To be honest, the premise of this score initially didn’t quite strike me as something of particular prospect. I am not your biggest Highlander fan and young and upcoming - but yet to show a work of special interest - composer J.Peter Robinson was initially attached to the production. After a strong personal disappointment with the – supposedly – most important original score for the Highlander installments, namely “Highlander: EndGame” composed by Nick Glennie Smith and Stephen Graziano for the fourth installment, my interest in this new fifth movie entitled “Highlander: The Source” was briefly renewed by the replacement of J.Peter Robinson in the scoring position by a fresh new name; UK composer of Cypriot origin George Kallis’ assignment, while virtually unknown to me, still manage to fuel my anticipation for this score but which didn’t run smoothly as I was newly letdown by two hyped-up scores for 2007 of conditionally epic proportions, “Nomad: The Warrior” by Carlo Siliotto and “Pathfinder” by Jonathan Elias, something which led to personal fears that this one could possibly follow in the same generic and uninspired paths as well.
But I was wrong. A couple of weeks back I received a promo version of the score and I begun listening under neutral expectations but vivid interest; I honestly can’t put into words how excited and amazed I am by what George Kallis – 33 year old Cypriot and Berklee College of Music / Royal College of Music (UK) graduated composer - wrote for this movie. The “Highlander” franchise is huge; with media ranging from books, five films, animated films and television series, “Highlander” managed to attract thousands of devotees-turned fervent supporters who were also attributing words of warmth and particular excitement to Kallis’ work in relevant online forums and communities but with me not being able to imagine how impressive the very score actually was.
The Budapest Symphony Orchestra-performed and George Kallis-conducted score bears a striking rich, bold and contemporary sound. It’s big and raw but simultaneously mysterious and dark and full of vividly colorful Eastern musical traits, something which becomes evident from the very first notes.
The Brett Leonard directed film, which is currently on post-production, is essentially a battle between Life and Death, Good vs. Evil and with all the noble feelings represented by the passionate love between MacLeod and Anna. The score deeply reflects this fact as it is basically focused and circling around two main themes; MacLeod’s theme is the most prominent one, an impressively bold and memorable new Highlander theme, a heroic and at the same time noble melody which is constantly and throughout the whole score passed via all kinds of variations and renditions: from melancholically melodic up to passionately grand. The motif represents this ancient and epic character and it is naturally repeated several times in Kallis’ work, notably in “MacLeod VS The Guardian”, a plangent recapitulation of the score’s essential elements through dense orchestral writing, rousing action passages, rock electric guitars on distortion and intense percussion, the later also being one of the score’s most prominent characteristics. Kallis attributed another clear-sighted melodic-rhythmic trait to his score: driving string ostinati which serve as the basis for all the action material and offer tight rhythmic orientation and coherence to the pieces. “You are the One MacLeod” features even more prominent restates of the said theme with woodwinds, piano and cello leading and the full orchestra backing up via complex arrangements and emphasis on strings and harp. This piece is also a good example of the score’s overall diversity and fluidity whilst the first part is made of this afore-mentioned melodic piece with its wonderful sound, only to give way to a contrasting 2nd part, a particularly loud, dark violent and rhythmic orchestral piece with special emphasis on percussion. Along with “Immortal Discussions / Zai VS The Guardian” with its amazingly dense and intense 2nd part with middle eastern-influenced percussion, loud brass, driving string ostinati and bold – eastern colored melodies with guitar metal riffs and choir, make for the most outstanding action material of the whole score.
I also couldn’t help but to smile in amusement when during the last bars of the “Zai VS The Guardian” fragment, I heard a brief dance in 7/8 meter performed by the full orchestra and which vividly echoes George’s Greek-Cypriot roots; it is such a refreshing – albeit short – passage to hear which once again reminded me how composers with firm Ethno-musicological knowledge (Mychael Danna being the brightest example in our days) can easily bring distinct rhythm-melodic richness and vibrant colors in their scores like no other.
Second to the MacLeod theme, comes the motif for Anna, a diversely different in nature melody built around soft piano and warm cello, wondering through territories explored and established prominently by Michael Giacchino in his work for “Lost” tv-series, a score which Kallis cleverly echoes in a couple of string-led action passages and most notably in this particularly touching and beautiful theme for Anna. The motif - within its fragile and sensitive existence - carries a nostalgic tone as it portrays MacLeod’s feelings for Anna but at the same time, its individual melodic structure allows it to be functioning effectively under different, stronger and louder action material variations. In these lines, “Remembering Anna” is also one of the most brilliant highlights of the album where a warm string section carries a passionately melodic and beautifully sweeping theme and ethereal female vocalist concludes; a piece of rare and genuine beauty.
The last element in the composer’s work is the sound for ‘the source’ which while doesn’t get a specific theme or motif, it still bears a certain vocal soundscape performed by Caroline Harrison and her beautifully dreamy voice, either appearing in a solo fashion, as in “The Events at the Stadium” or in eerie choir such as in the beginning of “Immortal Discussions” for example, representing the calling of the source upon the Immortals.
Kallis recorded a total of 85 minutes of original score out of which about 48 minutes made it onto the official release and distributed among 9 score cues. The release comes out Fall 2007 via iTunes and other popular music websites and will also contain 9 songs, irrelevant to Kallis’ original music for the movie. “Highlander: the source” is a genuinely rare work of impressive grandness and originality, an adrenaline-packed modern epic combination of orchestral writing with heavy rock elements and effective sound design. George went beyond any expectations with this one for numerous reasons but primarily because this musical work glories in its distinct and genuine musical character, attained through its unusual but imaginative and powerful instrumentation as well as its fluid and varicolored nature which manages to captivate and engage the listener in an authentically diverse and lush musical journey.
01. Prologue (Sean Connery)
02. "Princes of the Universe" (Queen)
03. Highlander Theme
04. Under the Garden / The Prize
05. Scotland 1536 - The Clan Macleod
06. Scotland 1536 - The Clan Macleod (Alternate)
07. "Gimme the Prize / Kurgan's Theme" (Queen)
08. "One Year of Love" (Queen)
09. Connor & Heather / Ramirez Arrivez
10. Connor & Heather / Ramirez Arrivez (Alternate)
11. Training Montage
12. Forhe Fight / Kurgan vs. Ramirez
13. Heather Dies / "Who Wants to Live Forever" (Kamen/Queen)
14. Heather Dies / "Who Wants to Live Forever" (Alternate)
15. "Hammer to Fall" (Queen)
16. "Don't Lose Your Head" (Queen)
17. Nash & Brenda / Love Scene
18. "New York, New York" (Queen)
19. The Prize Revealed / Epilogue
20. "A Kind of Magic" / End Credits (Kamen/Queen)
21. "Who Wants to Live Forever" (Demo) (Brian May)