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It’s back… but should it be?

October 11, 2022

Imagine a synth score. Imagine it’s well documented which machines were used to create it. Imagine a sequel with more synths and still plenty of info about the devices used. Then imagine a few more sequels, but this time they are largely orchestral (though possibly sampled). Finally, imagine someone with a wholly different set of synths performing various cues taken from across the franchise. Welcome to London Music Works’ “Music from the Terminator Movies“.

Silva Screen has released (on 7th October 2022) a compilation of music from the “Terminator” movies called “Music from the Terminator Movies” performed by London Music Works. I’m in two minds about this album. On the one hand I don’t see its relevance; but on the other hand… it’s generally quite good fun.

Let’s talk about relevance. Soundtrack albums from the “Terminator” movies are readily available, including the odd special edition, hence I’m not sure we need any compilation. Then there’s the quality of the original scores. They all work great in their respective movies, but is the music really that good or that sought-after that it warrants more albums beyond the original ones? Also, there’s no new “Terminator” movie out or in the making (that I know of) with which this release could tie in.

Obviously I, and every other listener, will be comparing this to the original scores. Again, I’m in two minds here. There are videos on YouTube that go into reasonable-to-great lengths showcasing how Brad Fiedel composed the original “Terminator” and “T2: Judgement Day“. If you want to know “How the Terminator 2 music was created“, just click that link. So with that in mind, it should be fairly easy to create an almost identical copy of the original cues, yet LMW uses different equipment/software. But then… why wouldn’t they? I’m sure it’s more fun to recreate the music with different, modern synths; and I’m sure that if they had created an exact copy I’d be sitting here moaning about its relevance even more!

What doesn’t help is that I couldn’t find anything about London Music Works, who they are, what they do, what their background is. Their Soundcloud page says they are “a group of musicians specialising in the playing of film and TV soundtracks. Drawn from the best session musicians in London, many of them also perform in other ensembles, from classical orchestras to West End musicals and jazz bands.” I doubt that this “Terminator” album features any live session players (if it does, it’s overshadowed by the samples). Is it just one person behind this, or a group? There’s no info from them or the record label as to the background of this “Terminator” compilation. That’s not the end of the world of course, but it would’ve been nice to know whether this music is supposed to sound as close to the originals as possible, or whether it’s a re-imagining with allowances for creative freedom? I can only suspect the latter.

Anyway, let’s put all that aside and have a chat about the album. Each movie in the franchise is represented by three cues (except “Genesys” which only has two). Needless to say, those movies are “Terminator” (1984) and “T2: Judgement Day” (1991) by Brad Fiedel, “T3: Rise of the Machines” (2003) by Marco Beltrami, “Salvation” (2009) by Danny Elfman”, “Genesys” (2015) by Lorne Balfe and “Dark Fate” (2019) by Tom Holkenborg.

Where this album definitely succeeds is in showcasing the different styles between the various composers whilst working with the same core material. Of course the main theme and that iconic drum pattern have been maintained throughout the franchise. When listening to Beltrami’s lamenting cues you can easily place it in his “Blade 2“/”I, Robot“/Hellboy” period; the Elfman score bears resemblances to his “Planet of the Apes“; whilst Balfe adds a touch of epic Remote Control-ness through string ostinati and dramatic harmonies. I find it interesting that Holkenborg’s interpretation of the main theme is arguably the closest to Fiedel’s original albeit considerably more epic.

On the whole LMW’s album sounds pretty good. The programming of the synths and samples is very good, mixing sounds good and overall it has a nice full sound. Inevitably it will sound ‘fake’ to a certain degree, but sample libraries have advanced hugely over the last few years and have become an integral part of most filmscores, so that it will likely only bother the purest of the purists.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s the “T” and “T2” music that are the weakest cues here. “Reese Dreams of the Future” has an abrupt and unpleasant ending. “Love Scene” sounds a bit thin and cheap. “Escape from the Hospital” sounds repetitive with some rather annoying glissandi strings samples. It was probably present in the original, but I don’t like the sound of it. Also, there are some truly iconic sounds in those early scores that could’ve and should’ve been properly replicated, even if the music as a whole is more of a re-imagination. From “T3” onwards LMW moves away from the obvious synths to a sampled orchestral soundscape; and especially by the time we arrive at Balfe’s and Holkenborg’s cues it sounds totally convincing (possibly because there’s a greater resemblance or overlap between the synths/software used by LMW, Balfe and Holkenborg). Beltrami’s “Radio”, Elfman’s “Opening”, Balfe’s “Fate and Hope” and “Sacrifice” and Holkenborg’s “Terminated” are highly enjoyable cues.

So, I don’t really know what to say. If you’re a big fan of all the “Terminator” scores and are happy to hear LMW’s synthesized and sampled re-imagining of it, not taking it too seriously and not listening out for any orchestral finesse, then it makes for a decent listening experience. Truth is… despite all my reservations, I enjoyed this album much more than I thought I would. (17 tracks, 52m)

Article by Pete Simons (c) 2022 Synchrotones

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