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Soundtrack review: The Hobbit – The battle of the five armies (deluxe edition) (Howard Shore – 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Hobbit – The battle of the five armies (deluxe edition) (Howard Shore – 2014)



“The Hobbit: The battle of the five armies” was one of the most anticipated scores of 2014 for me. Last year the second part of the trilogy, “The Desolation of Smaug” was so good that it surprisingly beat Hans Zimmer’s “Man of steel” for score of the year. This time, Hans brought “Interstellar” and Howard Shore will have to deliver a perfect ending to The Hobbit trilogy in order to snatch the victory again. As usual, we get a deluxe edition with almost two hours of music.

The beginning charms me completely. “Fire and water”, the first cue, shows me why I love Howard Shore’s Middle Earth scores so much. This cue is rich, choral and intense and we’re off to an amazing start. As the score progresses, I am slowly immersed again in a familiar and engaging atmosphere… dark, thick and dense like the many roots of a formidable fantasy tree that Howard Shore has planted. “Beyond sorrow and grief” pulls me even further in as I hide in a hollow inside that tree and try to warm myself up. This cue gives me chills and I hear choirs rumbling in the distance and everything around me is exaggerated and threatening. Howard Shore does an amazing job in putting the dangerous and heavy atmosphere of the story in notes and cues. I feel like part of any of the five armies, I am there in the middle of the story and I feel the intensity of the music through my bones. Give me the complete recordings, and fast!

The thematic and melodic content is once again exquisite. The orchestra is fierce and unstoppable: just listen to “Sons of Durin”, one of the richest and most gorgeous themes from all the Hobbit scores. It’s right up there with “The forest river” from “Desolation of Smaug” in my list of favorites. My heart fills up, my blood flows faster and thicker and I find in myself powers I never knew I had. I get goose bumps all through this cue.

For me, the Middle Earth journeys done with Howard Shore as guide are the best adventures I could be on. I trust the music and I am in awe of what it creates around me. This is the best kind of fantasy music ever written and even in a cue named “The darkest hour” there is melodic hope to be found. “Ravenhill” is like the most gorgeous of anvils dropped inside me. It’s hard to get up after hearing a magnificent cue like this one. I recognize themes from Smaug in it; this is one of the tracks that link the three Hobbit scores. It’s epic, beautiful, heartbreaking and inspiring all in one, and well worth 6 stars. It flies right in my shortlist for best tracks of the year.

“To the death” is a cue so dense and impenetrable that I need to get out and breathe after its 7 minutes run out. The music is so powerful that I imagine Howard Shore’s orchestra was made of orcs who have the agility of elves and the intelligence of hobbits. Shore himself was a dragon when he wrote this one, dominating the world, soaring above it and breathing fire.

Without taking a break for 110 minutes, “The Hobbit – The Battle of the five armies” is the dark sky to Interstellar’s starlight. Hans Zimmer’s score is atmospheric and wide, Howard Shore’s masterpiece is thick and heavy. This is the most epic score of the year and a perfect ending to the Middle Earth saga. I am not afraid to say that for me, these 6 scores are right up there with the Star Wars score as the best musical journeys ever written.

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 92 / 104

Album excellence: 88%


Fire And Water

Shores of the Long Lake

Beyond Sorrow and Grief (deluxe extended)

Guardians of the Three (deluxe extended)

The Ruins of Dale

The Gathering of the Clouds (deluxe extended)


Bred for War

Battle for the Mountain

The Darkest Hour

Sons of Durin

The Fallen


To The Death (deluxe extended)

Courage and Wisdom

The Return Journey

There and Back Again

Ironfoot (deluxe extended

Thrain (deluxe Bonus track)


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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  1. Marina 8th December 2014

    Let’s hope the film is at least half as good as the music is 🙂


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