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Soundtrack review: Alien: Covenant (Jed Kurzel – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Alien: Covenant (Jed Kurzel – 2017)

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“Alien: Covenant” is a 2017 American science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by John Logan and Dante Harper, with a story by Michael Green and Jack Paglen. The film is a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus, the second installment in the Alien prequel series, and the sixth installment overall in the Alien film series, as well as the third directed by Scott. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo and Demián Bichir, and follows the crew of a ship who land on an uncharted planet and make a terrifying discovery. The music was written by one of my favorite composers working today and a name very often found on Michael Fassbender films, Jed Kurzel.

“Alien” is a franchise that’s dear to many and has been around since forever; everybody has an idea about how the movie should be and especially how the music should sound and when the precedent scores where written by people like Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner the expectations and tempers are high.  Luckily Jed Kurzel is a guy who knows his worth and his hands were not shaking on this one. He brought his own dark and discreet sound and stitched the iconic Jerry theme in it. The “Alien” theme appears for the first time in “The covenant” and man it sounds gorgeous. That unforgettable ping and that frightening pulse have haunted me for years and I was glad to hear them again. They recur during this score and the movie in all the right places and do a great job of connecting this film and score to the history.

Jerry’s theme is not the only one to make a cameo; since this movie is also a direct sequel to “Prometheus” that theme features too; I loved what Harry Gregson Williams did there and I instantly got lively in the theater when I heard it. Naturally Jed composes his own main theme in “Planet 4” and for me it works very well for an “Alien” movie as it mixes light and shadow, the hope of discovery with the danger that’s lurking on that new planet.

As I was watching the movie the music was a bit drowned in the sound effects and took a background role so the standalone listen is my first chance to discover it. I’m already in a good mood as “Neutrino burst” is an excellent mix of pace and melody that both raises my adrenaline level and charms me with a  little melodic motif. It bleeds into the wonderful and heartbreaking “A cabin on the lake” which has a deeper meaning if you’ve seen the film; this cue is eerie and dreamy and helps me connect with one of the main characters better.

The first time in the body of the score that I really hear Jed Kurzel’s strange but addictive sound is in “Spores”. There’s also a few seconds of heavy, scared breathing that gets caught among the strings and sounds that make up this track. “The med bay” though is where he really shines and where a fan of his like myself can just feast. I’ve always said that Kurzel writes a special blend of darkness and here people unfamiliar with his sound can discover it. It’s a 7 minute deep pit full of surprises and sharp things. This cue, in fact none of the action / alien attack cues, are not for the faint of heart. Just listen to “Grass attack” or the pounding, suffocating “Payload deployment”. Maybe you want good old fashioned skin crawling horror? “Face hugger” is just what you need then.

Even for the most ardent fans of Jerry Goldsmith’s original score this one will be like a resurrection; it also cements Jed’s place as one of the best composers around. For me “Alien: Covenant” worked very well as a standalone listen, even better than in context. I like to enjoy Jed Kurzel’s music like this as I can better explore its labyrinth. Fascinating, scary and addictive this is already one of my favorite scores of 2017 and a perfect score for the “Alien” universe.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 44 / 57

Album excellence: 77%

Highlights:

The Covenant

Neutrino Burst

A Cabin on the Lake

Planet 4 / Main Theme

Wheat Field

Spores

The Med Bay

Grass Attack

Dead Civilization

Survivors

Payload Deployment

Face Hugger

Cargo Lift

Terraforming Bay

Alien Covenant Theme

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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 Comments

  1. Bram 16th December 2017

    This is one of the unexpected highlights for me in 2017. While watching the movie I took notice of some of the more creepy themes (like “Spores”) and thought “I should give the album a go the next day during work”. I’ve never had such an intense day of delivering mail! “Med Bay” and “Cargo Lift” are definetly one of my favorites, but there are so many other good tracks on this one. Really helpful score while working on more quiet suspenseful parts in my book. Props to Jed Kurzel! And props to this review! This needs more appreciation!

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