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FURY – Steven Price

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

furyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Fury is a World War II action-drama written and directed by David Ayer, about the crew of an armored Sherman tank during the final days of the European Theatre. As the Allies make their final push toward Berlin, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands the tank and her experienced crew (Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña), but are forced to replace their gunner, previously killed in action, with a recently enlisted Army typist, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) who, it transpires, has never even seen the inside of a tank before, let alone experienced the ravages of war. As Wardaddy and the crew of Fury are tasked with carrying out a deadly mission behind enemy lines, outnumbered and outgunned, we experience the horrors of conflict through Norman’s eyes.

It’s always interesting to see what project a recent Academy Award-winner takes on following his big night. For British composer Steven Price, who won the Oscar in 2013 for his score for the space disaster movie Gravity, Fury allowed the composer to return to Earth and take on a more grounded, realistic story, filled with the drama and heroism that WWII movies often provide. With Price being such a young composer, with comparatively few solo works under his belt, he hasn’t really had time to develop a ‘sound’ of his own yet, and so I was eager to see in what new direction the score for Fury would take him; what I didn’t expect was for him to basically write “Gravity, Part II”, using a similar sound palette, a similar conceptual approach, and similar compositional techniques. I guess, when examining the plots of the movies, some of the ideas are the same – isolated soldiers (scientists) trapped inside a crippled tank (space ship) battle for survival before the German army (debris) arrives and kills them all. Nevertheless, I was expecting Price to provide something different, something indicative of some kind of versatility, and it’s more than a little disappointing that this is not the case.

The score is performed by the London Philharmonia Orchestra, augmented by a vast array of electronic instruments and synthesized samples, as well as a choir chanting ominously in some sort of pseudo-German, reminding the viewer (and listener) of the threats just over the horizon. The opening cue, “April 1945,” combines a rhythmic, forward-motion string ostinato with the chanting choir and all manner of electronic pulses and effects, including an electric guitar. Eventually a main theme of sorts emerges, first heard on a plaintive solo cello with a little piano accompaniment, but it’s very fragile and insubstantial, and forgotten almost immediately, despite appearing in several subsequent cues.

And so the score continues on very much in that vein for most of the rest of its one-hour running time. Once in a while a new texture emerges: a solo female voice in “The War Is Not Over,” a solo violin in “Fury Drives Into Camp,” and so on. The tempo and rhythmic drive of the cues varies too, shifting slightly to evoke subtle changes in intent: tension and worried anticipation in “Refugees,” impending danger in “The Beetfield,” unnerving calmness in “The Town Square.” When the chanting voices and prominent brass section rises to the fore for a few moments in “The Beetfield” and “Emma,” the score really shines. Similarly, the recapitulations of the main theme in cues such as “Refugees,” the solemnly downbeat “Airfight,” the poignant “Emma,” the defiant “This Is My Home,” the touching “I’m Scared Too,” and the conclusive “Norman,” briefly raise the score’s emotional profile.

Several of Gravity’s most memorable aspects – the cacophonous synth collisions, the fluttering electronic effects that stutter in the background, the furious string writing – appear in this score’s plentiful action sequences, notably “Ambush,” the vicious “Tiger Battle,” “Crossroads,” and others, but a large part of the problem I had with Fury was, ironically, the reason Gravity worked so well. In Gravity, Price had to create all the sonic tension himself, due to the fact that the director of that film chose to preserve the ‘space-as-a-vacuum’ ideal, and have no sound effects. As such, Price’s busy, industrial, dissonant writing did the work of several layers of sound, and successfully created the entire aural world of the film. Because Fury is a much more traditional film, sonically speaking, I found that Price’s electronic effects lost their immediacy and, more importantly, their relevance, instead coming across as a labored device that he used for no other reason than he was expected to use it. The emotional cornerstone of the score – the orchestra – gets lost in the chaos, resulting in a score in which the orchestra gets drowned out by electronic sound effects that no longer have a reason for existing.

It’s possibly a little unfair to dismiss Steven Price’s score for Fury in this way. We mustn’t forget that this is still only his fourth major score (after Attack the Block, The World’s End, and Gravity), and as such we haven’t had an opportunity to really see what he’s capable of in terms of writing music across different genres and with different expectations. Still, considering the success and acclaim of Gravity, I have to admit I was expecting more from Fury. The chanting German choir idea was a good one, as was the decision to increase the overall orchestral content of the score, but the fact that so much of the score is basically a re-tread of his last work is frustrating. Re-set, move on.

Buy the Fury soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • April, 1945 (4:15)
  • The War Is Not Over (1:48)
  • Fury Drives Into Camp (1:51)
  • Refugees (2:42)
  • Ambush (2:07)
  • The Beetfield (7:59)
  • Airfight (3:05)
  • The Town Square (2:18)
  • The Apartment (0:59)
  • Emma (2:36)
  • Tiger Battle (6:18)
  • On the Lookout (3:04)
  • This Is My Home (3:43)
  • Machine (3:22)
  • Crossroads (8:06)
  • Still In This Fight (3:39)
  • I’m Scared Too (3:46)
  • Wardaddy (2:39)
  • Norman (2:51)

Running Time: 67 minutes 08 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-7308 (2014)

Music composed by Steven Price. Conducted by Allan Wilson. Performed by The London Philharmonia Orchestra. Orchestrations by David Butterworth. Featured musical soloists Philip Collin, Marion Morris, Alasdair Molloy and Will Schofield. Special vocal performances by Lisa Hannigan and John Smith. Recorded and mixed by Sam Okell and Gareth Cousins. Edited by Del Spiva. Album produced by Steven Price.

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