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Soundtrack review: Black rain (Hans Zimmer, 1989)

Film scores Hans Zimmer

Soundtrack review: Black rain (Hans Zimmer, 1989)


Between Rain man and Crimson Tide, there was another very important step in the development of Hans Zimmer’s action sound from the 90s. Between Rain man and The last samurai, there was another step in imprinting my soul with what is probably my favorite music induced sensation. It also happens to be one of the action movies I come back gladly to, one of my favorites. It’s from Michael Douglas’s awesome out of control action hero period, and also a very interesting “clash of cultures” movie.
Black rain is the score where Hans Zimmer first experimented with and introduced the sound that made Crimson Tide such a magnificent listening experience. That edgy action sound, contained but so very intense.  In Black rain it’s not fully developed yet, but the score works just as well. It’s a little wilder than Crimson Tide, it’s flashier, and it’s awesome.
This album has been pretty elusive until La-La Land records released the expanded, two hour version. The extension is a real treat. It develops the very few themes we had access too until now and quenches the thirst for more Hans Zimmer early action awesomeness. It’s a score well worthy of such a release, because it is a score that altered film music history. Without “Black rain” we would have missed a whole lot of amazing scores in the 1990s.
My two favorite cues are “Charlie loses his head” and “Nick and Masa”. The first one is 8 minutes long and very suspenseful. It’s a suite that showed the shape of things to come, because over the years Hans would return to that formula for his suites, for the mix of action and sensitivity, for tracks that had time to develop and take the listener through all sorts of states. This cue is a journey in itself; it has rage, love, desperation. And the big surprise came at the end of “Charlie loses his head”, when I recognized what was to become The Dark Knight theme. It’s great to hear it so early in Hans’ career. Seeds from this score will also sprout as far as The Last Samurai.
“Nick and Masa” is a great friendship suite. Hans managed to put into notes the complicated relationship between Michael Douglas’s flamboyant and out of control American character and his Japanese counterpart, quiet, contained, but also capable of great anger. They couldn’t be more different, but they found a way to understand each other and become friends, without many words…The music shows that because it is a quiet, unnimposing, but deep and wealthy cue.
Ridley Scott made Black rain a very dark movie; there’s hardly any light, sun or clarity in the images. It’s always raining and muddy, it’s always cold and dangerous, and it’s rarely friendly. Everything has a metallic and uncomfortable feel to it, but Hans Zimmer manages to ad sensitivity to the rough edges of that world with the blend of electronic music and Asian instruments. Add to that the full orchestra conducted by the great Shirley Walker and Hans precious rock influences (just listen to Bikes/fight) and you get a landmark in Hans Zimmer’s career.
“Black rain” is a great origin story for a sound that defined the 90s and action film music, and the first of many collaborations between Hans Zimmer and director Ridley Scott. This is what this score means for film music in general. Get this wonderful release, because you’d be owning a piece of soundtrack history. For me, it’s another rare portal that allows me to close my eyes, forget the world around me and dream.  It’s another score that takes me to that place where I can find my small measure of peace, another lullaby that helps me travel back in time to my favorite memories.
My ratings:
Cue rating: 83 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 84 / 100
Album excellence: 77%
Cues to listen to:
Osaka/Phony cops
Fucking English/Sato pt 2
Sato watching/ Circling motorbikes
Charlie loses his head
Masa’s reprimand / Sugai part I
Bikes/ Fight/ Nick and Masa
Black rain suite:  Charlie loses his head
Black rain suite: Sugai
Black rain suite: Nick and Masa
Charlie loses his head Pt 1 (alt percussion)
Charlie loses his head Pt 2 (alt woth Koto and Oboe)
Masa’s reprimand (alternate)
Bikes/Fight (alternate)
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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