

Music is by Ian Honeyman. He is a formally trained composer whose name may not immediately ring too many bells, but who has worked alongside Klaus Badelt on scores like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Poseidon”, “TMNT” and “Constantine”. Other credits include “Miami Vice” and “Lilly the Witch”.

What does it sound like?

The composer explains: “The score is made to complement the ‘real’ nature of the film with an immediate, unusual sound, recorded on unusual instruments such as rebec, tenor violin, oud, and a variety of guitars, pianos and other traditional instrument played in non-standard ways (bowed, scraped, tapped) in various studios around Los Angeles, with some orchestral and percussive elements.”

From the get-go, the composer sets a gritty tone. Latin influences in the guitars and percussion provide “Going to Mexico” with an interesting colour, whilst electric guitars, additional percussion and a string ostinato give it a contemporary edge. Honeyman also introduces an echoing piano motif that will recur throughout the score. “Riot” is a lengthy track that revolves largely around pulsing guitar riffs and ambient sound design. In some ways it reminds me of Hans Zimmer in a gritty, guitar-driven action mode.

Things calm down with ambient synths dominating “Back Home”, and strumming guitars taking the lead in “Guerrero”. Lively Latin percussion finds its way into “Full Auto”, whilst various other cues include processed loops (though never for very long). For the most part “Meister des Todes” is, what we often call, an ambient score. A motif or two aside, it’s not a melodic score. What gives this soundtrack its distinct colour is Honeyman’s use of olde-worlde instruments like the rebec and oud. Even standard instruments like the piano are made to sound slightly off-kilter.

From “Victor and Penelope Killed” the score starts to build tension, and picks up the pace again. Strings take on a slighter larger role in this cue and the next; though I actually think they feel out of place. They sound sampled and don’t sit comfortably in the mix. Throughout most of the score, it’s hard to determine what is acoustic and what is sampled. Or perhaps I should say: it doesn’t actually matter. The ambient synths, the processed percussion and off-kilter guitars and piano provide an interesting soundscape, regardless to what extent it may or may not be electronic.

I love the beat and the piano in “Worldwide Demand”, but the strings again feel odd. The piano motif is reprised in “King of Guns” alongside excited percussion and some string ostinato; before “Everyone Has His Price” closes the album in a rather ambient manner.

Is it any good?

Ian Honeyman’s score for “Meister des Todes” is quite an interesting work, especially from a ‘sound’ and orchestrations point of view. The Latin percussion, the olde-worlde instruments (such as rebec, oud) and the unusual playing techniques of traditional instruments provide the score with an attractive colour. It’s a little ‘different’, without going overboard. The use of pulsing electric guitars gives the score a modern edge, akin to something you might hear from Zimmer’s Remote Control crew (Jeff Rona comes to mind more than once). The ambient synth pads make for a great addition, though the sampled strings do not. They are the score’s weakest link, though luckily they don’t play that big a role. There is nice wide, spacious sound to it all; and I can see how it complements the ‘real’ nature of the film. “Meister des Todes” is not a melodic work, but those who enjoy ambient scores with pulsing guitars and a slightly off-kilter soundscape would do well to check this one out.

Rating [3/5]


1. Going To Mexico (2:16)
2. Riot (8:17)
3. Back Home (1:51)
4. Guerrero (2:42)
5. Protest (3:37)
6. Delivering Guns (3:06)
7. Full Auto (2:55)
8. Repentance (1:08)
9. Shooting (2:02)
10. Traitors (2:50)
11. One Of The Boys (4:07)
12. For Your Own Safety (1:26)
13. Beach Demonstration (1:28)
14. Victor And Penelope Killed (1:30)
15. I Have Nightmares (2:05)
16. Worldwide Demand (3:16)
17. German Boy (3:10)
18. Blame (2:16)
19. King Of Guns (4:49)
20. Everyone Has His Price (2:27)


For more information and soundclips visit Ian Honeyman‘s website.
It is available on iTunes and will be on Amazon, but is also available at any price (including free) on Bandcamp.

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