Home > Reviews > THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER – Bear McCreary


November 8, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is one of the most lavish, ambitious, and expensive television shows in the history of the medium. It’s a prequel to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings histories, The Silmarillion, and its various appendices, and is set in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings took place. Essentially it tells the ‘origin story’ of several key events in LOTR lore: the fall of the Dark Lord Morgoth and subsequent rise of his chief servant Sauron, the creation of the land of Mordor, the fate of the island kingdom of Númenor, and the forging of the Rings of Power, as well as the relationships between various elves, dwarves, and men, who make and break alliances in an effort to combat the tide of evil. Numerous familiar characters from the film series appear, not least the elves Galadriel and Elrond, as well as a race of creatures known as ‘harfoots,’ the ancestors of the hobbits.

Now, I’m not a Tolkien scholar in the slightest. I never read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings as a child, and I have certainly never read The Silmarillion or any of the appendices. My first proper experience of the stories really only came in 2001 with The Fellowship of the Ring movie (I had previously seen, but barely understood, Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated film The Lord of the Rings, so that doesn’t really count). As such, I came to The Rings of Power as a fan of the films, but with little to no preconceptions of what to expect, with no real knowledge of any potential details or spoilers, and blissfully unaware of any changes the showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay may have made to the text. Needless to say, I was absolutely enchanted by the whole thing. It’s a visual masterpiece, filled with stunningly realized fantasy locations, exquisite production design, costume design, and makeup. I found the social and political relationships between the different species and factions to be fascinating, as well as the detailed depictions of different cultures. The action scenes were exhilarating, and the acting performances – especially Morfydd Clark as the luminous and ethereal elf warrior Galadriel, Robert Aramayo as the optimistic elf politician Elrond, and Owain Arthur as the good-hearted dwarf prince Durin IV – were outstanding, despite the actors being buried under mounds of hair and beards and prosthetic ears and noses.


And then there’s the music. The original six Lord of the Rings and Hobbit scores were famously written by Howard Shore, who won three Oscars for his efforts crafting what has since become the defining work of his career, and one of the most acclaimed fantasy scores in the history of cinema. Any composer tasked with scoring The Rings of Power would be forgiven for being daunted – coming up with anything close to the scale and excellence of Shore’s work is a near impossible task – but someone had to do it, and that someone is Bear McCreary.

I can’t stress enough just how much of an accomplishment The Rings of Power is for McCreary. Although he is no stranger to writing multiple seasons of music for cult favorite TV shows (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Outlander), nor is he inexperienced at writing music for massive orchestras and choirs (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, the God of War video games), The Rings of Power is on another level entirely. It’s an epic production in every sense of the word, which strives to match the thematic density, leitmotivic intelligence, multi-ethnic world music approach of Howard Shore’s scores, despite him being contractually unable to directly quote any thematic material Shore wrote for the Peter Jackson films.


Just the numbers alone are mind-bending: there are seventeen recurring themes for people and places – including ones for Galadriel, Elrond, Sauron, Nori Brandyfoot, The Stranger, and Durin IV, a love theme for Bronwyn and Arondir, a theme for Halbrand and the Southlands, a father-son theme for Elendil and Isildur, a theme for Adar and the Orcs, a theme for the Mystics (magical warriors searching for Sauron), and a theme to represent the Rings of Power themselves, as well as culture/location specific themes for the elves and Valinor, the dwarves and Khazad-Dûm, the island of Númenor, and the Harfoot proto-Hobbits. One interesting thing about the themes is that, considering how much of the source material is already known to Tolkien scholars, McCreary also had to craft themes for Season 1 knowing that a payoff could be coming down the line in Season 2 or Season 3 or beyond, subtly foreshadowing events way down the narrative line, in ways that make dramatic sense now, AND will make dramatic sense in the future. That level of planning and forethought is astonishing.

Many of these thematic ideas feature specific instrumental or vocal textures which relate only to one specific theme, further enhancing the leitmotivic nature of the ideas. In terms of voices, there are ethereal female vocals for elves, tenor male vocals for dwarves, bass male vocals for Sauron, and chilling whispers for the Mystics. The lyrics these choirs sing are also highly specific, with different pieces using different words in various Tolkien-invented languages, depending on which culture is being depicted: the elvish languages Sindarin and Quenya, the dwarvish language Khuzdûl, the Adûnaic language of Númenor, the Black Speech of Sauron, and so on.

Each culture has a specific set of instrumental ideas that represent them too, alongside the standard symphony orchestra, The low men of the Southlands have Nordic instruments (nyckelharpa, Hardanger fiddle, hammered dulcimer), while the high men of Númenor have Middle Eastern instruments (Armenian duduk, Turkish yaylı tambur). The Harfoots, like the Hobbits, have a Celtic sound, with uilleann pipes, Irish tin whistles, and bodhrán drums, while the Orcs are all about brutal and guttural percussion: Aztec death whistles, conches, and primitive bone flutes made from goat horns. Each culture then has what McCreary calls a ‘society anthem’ – on the soundtrack they can be heard as “Valinor” for elves, “Khazad-Dûm” for dwarves, “The Southlands” for low men, “Númenor” for high men, “Harfoot Life” for the harfoots, and “Nampat” for the orcs – out of which sub-themes are crafted, depending on which character and which society is being depicted.

And then there is yet another layer of thematic/leitmotivic delineation in terms of the actual composition, in which McCreary designed each specific theme to have a unique interval between each theme’s first and second note, so that listeners can identify them in only two notes. I don’t have the music theory knowledge to be able to describe exactly what I’m hearing in terms of these intervals, but McCreary goes into a significant amount of detail about it on his personal website (www.bearmccreary.com), which I highly recommend you read for more context.

The bottom line is this: the level of research and intelligent design McCreary has done in terms of creating the musical structure of The Rings of Power is absolutely astonishing, and is probably unparalleled in the history of television music. Seventeen individual character/concept themes, specific choirs for specific cultures singing specific languages depending on context, specific instrumental ideas drawn from specific world music styles that are only heard in certain contexts, and specific compositional techniques that are applied only to one specific theme… it’s madness. Genius, brilliant, madness, and my respect for McCreary and how he has created this musical vocabulary, while ALSO dealing with the legacy and acclaim of Howard Shore’s scores, and the pressures that fans of the music, fans of the movies, and fans of the original literature bring to the table, and ALSO having to co-ordinate COVID-affected global recording sessions with different orchestras and choirs and vocalists and instrumentalists performing remotely in London, Vienna, Los Angeles, New York, Norway, and Sweden… well, let’s just say I’m impressed.



Long time readers of Movie Music UK will know that I don’t often write about TV scores, especially for shows that are planned to be multi-season epics, because it’s basically too daunting an undertaking. The totality of the music that has been released for The Rings of Power clocks in at an eye-watering 9 hours 47 minutes and 10 seconds: a 2½ hour 39-track Season 1 ‘overview album,’ and then eight episode-specific albums of 45-60 minutes each that represents the music as actually heard in final context. That’s a massive amount of time to dedicate to a review – but, honestly, The Rings of Power is worth it. This score is a monumental achievement in every conceivable way – conception, design, performance, dramatic impact, and as a compelling listening experience as a soundtrack album.

So, let’s start with the Overview Album, which begins with the “Main Title” theme written by none other than Howard Shore himself. These 94 seconds link the Shore scores with the McCreary scores, as if the former is passing the Lord of the Rings baton to the latter, and it’s a nice way to bridge that gap. The theme itself is lovely, full of those familiar stepwise Shore chord progressions, powerful work from lyrical strings and noble horns, and some portentous choral ideas in the second half. The theme accompanies the fascinating opening title sequence, which uses the concept of cymatics – that is, sound resonances moving and shaping particles into geometric patterns depending on the frequency of the music – as a metaphor to illustrating the concept in Tolkien lore that the gods used music to create the world. It’s a shame that the theme never appears in the score proper, but it’s nevertheless a superb memorable theme in its own right.


Everything else is a McCreary original, and the score begins with a massive run-down of the score’s major themes, arranged in ‘concert suite’ form. The first of these, “Galadriel,” is the theme for what is the show’s main character, and is initially beautiful, warm horns and angelic ethereal choirs representing her elf heritage, and with a noble, honorable tone that clearly identifies her quest to rid the land of evil. However, as it develops, it picks up what McCreary calls a ‘rippling string pattern’ that has a sort of singlemindedness verging on the obsessive, clearly illustrating that her desire to hunt for Sauron at all costs threatens to make her an outcast from her own people, while also bringing her some additional powerful enemies. This theme is one of the three most prominent and recognizable themes in show context, and receives several superb statements in moments where Galadriel is doing something significantly heroic. One thing I did notice about Galadriel’s theme is the completely coincidental, but nevertheless amusing, similarity between it and the old theme tune that composer Alan Hawkshaw wrote for the Cadbury’s Milk Tray TV commercials in England back in the 1970s. Perhaps Galadriel is a secret chocoholic? All because the lady loves…



“Khazad-Dûm” is the culture theme for the dwarves and its obstinate king Durin III (Peter Mullan), and is a strong, vivid, muscular march for brass-led orchestra and choir backed with clanking metallic percussion that represents the culture as one of expert miners and smiths. It’s a fabulous piece – dramatic and bold – but what I also love are McCreary’s intentional allusions to the sound Howard Shore brought to the scenes set in Khazad-Dûm in The Fellowship of the Ring, especially the famous action sequence “The Bridge at Khazad-Dûm,” through his use of choir. Both composers have their choirs singing similar syllables, but whereas Shore’s depiction of the locale was one of cold darkness and oppressive danger – the remnants of a shattered civilization – McCreary’s Khazad-Dûm is a massive city, teeming with life and industry. These subtle differences in McCreary’s depiction of the same place, a thousand years prior, is very clever. Meanwhile the theme for “Durin IV” (Owain Arthur), Durin III’s son and the heir apparent to the throne of Khazad-Dûm, is jauntier and more upbeat than the theme for his father – it plays more like a drinking song, with a melody carried by a fiddle – but there is a more earnest, deep-feeling aspect to it too that speaks to the character’s warmth and generosity, as well as his desire to emerge from his father’s shadow and be a respected leader in his own right.


“Nori Brandyfoot” is the character theme for Nori (Markella Kavenagh), a young and vivacious Harfoot girl who dreams of seeing the wider world. Nori’s theme is a playful, charming piece of Celtic-inspired music built around a pretty pennywhistle melody, backed by pipes and hand drums, which has a hopeful tone to it representing her optimism and good-heartedness. The culture theme for the Harfoots, “Harfoot Life,” is tonally related to the theme for Nori, and is full of movement and energy, with a melody that again passes around between bagpipes and Irish whistles, backed by bodhrán drums. I’ve always connected emotionally to this sort of Irish-Celtic pastiche, which in the past has been the popular domain of James Horner, and this music is no different.

Nori’s theme and the Harfoot theme both stand in ironic juxtaposition to the theme for “The Stranger” (Daniel Weyman), a mysterious figure who emerges from the center of a crashed meteor, and who gradually becomes Nori’s friend and companion. The Stranger’s theme is not linked to any other culture or character, either melodically or instrumentally or tonally, to emphasize the mystery surrounding his origin and his identity. It comprises curious, slightly abstract tones for metallic percussion, solo cello, and voices, that can be playful, or frightening, depending on context. Related to the theme for The Stranger is the character-specific theme for “The Mystics,” a trio of fearsome-looking white-cloaked magicians who are hunting for Sauron; their music is perhaps the most unnerving of all the themes, and is built around a host of creepy whispers backed by twisted, tortured string figures.


“Númenor” is the culture theme for the High Men and its leaders Queen Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and administrator Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), a wealthy and prosperous island civilization based on the legend of Atlantis, that once shared a friendship with elves, but now stands in conflict and distrust of them. This theme is the second of the three most prominent and recognizable themes in show context, and is my personal favorite; it begins with the slithery, exotic sound of a Turkish yaylı tambur backed by Middle Eastern light percussion, which gives it a slightly duplicitous sound, but quickly becomes fully orchestral, grand and heroic, a depiction of a proud seafaring culture. I love the baroque flourishes McCreary puts in the strings, and the way that a lot of the chord progressions have that wonderful Hollywood ‘Egyptian’ sound that composers like Jerry Goldsmith employed in scores like The Mummy. The subsequent character theme for “Elendil and Isildur” represents the father and son relationship between Elendil (Lloyd Owen), a Númenorean sea captain, and his son Isildur (Maxim Baldry), who both become embroiled in Galadriel’s story and have a powerful destiny. Their theme is built around the same Middle Eastern chord progressions as the main Númenor theme, but is often carried by horns, and is a little more reserved, perhaps even a little forlorn, speaking to the strained relationship between them. There is a very faint James Horner influence here too; some of the tones around the 2:00 minute mark remind me very much of the main romantic theme from The Mask of Zorro, which I have always loved, and I feel the same way about this music here.



“Valinor” is the culture theme for the Elves, their high king Gil-Galad (Benjamin Walker), and the various elf cities that the show visits, including the sylvan paradise Lindon. The Valinor theme is predominantly choral, with a faraway, angelic, calming, soothing tone, as if these immortal beings are above the petty day-to-day troubles of mortals. The Valinor theme is also sonically related to, but melodically different from, the character theme for “Elrond Half-Elven” (Robert Aramayo), which has more focus on woodwinds, and is perhaps more romantic, but also has a slightly bittersweet tone that reflects the uncertainties present in Elrond’s storyline, as he finds himself torn between his loyalty to his culture, and his loyalty to his friends. There are also some subtle similarities between Elrond’s theme and Galadriel’s theme, reflecting their shared heritage and their ancient friendship.


The character theme for “Sauron” is all brutal portentousness – dark, antagonistic flurries of strings, choirs intoning in Black Speech – but there is an elegance and seductiveness to it too, a reflection of his evil charm and charisma. The use brass in the second half of theme is powerfully compelling, and again has flavors of the music Howard Shore wrote for the Mordor/Sauron/Ringwraith concepts in his Lord of the Rings scores – yet more excellent and appropriate tonal linkage. An offshoot of Sauron’s theme is “Nampat,” which pulls double duty as a culture theme for the Orcs and a character-specific theme for its leader Adar (Joseph Mawle), a former elf transformed by Sauron into an ‘uruk,’ and who is considered the ‘father’ of the Orc race. The word ‘nampat’ means ‘death’ in the Black Speech language, and McCreary has a brutal male voice choir chant the word violently throughout the cue.


Also pulling double duty is “Halbrand” (Charlie Vickers), which acts as a character specific theme for Galadriel’s mysterious travelling companion who is eventually revealed to have a significant link with the Southlands, and also an overarching culture theme for the Low Men of the Southlands themselves. As mentioned earlier, the music of the Southlands is characterized by Nordic instrumental textures, which provides an interesting conceptual link between this score and Howard Shore’s score for The Two Towers – Shore used similar instruments as part of his identity for the Rohan culture. McCreary makes excellent use of Olav Luksengård Mjelva’s Hardanger fiddle and Erik Rydvall’s nyckelharpa throughout the piece, performing a haunting and ancient-sounding melody.

The love theme for “Bronwyn and Arondir” is the third of the three most prominent and recognizable themes in show context. It represents the forbidden relationship between Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), an elf warrior, and Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), a human apothecary and healer from the Southlands, who together witness the emergence of Adar and the Orcs, and their desire to take over the region for themselves. Their theme is pretty, elegant, but also a little melancholy; there’s a hint of James Horner, or perhaps classic Ennio Morricone, in the oboe-based central melody, but then when it swells into a lush, wholesome reprise for warm strings accompanied by tender harp glissandi, it quickly establishes itself as one of McCreary’s career-best love themes.



Finally, we have what might be the most elusive main recurring theme, which is the theme for the Rings of Power themselves, the ‘secret project’ that the elven smith Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) is crafting throughout the show, and which brings together the plot strands involving Elrond’s visits to Khazad-Dûm, the silmaril jewels, and Halbrand’s mysterious past. The Rings of Power theme is actually heard as the main title music of Episode 1 of the show (before Shore’s theme is established), but then is properly presented in “Where the Shadows Lie,” which is included both as an instrumental featuring a Sandy Cameron violin solo and a portentous choir, and as a vocal song performed by Fiona Apple. The theme is sinewy, mysterious, and steeped in an old-world magic that is a perfect representation of this ancient power.


The rest of the album is an hour and 40 minutes of selected in-context score cues, all of which are thematically based on one or more of the seventeen main themes, but which present them in different instrumental settings, and with different emotional intentions, depending on context. It’s in these cues that the true excellence of McCreary’s score becomes apparent; it’s one thing to present a concert suite of a specific theme, but as actual underscore each theme has to have the capacity to transform into an action version, offer varying shades of emotional depth, and in many cases play in counterpoint or juxtaposition to another theme, as different characters interact, speak about each other, or physically travel to a different location. In one scene you could have Galadriel’s theme and Halbrand’s theme playing off each other as they meet and converse, then in the next scene have Galadriel’s theme moving around between statements of the Númenor theme or the Valinor theme as she visits those locations. Then elsewhere you might have the themes for Elrond, Durin IV, and Khazad-Dûm all playing sequentially, as two characters and one location come together in the same scene, but the emotional content of the themes keeps shifting as conversations are had, secrets are revealed, and the layers of the relationships between the characters emerge. In each of these circumstances the different themes have to interlock seamlessly, flowing into one another, or even playing contrapuntally, and the intricacy and dexterity and intelligence and level of musical detail McCreary needed to have to pull this off is staggering – but he did so nevertheless.

I’m not going to speak to each specific cue here because I’m sure you get the idea of what’s happening, but I am going to pick out several moments that I especially like. The entirety of “In the Beginning” is outstanding – this is the score cue that accompanies the show’s establishing prologue that introduces the loving relationship between Galadriel and her brother Finrod (Will Fletcher), shows how the world was threatened by the emergence of the dark lord Morgoth and his servant Sauron, and how Finrod was killed in battle by Sauron – initiating Galadriel’s centuries long quest to find and kill Sauron herself. The piece is a brilliant musical overview of several ideas, including gentle versions of the Valinor theme and Galadriel’s theme, a vicious battle arrangement of Sauron’s theme, and a heroic version of Galadriel’s theme for rousing war-like brass embedded into some superb action writing.


Large parts of “The Boat” are built around a gorgeous version of the Valinor theme, pure and angelic, but which becomes tormented and unnerving in its second half, defaced by chugging string ostinatos and serpentine woodwind textures. “Sundering Seas” features a huge, anguished version of Galadriel’s theme to accompany her fateful decision to leap from the boat taking her to eternal peace in Valinor and into the titular expanse, where she is eventually rescued by Halbrand to the strains of his Hardanger fiddle theme.

I love the deep, masculine voices embedded into the Harfoot music in “Nobody Goes Off Trail.” “White Leaves” features a gorgeous vocal variation on Galadriel’s theme performed by Raya Yarbrough, before switching to the immense first performance of the Númenor theme to accompany the staggering establishing shots of the location as Galadriel and Halbrand arrive there on Elendil’s boat – it’s spine tingling stuff. “The Secrets of the Mountain” is an exploration of the Khazad-Dûm theme for the dwarves, but what I love is how McCreary blends it with references to both the melody and the orchestration of Elrond’s theme, as he experiences (along with the audience) the staggering establishing shots of *that* location – again, a thriving, beautiful city, a world away from the smoldering ruins Khazad-Dûm appeared as in the Fellowship of the Ring.

“Nolwa Mahtar” is a superb action sequence full of throbbing string figures, powerful percussion patterns, bold horn chords, and a massive choir, that acts as a secondary ‘warrior’ theme for Galadriel. Related to this is the sensational “Scherzo for Violin and Swords,” a playful fight sequence on the streets of Númenor between Galadriel and several young Númenorean warriors she is teaching, and which is anchored by a sparkling, expressive violin solo by virtuoso Sandy Cameron. It’s full of vivacious life and energy, and the little burst of Galadriel’s theme at the end is just the icing on the cake.

“A Plea to the Rocks” features a haunting vocal performance by actress Sophia Nomvete, who plays Durin IV’s wife Disa, and then “This Wandering Day” is an original song for the Harfoots written by David Donaldson, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick, David Long, and J.D. Payne, performed in character by actress Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow, Nori’s best friend. The song is lovely in a way similar to traditional Irish folk-songs.

“Sailing into the Dawn” contain two of my favorite statements of the Númenor theme and Galadriel’s theme – massive heraldic brass, surging strings, exotic percussion, full choir – accompanying Galadriel, Queen Míriel, Elendil, and the Númenorean navy, as they leave port and head towards Middle-Earth to battle the rising armies of evil. The statement of the Númenor theme at the end of the cue, where McCreary blends it with the orchestrations of Galadriel’s theme, is impossibly epic.

“For the Southlands” and “Cavalry” are two magnificent action cues underscoring one of the show’s major battles, in which Galadriel, Elendil, and the forces of Númenor join forces with Halbrand’s Southlands army and the elf warrior Arondir, to battle Adar and the Orcs. This is massive, throbbing, brutal fight music of the highest order, detailed and complicated, but I love how several of the main themes are embedded deep into the writing, emerging in a rousing action arrangement whenever a specific character is the focus of a hero moment. Both the Southlands theme and Bronwyn and Arondir’s love theme get some special attention, and the war-like arrangement of the Númenor theme is just spectacular.


“Water and Flame” has a rampant, urgent energy built around references to Sauron’s theme and Adar’s Orc theme, low brass clusters, choral bombast, and swirling, surging, churning strings that accompany the final reveal of Adar’s plan: to trigger a pyroclastic flow in the Southlands volcano Orodruin, and transform the entire region into an uninhabitable wasteland that would eventually come to be known as Mordor. The subsequent devastation is explored in the downbeat but morosely beautiful “The Veil of Smoke,” which is slow and thoughtful, visits both Halbrand’s theme and the love theme for Bronwyn and Arondir, and has another haunting solo vocal performance by Raya Yarbrough.

“Perilous Whisperings” and “The Broken Line” are fascinating sequences of dramatic scoring that blend statements of the Rings theme, Sauron’s theme, the Southlands theme, the Valinor theme, and Galadriel’s theme in a shifting, ever-changing mélange of music that accompanies the show’s conclusive reveal of Halbrand’s true identity. The haunting, tortured statements of the Valinor theme and Galadriel’s theme, underpinned with shrill string figures, perfectly encapsulate her emotions: despair, betrayal, shock, horror, anger.

“The Wise One” is the culmination of the Nori/Stranger/Harfoot story as the true identity of the Stranger is finally confirmed: he is one of the Istari, the powerful wizards of Middle Earth. There is some warm, emotional scoring here representing the friendship between Nori and the Stranger, with the Celtic Harfoot instrumental textures and the unusual Stranger motif coming together in a more consonant way. There’s also some tender music representing the fact that Nori is leaving behind her mother Marigold (Sara Zwangobani), her father Largo (Dylan Smith), and her best friend Poppy, to go off on an adventure into the unknown. Finally, the Rings of Power theme gets a final large-scale statement in the conclusive “True Creation Requires Sacrifice,” which underscores the actual scene where Celebrimbor creates the rings of power for the elves from the mithril alloy Elrond obtained from Durin IV in Khazad-Dûm – setting into motion the plot of Season 2.


The eight episode-specific albums contain roughly an hour from each show. There’s really no point in me repeating what I’ve said before, because if you’ve heard and liked the music on the overarching Season One album, then the episode-specific albums essentially offer more of the same excellence in chronological scene context. All the seventeen main themes are reprised in numerous settings, with all the same levels of emotion and grandeur and power, and all the same levels of dramatic complexity and storytelling intelligence. Explore, and be transported away to a land of magic and wonder.



As good as Bear McCreary’s music has been over the years, my personal opinion is that The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is the greatest score of his career to date. I feel like I’m repeating myself here again, but the conceptual design, intellectual creativity, and musical world-building in this score is something that you just don’t see in modern film scoring. Of course, Howard Shore set the standard for this kind of thematic density with his scores for the original six Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, but Bear McCreary’s work here is easily its equal. But, in addition to all that, the music itself has to actually have meaning; to have beauty when it needs to be beautiful, to have power when it needs to be powerful, to have excitement to carry the action sequences, to be horrific during moments of terror and despair. This score does all that, and then some. Not only that, but the fact that so many of the themes are clearly identifiable and memorable, with actual hummable melodies, is something that should be celebrated everywhere, because people like me have been bemoaning the lack of this type of writing for years, and now here comes Bear McCreary just tossing out knockout after knockout.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about this being a Golden Age of Television, and how TV shows are surpassing feature films for detailed storytelling and dramatic excellence. This year, I think we can safely say that we are in a Golden Age of Television Music too. Scores like Hesham Nazih’s Moon Knight, Season 3 of The Orville by John Debney and Joel McNeely, Daniel Hart’s Interview With the Vampire, Season 3 of His Dark Materials by Lorne Balfe, Cobra Kai, The Gilded Age, and several efforts from Japan, have all been stellar highlights, but The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power surpasses them all. If it was a film, it would have won an Oscar. As it’s a TV show, it should win every musical Emmy Award for which it is eligible. It is, by some significant margin, the best score of 2022.

Buy the Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Main Title (written by Howard Shore) (1:34)
  • Where the Shadows Lie (performed by Fiona Apple) (3:05)
  • Galadriel (3:44)
  • Khazad-Dûm (3:21)
  • Nori Brandyfoot (2:50)
  • The Stranger (5:04)
  • Númenor (4:32)
  • Sauron (2:46)
  • Valinor (2:40)
  • In the Beginning (7:50)
  • Elrond Half-Elven (3:24)
  • Durin IV (3:05)
  • Harfoot Life (2:22)
  • Bronwyn and Arondir (2:48)
  • Halbrand (2:56)
  • The Boat (4:09)
  • Sundering Seas (2:42)
  • Nobody Goes Off Trail (4:26)
  • Elendil and Isildur (4:17)
  • White Leaves (4:42)
  • The Secrets of the Mountain (3:50)
  • Nolwa Mahtar (2:03)
  • Nampat (2:35)
  • A Plea to the Rocks (performed by Sophia Nomvete) (3:48)
  • This Wandering Day (written by David Donaldson, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick, David Long, and J.D. Payne, performed by Megan Richards) (2:11)
  • Scherzo for Violin and Swords (1:53)
  • Sailing into the Dawn (4:19)
  • Find the Light (3:27) — Amazon Music exclusive
  • For the Southlands (4:33)
  • Cavalry (4:07)
  • The Promised King (4:06) — Amazon Music exclusive
  • Water and Flame (3:30)
  • In the Mines (8:15)
  • The Veil of Smoke (5:00)
  • The Mystics (7:55)
  • Perilous Whisperings (2:41)
  • The Broken Line (5:56)
  • Wise One (8:45)
  • True Creation Requires Sacrifice (5:52)
  • Where the Shadows Lie (Instrumental) (3:05)
  • Prologue (7:26)
  • Forodwaith (8:38)
  • Beyond Our Wandering (7:18)
  • Return to Lindon (3:31)
  • Gil-Galad’s Gift (6:16)
  • The Southlands (9:36)
  • Strange Skies (3:56)
  • The Boat and the Crater (6:08)
  • Where the Shadows Lie (Instrumental) (3:05)
  • Carrying a Giant (6:28)
  • Celebrimbor’s Ambition (3:50)
  • Into Khazad-Dûm (6:08)
  • Offering Snails (4:22)
  • Adrift (4:49)
  • Durin and His Family (3:51)
  • On the Raft (5:38)
  • From Under the Floorboards (7:18)
  • Constellation of Fireflies (5:11)
  • Bloodthirst (2:01)
  • Into Númenor (8:26)
  • The Tests of Isildur and Earien (6:03)
  • In the Trench (4:44)
  • To the Hall of Lore (3:50)
  • The Successor (3:26)
  • Nobody Walks Alone (5:49)
  • We Wait For You (6:00)
  • Both Our Bloodlines (5:26)
  • Breaking Chains (4:13)
  • Street Musicians (Bonus Track) (3:37)
  • Civil Unrest in the Island Kingdom (9:36)
  • Adar Lord-father (4:26)
  • A New Ore (8:42)
  • The King in the Tower (7:50)
  • Theo in the Shadows (6:43)
  • A Plea to the Rocks (performed by Sophia Nomvete) (3:48)
  • Father Figures (8:37)
  • White Leaves (5:15)
  • This Wandering Day (written by David Donaldson, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick, David Long, and J.D. Payne, performed by Megan Richards) (2:09)
  • The Perils of Migration (6:20)
  • Númenor Prepares (7:19)
  • Wolves (5:29)
  • The Fading Light (8:13)
  • The Saboteur (7:23)
  • Only Blood Can Bind (4:04)
  • Destined for the Darkness (4:43)
  • The Confession and Sailing into the Dawn (7:14)
  • This Wandering Day (written by David Donaldson, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick, David Long, and J.D. Payne, performed by Janet Roddick) (2:20)
  • March of Orcs (5:13)
  • The Coming of Night (3:29)
  • In Defiance of Death (5:32)
  • The Siege in the Southlands (20:08)
  • Transformed by Darkness (8:24)
  • Sorrow, Water and Flame (6:13)
  • Crimson Aftermath (3:04)
  • The Grove (3:44)
  • Fire and Rock (6:31)
  • Only Grey (4:52)
  • The Apple (4:13)
  • Memories of Dancing (3:49)
  • The Vein (7:50)
  • The Extinguished Torch (4:33)
  • Infirmary (6:33)
  • A Leaf Burns (9:54)
  • Encountering Servants (2:30)
  • An Intriguing Suggestion (8:44)
  • Power Over Flesh (7:45)
  • Confronting the Mystics (11:12)
  • Black Flags (3:30)
  • The Broken Line and Broken Silence (11:32)
  • Wise One (8:45)
  • True Creation Requires Sacrifice (5:52)

Running Time: 587 minutes 10 seconds – Complete
Running Time: 156 minutes 44 seconds – Main Album
Running Time: 55 minutes 49 seconds – Episode 1
Running Time: 49 minutes 28 seconds – Episode 2
Running Time: 51 minutes 29 seconds – Episode 3
Running Time: 54 minutes 53 seconds – Episode 4
Running Time: 55 minutes 08 seconds – Episode 5
Running Time: 48 minutes 56 seconds – Episode 6
Running Time: 54 minutes 57 seconds – Episode 7
Running Time: 59 minutes 46 seconds – Episode 8

Amazon Music/Sparks & Shadows (2022)

Music composed by Bear McCreary. Conducted by Bear McCreary, Gavin Greenaway, Cliff Masterson and Anthony Weeden. Orchestrations by Edward Trybek, Henri Wilkinson, Jonathan Beard, Benjamin Hoff, Jamie Thierman and Sean Barrett. Main title theme by Howard Shore. Featured musical soloists Malachai Bandy, Eric Byers, Sandy Cameron, Paul Jacob Cartwright, Bruce Carver, M.B. Gordy, Olav Luksengård Mjelva, Eric Rigler, William Roper, Erik Rydvall and Zac Zinger. Special vocal performances by Laura Maier, Sladja Raicevic and Raya Yarbrough. Recorded and mixed by Jason LaRocca, Nick Wollage, Bernd Mazagg, Ryan Sanchez, Ben Sedano, John Prestage, Milton Gutierrez, Damon Tedesco and Rasmus Faber. Edited by Michael Baber and Jason Douglas Smith. Album produced by Bear McCreary .

  1. Holly Broxton
    November 8, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Excellent review! Thank you for keeping us informed and sharing your thorough review!

  2. November 9, 2022 at 9:10 am

    This review should be longer – you really glossed over the individual episode albums. 😉

  3. November 10, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    I feel compelled to note that “White Leaves” is not the first performance of the Numenor theme…while it is a similar arrangement, White Leaves is the music from the final 5 minutes of Episode 4 when Miriel changes her mind about Galadriel as she is about to sail away, due to leaves falling from the White tree that they consider to be prophetic. It’s my favorite musical scene in the whole show as not only are the thematic performances thrilling, but he somehow managed to perfectly capture the feeling of magical prophetic leaves falling, starting at 1:29. It’s not often that film music makes me feel completely new feelings anymore but this did the trick.

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