Soundtrack review: King Arthur – Legend of the sword (Daniel Pemberton – 2017)
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a 2017 fantasy film directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Ritchie, Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram. Loosely based on Arthurian legends, the film stars Charlie Hunnam as the title character, with Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law and Eric Bana in supporting roles. The young Arthur runs the back streets of Londinium with his crew, unaware of his royal lineage until he draws the sword Excalibur from the stone. Instantly confronted by the sword’s influence, Arthur is forced to decide when to become involved with his power. Throwing in with the Resistance and an enigmatic young woman called The Mage, he must learn to master the sword, face down his demons, unite the people to defeat the tyrant Vortigern – who murdered his parents and stole his crown – and become king. The music was written by Daniel Pemberton.
There are a lot of Hans Zimmer connections here, from the director to the previous King Arthur movie, the 2004 incarnation which brought out what is for me one of the best scores of all times from Zimmer. I am not expecting something similar here as Ritchie is not one for broad and epic music but still anything that comes from Pemberton is exciting.
Guy Ritchie is a guy who built his own little unique universe where everything is twisted and quirky, including the music. Hans Zimmer understood this as he took on the two Sherlock Holmes scores and infused them with gypsy ethnic sounds and weird sharp motifs. Daniel Pemberton is not one to shy away from experimenting and taking his music into places a listener wouldn’t expect so he’s a perfect match for the Ritchie twisted house of fun. It’s clear to me from the main theme of the score “King Arthur: Legend of the sword” that this is a Guy Ritchie movie I’m listening to. I love the energy and the Viking sound of this cue with the out of sync base guitar, and the relentless strings and percussion. The initial sound of the score reminds me a lot of what Trevor Morris has created for the exceptional TV show “Vikings”. Something about the relentlessness of this type of music just gets to me and as I also remember the choking pace of Henry Jackman’s “Captain Phillips” I just feel like jumping out of my chair and running as a cue like “Growing up Londinium” invites me to chase it with insane percussion and a stroke of genius from Pemberton who includes the human voice in his mix as it matches the other instruments breath for breath. Yes there is heavy breathing in this cue but so well woven in the fabric of the music that it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, especially if I am running. If you are inclined towards working out I think this cue can increase your efficiency. The heavy breathing, whistling and screaming throughout the score but for me they fit perfectly in the savagery and insanity of that period and act just like another instrument.
The weird percussion and wooden instrument sounds mold themselves into a pattern that borders with the jazzy sound that delighted me in the previous collaboration between Ritchie and Pemberton, “The man from U.N.C.L.E”. It’s a stripped down, less melodic sound but equally infectious to me. When the tone quiets down and quirkiness remains. I still get the feeling of Viking times and I like how the dream and hallucination sequences are scored, eerie and misty.
And then there are the proper epic cues I didn’t expect to find. “The legend of Excalibur” is such a track that leaves the smiles aside and gets serious. Pemberton brings something from all corners of his vast compositional range for this one and there’s hardly a moment of “King Arthur: Legend of the sword” I didn’t enjoy which is remarkable considering that the album runs at almost 90 minute complete with the bonus tracks.
Fans of Guy Ritchie, Daniel Pemberton and quirky film music will adore this one . Me, I got exactly what I wanted from this score and I can’t wait to hear it context. I am a huge fan of Viking strings and of the energy and pace that echo images of dozens of hands rowing in synch. Add to that the Celtic element that never fails to touch me and I’m sure I will return to this score quite often.
Cue rating: 90 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 51 / 91
Album excellence: 56%
From Nothing Comes a King
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Growing Up Londinium
The Story of Mordred
The Legend of Excalibur
The Politics & The Life
The Born King
The Lady in the Lake
Knights of the Round Table
The Devil & The Huntsman
Riot & Flames (bonus track)
The devil and the daughter (bonus track)