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Soundtrack review: Macbeth (Jed Kurzel – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Macbeth (Jed Kurzel – 2015)


I was taken by surprise by the announcement of the movie “Macbeth”, even more so when there’s no Kenneth Branagh or Patrick Doyle involved. No, this adaptation has Justin Kurzel as director and Jed Kurzel as composer. I liked what I’ve heard from him so far. Michael Fassbender and Marillon Cotillard star as the two main characters and I am very excited about that. I’m excited about everything about this movie, from the dark story to the broken characters. The main idea of the story is how damaging the physical and psychological effects of political ambition are on those who seek power for its own sake.

Somehow I find it normal that this score starts with a string section that’s almost dissonant. Somehow this fits with my idea of those dark and unforgiving times, somehow this musical shadow that Jed Kurzel places upon us from the first moments of the score is just what I needed. The two part cue “The child” sounds like an omen and in a story about self-fulfilling prophecies it is right at home.

“Macbeth” is all about the strings… strings working together, strings fighting each other like the swords in the story, strings wailing, strings threatening, strings fighting for their place. The strings take their time to cut slowly and thoroughly and there is a heavy feeling in the music. Jed Kurzel’s score feels like led and I am hypnotized, caught up in this dark and sharp maze. If I were to compare the sound to anything I would go with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ darker compositions. The pace is similar and it has the same appeal to me. If you are a fan of that Australian duo then you will enjoy the work of this Australian composer as well. I am a huge fan so instead of looking for cover I am making myself more and more comfortable between those sharp strings.

You need a lot of patience to enjoy this score. You need to embrace darkness and you need to be familiar with it. The music will travel corners inside you you’d rather have untouched. This score might bring back some demons you thought were defeated and it might make you want to tear the headphones apart. That is… if you don’t have a dark side. If you do, it doesn’t matter how small it is, Jed Kurzel’s music will cherish it and bring it to light.

A story about damage and swords and blood was scored with equally sharp and affecting sounds. Up until now Jed Kurzel to me was a composer with great potential and some brilliant moments. With the way he treated Macbeth, he is now for me a name I will prioritize whenever one of his scores will be released. This was an exceptional composition. I imagine it wasn’t easy for the composer to keep the music so dark, so contained, so focused and so sharp. It must be as hard as controlling fire. This is what ”Macbeth” is: a slow burning and all-consuming musical fire.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 47 / 62

Album excellence: 76%


The Child, Pt.1

The Child, Pt.2

The Battle

First Apparition

The Letter

The Dagger

Second Apparition




Turn Hell Hound




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. King Ragnar 30th December 2015

    I couldn`t agree more with you. It opned doors i thought were locked forever. I enjoy it and fear it at the same time.

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 31st December 2015

      Intense and affecting score, yes

  2. Aglae 5th January 2018

    I loved it instantly, it inspires me stories (and not just Macbeth). I was looking for something similar so I’m glad you recommended Nick Cave and Warren Ellis ; it’s doesn’t speak as strongly to me, but the atmospheric feel is satisfying. Thanks 🙂

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 6th January 2018

      You’re welcome 🙂 It’s hard to ket the Kurzel sound in any other score. His Alien score is also great.

  3. aer 11th May 2018

    I absolutely love the soundtrack, do you have any recommendations for interprets or soundtracks simliar to it?


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