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Soundtrack review: Spartacus – War of the damned (Joseph LoDuca – 2013)

I was surprised when I heard that “War of the damned” would be the final season on Spartacus. The show was hitting a stride and I was sure it could go on for many years still. I wanted to see more adventures and drama. Each year this show was one of the most eagerly awaited. There was one good thing though about this hasty ending: one awesome season laid ahead because the conclusion of the story and the fate of our favorite characters was to be decided in 10 episodes filled to the brim with all the good stuff that made this show great. And I was right; each weak meant a celebration of drama, character development and blood. The final episode still ranks for me in the top 5 most satisfactory finishes of any TV drama. Steven S DeNight and the others managed to put their hearts in the story and deliver proper ending to this series. Joseph LoDuca’s scores had a special sound and appeal but they were hit and miss for me. I am sure thought that the end will make me forget all the faults of the previous seasons.

The theme for “Rebel army” opens this album with a bold, crushing theme which holds in it all the hatred and determination of Spartacus’ men. Just as I expected the on screen drama to be even more intense because it was the end I wanted the music to rise to the occasion as well. My heart is giddy with joy as I hear the second cue is just as thunderous as the first one. The choirs are like rebels themselves advancing relentless and striking fear in the hearts of the Romans. The emotions are deeper and more honest than in the previous scores. I don’t think I heard a theme like “Shelter from the storm” in the previous scores.

Joseph LoDuca seems to have eliminated the Arabian sounds in favor of epic pieces that do justice to the story. “Crassus vs Spartacus” has all the spark of the fight and has me holding my breath waiting for its conclusion. I listen to “Crassus V. Spartacus / Agron Rescue” and I feel the same intensity I used to feel when watching the show. The violins slow down the action and give us time to breath and take it all in. This is what I’ve been waiting for for three albums. I am glad I never lost faith. Then that haunting, wailing, shattering female voice comes and gives me goose bumps. And we still have an hour to go from this score. Listen to this cue alone to have an idea of what lies ahead. If this one is your cup of tea you will love “War of the damned”.

I am a bit disappointed though that the cues from the final episode come at the beginning of the score. The first 8 cues sing all the might and tears of that episode and I would have enjoyed a more chronological approach. “A free man / end credits” should have ended this score in glory, with all its 7 minute long perfection. When I will return to this score (and I will for sure) I will create my own playlist. I hear this cue and I almost get teary eyed remembering the heartfelt end of the show… Spartacus giving his dying breath and smiling as he told his friends “That’s not even my name”… The violin motif that accompanies the final image of the series, that of the serpent shield lying on a stone has remained imprinted on my soul and as soon as it starts two and a half minute sin I am a wreck. I just want to run and see that episode again, with the end credits parading all the characters we’ve loved, hated and lost and ending with the most emotional and heartbreaking second of the entire series: Andy Whitfield shouting “I am Spartacus” from beyond the grave. Talk about shivers… talk about honoring both a fallen hero and a fallen actor… That shout is only rivaled by Mel Gibson’s “Freeeeedoooooom” from “Braveheart”.

How can I listen to 22 more cues after this one? This is messed up… Wrong choice, producers of the CD! My punishment to you is that I will end my review here. My words about the rest of the great music on this album would pale compared the emotional intensity of those first 8 cues.

The music sucks me back in though and I have to go on. How could I not mention the harrowing violin from “Sending message / Crixus’ fate”? The enticing tone of “Young offering”? I know I enjoyed music from the previous three albums, but “War of the damned” is in a different league. Every cue has some magic in it; every moment is bursting with emotion. Darkness, violence, blood, love, honor, sacrifice, hatred they are all represented in the notes the Joseph LoDuca skillfully put together.

Luckily though they did save two of the most emotional moments for the end of the score: Gannicus’ death which was my favorite of them all and the tribute to the fallen heroes I was telling you about. The first one is a growl coming as if from the bowels of the earth, rising up to the sky. The second one is a heartfelt elegy reminding us of all we’ve cared about and lost during this show.

Joseph loDuca saved the best for last with his Spartacus scores. This is the kind of album that leaves you wanting more. The music goes out on its own terms, leaving us grateful and filled with regret. I will go watch the final episode now.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 57 / 77

Album excellence: 75%

Highlights:

Rebel Army

Trapped Animals

Getaway

Shelter From The Storm

Crassus V. Spartacus / Agron Rescue

Gannicus V. Caesar

Final Glory

A Free Man / Final Credits

Tribute Games

Ad Roma

Crassus’ Army

Sending Message / Crixus’ Fate

Stoning

Crassus’ Scheme / Sole Command

Decimation / Death Surrounds

Wolf’s Bite / Huff And Puff

Spartans In Flight

Returns A Hero

Gannicus Crucified

Remembrance / Honor The Fallen

 

 

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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