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Soundtrack review: Spartacus – Blood and sand (Joseph LoDuca – 2010)

SpartacusBS

The first season of Spartacus was called “Blood & sand” and it was unlike anything else I had seen on TV until then. The special brand of spectacle and graphical violence coupled with the smart plots and surprises made this first outing of the show a memorable piece of TV history. I remember binge watching it during a weekend and congratulating myself for doing so a week before the second season was supposed to start. The music has always been a main character in this show, equally powerful and loud. I am happy that the scores got such proper releases. Joseph LoDuca is the master of fantasy TV shows, having also scored “Hercules” and “Xena: Warrior princess”

The start of the score is just as spectacular as the start of the TV show: “Six against one” is a testosterone filled raw heavy metal tune with the occasional screams in the background to play the scene where Spartacus is taken to war. I can almost smell the sweat and the metal of the swords when I hear this cue. This is a mighty introduction to the music of Spartacus from Joseph LoDuca and it almost makes me forget the lackluster “Gods of the arena”. I am invested and ready to hear the same twists, turns and emotions in the music that I saw on screen. He continues with the haunting emotion of “Leaving Sura” and I can see the scene in my mind when the two lovers are parted and she gives him that purple piece of fabric. The third major type of cue we will encounter in this score follows: the heavy choirs of “Off to war”.

But can the composer keep this pace going for 70 minutes? “Thracians brave” is raw, violent and exciting and I can relive the emotions of the series through the music. This is a big deal for me and I am giddy with excitement as the music progresses. It brings back all the images of Spartacus and I remember how his wife was attacked and then abducted. “Sura ambushed” and “Sura Abducted” are nuggets of intense feelings while “No life without you” goes all in and tugs at our emotional resorts. It makes us care about the love story between Sura and Spartacus and hate that they have to part. The female voice wailing in this cue is amazing and it will echo long after the cue ends. It reminds me of the similar longing pieces from “King Arthur”.

The choral work makes most of the cues sound powerful and majestic. The instrumentation supports it like the crowds support the gladiators and the blend is very enjoyable. When the music is quieter, the Eastern influenced instrumentations make it feel mysterious and fantasy like. “Ludus envy” for example is this kind of cue, shrewd and hiding something beneath all the smoke.

“Blood and sand” works because almost every cue is shot with emotion. There are no fillers and the music doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. It’s easy on the ears, inspirational and spectacular. Joseph LoDuca’s composition fills me with pride and desire and I can rarely listen to this score without rushing to see and episode of the series. This score brings the taste of an addiction you once had and it’s very hard not to relapse afterwards. When I hear the magnificent “I am Spartacus” I just need to go back and watch the show.

There were two moments from the show couldn’t wait to hear the themes for: The tragic reunion between Spartacus and Sura and the bloody and vengeful end of the season. Those were some of the most intense moments seen on TV and they deserve proper music. “Reunion Imminent / Tragic reunion” captures both the unbearable impatience and anticipation of seeing his wife again, the longest seconds of his life when the carriage came and then the heart wrenching moment when he realized it was too late. It’s the longest cue of the score. The end is also played beautifully. You can hear the clanking on metal and the inevitable darkness that falls over the house of Batiatus. The composer went with this instead of the epic, and it works.

“Spartacus: Blood and sand” will satisfy both fans of the series and the ones who appreciate the raw Middle Eastern sounds. There are also quite a few surprises down the road. For me it was a very enjoyable listen. I found again the passion and emotions I felt while watching the show. I am ready to move on to the next seasons, when the on screen drama was even more intense.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 45 / 74

Album excellence: 61%

Highlights:

Six against one

Leaving Sura

Off To War

Thracians Brave

Sura Ambushed

No Life Without You

Thumbs Up

Training

Ludus Envy

Rematch

Dominus

We Are Gladiators

Losing Mind

Barca Betrayed

Reunion Imminent / Tragic Reunion

I Am Spartacus

Statue

Always A Choice

Different Sword

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Pale Shadow Of Love

Blood Demands Blood

Spartacus end titles

About the author

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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