Soundtrack review: Spartacus – Gods of the arena (Joseph LoDuca – 2011)
“Spartacus” is one of my favorite TV shows. It served a purpose and quenched a thirst for adventures of this kind and it helped that I am very interested in all things Roman Empire. Yes the show was exaggerated in its graphical violence and eroticism but the drama and the character development were way above average. If people turned away from it because of that violence they missed some smart and exciting scripts. I watched the show breathlessly and anticipated each episode. It was one of the most talked about shows among my friends. I liked the show because it had no limits in script and imagery like many TV shows do. The music was an integral part and I often found myself rewinding some scene just to better appreciate the score. Thankfully, Joseph LoDuca’s albums got some proper releases and each season of “Spartacus” has its own album.
Chronologically from the story point of view, “Gods of the arena” is the first one. This was a prequel miniseries that acted as season 2 after the actor playing Spartacus, Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, he lost that battle and had to be replaced for the next season. The producers made “Gods of the arena” and we got the back stories of a few very important characters. This is where Gannicus shined.
A story such as this one set in those wild and legendary times gives a composer a chance to just go all in. There’s no other period in history more dramatic or spectacular as that of the Roman Empire. Excess was the only word that mattered back then, excess in everything. The TV show makes a great job visually of expressing that and the music matches it. Joseph loDuca brings powerful male choirs, potent instrumentations and ethnic sounds. When the scene calls for it there are heavy metal riffs to sing the violence of the gladiators or the orgy of the Romans. “Team Batiatus”, the opening anthem, sounds as if it was made of stone. The choir dominates, powerful and loud and the melody is inspiring.
The composer treats the emotional moments with equal care. A cue like “Proper reward” with its haunting female vocalizing and the sorrowful and melancholic tune is one that will stick to memory. Many of the plots of the series are driven by love and / or revenge and themes like this one evoke the depth and magnitude of those feelings. Like I said, excess was present in everything, including love. “Proper reward” is epic and intense.
The theme for “Gannicus” is flamboyant and cool just like the character. It’s an experiment in ethnic sounds and godly vocal inserts that show that this gladiator was more than man in the eyes of the crowd. It’s one of the better moments of “Gods of the arena” which opens a middle section of the album which is a little lackluster to me. This season was short and intense, and the surprising and spectacular moments came one after the other. Everything was condensed and there were no filler scenes. The score has some moments I could have done without. Most of them are for the moments when the characters plotted in the shadows. I am a big fan of both the intense atmospheric moments and of the epic ones. Everything in-between I could do without.
If you enjoy ethnic music (Roman, especially Arabic, even Latin) which reminds you of that period and of the nations that brought gladiators, you will love “Gods of the arena”. The music is enjoyable to me as well but I was looking for more emotion, as a fan of the show. Maybe I will find it in future albums.
Cue rating: 78 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 69
Album excellence: 20%
Fill Her Eyes
Gannicus vs. Crixus