I’ve lost count how many times I’ve geeked out with fellow fans over The Lord of the Rings soundtracks. Just the mere mention of the Shire, Rohan, or The One Ring, and you’ll have me humming the tune for all to hear (whether they want to hear it or not).
Some soundtracks can get lost in the film and only really be appreciated and enjoyed if listened to solo. However, with the LOTR soundtracks I found myself swept away to Middle-earth the moment the musical tones reached my ears those many years ago when I first watched the films on the big screen. It was as if Concerning Hobbits had somehow imprinted itself onto my soul. The LOTR soundtracks can very much stand on their own, and when paired with the film, create something even more spectacular.
That is why, when I first heard The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey soundtrack, I entered a state of depression for about a year. Ok, perhaps it’s still lingering a wee bit. Besides a few new sounds introduced, I found much of the LOTR tracks has been recycled and used again. It was a serious let down. I don’t mind some tunes being reused, such as The One Ring’s tune whenever we see it on screen. However, to hear The Bridge of Khazad Dum tune being used in Goblin Town gave me a sense of being cheated, as if very little effort went into creating new content. Not all the songs were bad. I don’t think there’s a soul alive who doesn’t enjoy hearing Richard Armitage sing. But, any hope I held out for the extended edition soundtrack was gone the moment I pushed play. With that said, you can imagine my anxiety over the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug soundtrack.
Thanks to Warner Brothers, I received a copy of the new soundtrack during my visit to Los Angeles for the DOS premiere. My first thoughts after listening to it all the way through several times, was that it was much improved from AUJ. In the film, we are introduced to several new locations in Middle-earth: Beorn’s house, Mirkwood, the Woodland Realm, Laketown, and Erebor. And, while not all of their musical tones strike me in the same way LOTR’s did, they are in my opinion, worlds beyond AUJ.
There is a hidden gem within the DOS soundtrack that I think is the key to this improvement. The very last track on disc 2, titled Beyond the Forest, is in my mind, the essence of Middle-earth. As with LOTR, the moment I first heard it’s notes I was transported to another world, and I couldn’t help but put it on repeat. Unfortunately, it’s only found a couple of times within the rest of the soundtrack ( disc 1 – track 7 / disc 2 – track 9).
There are things that bother me with the DOS soundtrack. Like the climatic moments in AUJ, many of the climatic moments in DOS come across as generic climatic music, with a few familiar sounds thrown in. They don’t stand out as something I’d like to listen to over and over again. Also, we hear more familiar tunes echoed throughout the score, and while some fit, others again have that recycled feel. Despite those qualms, I love the empty, clanky tones we hear as Bilbo walks the tunnels of Erebor, the music that introduces us to Laketown, which so perfectly ties in with the set design we see in the film, and of course, the otherworldly sounds of the Woodland Realm.
To sum all that up: Is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug soundtrack worth purchasing? Yes. Even if it’s just to put Beyond the Forest on repeat, I believe it’s worth buying. It’s not 100% as good as LOTR, but it’s a vast improvement from AUJ.
We have only one more film to go and I hold out hope The Hobbit: There and Back Again soundtrack will not only be equal with the quality of LOTR, but even better.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug soundtrack will be available for purchase December 10, 2013.