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Risen (Roque Banos)

February 28, 2016


Roque Banos, 2016, Madison Gate Records
16 tracks, 61:45

It’s nearly Easter and thus that time of year when the old stories are re-told once again. This time… Kevin Reynolds directs, Joseph Fiennes stars and Roque Banos scores.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

In 33 AD, a Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of an executed Jew rumoured to have risen from the dead. “Risen” marks a directorial return for Kevin Reynolds (remember him?) from “Waterworld”, “The Count of Monte Christo” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”. He’s worked with a fine bunch of composers in the past – from Alan Silvestri to Michael Kamen, Edward Shearmur, Mark Isham, and elsewhere rejected Isham in favour of James Newton Howard.

What does it sound like?

The album starts off a little anonymously, if I’m honest. Soft vocals and softer strings, along with sparse notes on ethnic instruments paint a desolate, Middle-Eastern picture. However, it’s not long before a 7/8th action motif with racing strings appears. Now, I love 7/8 and 5/4 and all those slightly quirky meters, but they have become somewhat of a cliche in film-scoring. This opening cue, “The Battle”, does still hold back a bit. Banos reprises the motif a few times throughout the score, most prominently in “Finding the Apostles” and “Escaping the Romans”. If you thought the composer took a bit of a Zimmer-y approach in “In the Heart of the Sea“, you’ll find he does the same here. Even the ambient cues on “Risen” sound a bit like those from “…Sea”. And the similarities don’t end there. Both albums are off to a slow start and take their time to blossom.

The first half of the album is a subtle and quiet affair. It’s pretty enough, but it’s difficult to get excited about it. With the action-cue “Finding the Apostles” the score starts to move into a more engaging direction. “He is Alive” is still an understated cue, but its mysterious tones are rather compelling. “Escaping From the Romans” is the score’s third and last proper action cue, utilising the same rhythm and ostinato string motif as heard in “The Battle” and “Finding the Apostles”.

And then the score really comes to live. During cues likes “The Sea of Galilee”, “Healing the Leper”, “The Ascension”, “Farewell” and “I’ll Never Be The Same” strings are soaring, choirs are singing, percussion is rattling along very nicely… and a powerful story is brought to life. These cues are glorious.

Is it any good?

Roque Banos’ score for “Risen” is quite a beautiful work. It’s a symphonic score augmented with ethnic instrumentation and some percussion. Musically, it tells a beautiful but tense and sometimes action-packed story. It does so in a way which feels quite familiar. Whilst Banos ensures the music sounds authentic (or: as authentic as one can get away with in a Western cinema), you really wouldn’t expect (and accept) anything less these days. A lot of it is reminiscent of “In the Heart of the Sea”, though ultimately I prefer that score because I connected more strongly with its “Whale Chant” theme.

The album for “Risen” is very well produced, but takes a long time to garner any sort of momentum. Once it does, it provides an engaging narrative and a satisfying finale. During the second half/last third the music really comes to live and offers 20-30 minutes of wonderful music. Clearly a lot of work has gone into the ethnic side of the music. The detail in the writing and instrumentation is fabulous; and the ethnic instruments work really well against the lush string parts. It requires somewhat of a leap of faith, but in the end “Risen” does deliver.

Rating [3.5/5]


01. The Battle (6:18)
02. It’s Finished (4:48)
03. Roman’s Funeral (2:39)
04. Empty Tomb (4:50)
05. Capturing Mary Magdalene (6:49)
06. He Is Everywhere (2:25)
07. Tell Me the Truth (4:22)
08. Finding the Apostles (2:55)
09. He Is Alive (6:39)
10. Escaping from the Romans (2:40)
11. The Sea of Galilee (2:08)
12. Let’s Fish (3:55)
13. Healing the Leper (2:35)
14. The Ascension (4:02)
15. Farewell (2:03)
16. I’ll Never Be the Same (2:36)

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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