Soundtrack review: Game of thrones – season 7 (Ramin Djawadi – 2017)
Last year, the “Game of thrones” score ended up as my favourite score of the year; the music of season 6 was nothing short of exceptional and I would put Ramin Djawadi’s composition among the best TV scores of the decade so far, this is how much it moved and impressed me. It’s true that season 6 of the TV show was also my favourite so far and the intense and emotional moments that captivated me helped establish this connection with the score. Almost every cue was a masterpiece and almost every cue reminded me of a particular moment from the show that made me shiver, feel, cry or shout in revolt. Ramin and the TV writers were in perfect symbiosis and they reached the pinnacle of their collaboration so far.
This year, for season 7, Ramin was left a bit on his own by comparison; the season was far from emotional or spectacular apart from some magnificent fighting scenes involving dragons. For me it lacked the emotional depth of season 6 and the moments that would live forever. But I am here to talk about the music and how it sounds with barely any support from the script. Alas each year Ramin Djawadi knew the only was was up for him and each “Game of thrones” score was better than the one before.
From the first time I heard it, even before the show came on, the “Main theme” has become one of my favourites ever; this superb ostinato has been a part of my personal playlists for 6 years and I will never take it out of there; I never skip the opening credits because I want to hear it as often as I can; this theme brings me joy and motivates and inspires me and it’s legendary.
My second favourite theme from the show is the Daenerys / Dragons theme; as I listen to how it has evolved in “Dragostone” I get goosebumps. The chorus, the melody that invites me to spread my wings and fly and the heroic motif that would make me bend the knee if it was somehow played whenever Daenerys was in the room make for a beautiful and complex piece of music that sets the season 7 album to a great start. As so much time was spent on Dany in this season her theme will recur quite often. I would love to live in a world where everyone I met had his own musical motif; not the Westeros world of course but in a less dangerous environment.
It’s clever how Ramin put “The queen’s justice” into such a small bottle; the theme barely goes above one minute which includes the “Rains of Castamere”, the Lannister motif and it’s great because the scene itself, Cersei’s revenge, was one of the best moments of the season and it took just as long as she needed to make her speech; the music is just the conclusion of that scene and it works.
What made the season 6 music so great was also the abundance of long cues; here we get only two of them but they are worth it. “I am the storm” marks the most spectacular battle scene that didn’t involve dragons and brings forth a shadow of the Greyjoy theme, the stark (pun intended) and cold build up of Iron Islands motif we first met in season 2’s “What is dead may never die”.
For the first time since season 3 I think I find myself listening to filler cues like “The gift” or “Dragonglass”; I get the same sensation I got while watching the show that there were moments that needed to be cut or done differently. It’s true, it might only have to do with my own expectations and nothing else but it’s a pitfall a composer might run into when he writer for a show for years and years. I like the music, it’s reflective and almost minimalistic but I feel moments like these are too normal for the spectacle that is “Game of thrones”. I also expected the two “Spoils of war” cues to make me tremble with excitement considering the moments they were written for but except the clever duel between the Lannister and Daenerys motifs I didn’t feel like jumping out of my chair. There are specific parts of these cues I love though, like the melancholic and almost ghastly “Rain of Castamere” rework in the second part.
My third favourite theme from the show is the North theme, the Stark theme and it shows up in all it’s heartbreaking beauty in “Home”; it’s the first truly emotional moment of the score and a long awaited gift for the fans on screen. This theme is so clean, so just and so right for Winterfell and its rightful owners and I almost get misty eyed listening to it. Coupled with “Gorgeous beasts” it makes the section of the score I would have loved to have been in the room when it was recorded.
Still the music is made to follow the show and if the writers gave the characters a suicidal mission beyond the wall Ramin’s “Against all odds” cue, the longest of the score, has to reflect the danger, the tension and the emotion of that journey without bells and whistles. This is how season 7 plays and this is how the music mirrors it. This is why this album’s only heroic moments are the ones where the Daenerys theme appears; this theme stands apart from anything else on this album just like the dragon scenes did on screen.
Quite often I write reviews without seeing the movie or TV show the music was written for; it’s part of the job and I am OK with it. For certain special cases though, even if the score would be released before the show, I wait to see it so it can enrich my listening experience and maybe help me more sense of some moments. I enjoyed “Game of thrones – season 7” more having seen the show than if I hadn’t. I understand Ramin Djawadi’s choices and the way he handles this extremely difficult task better.
It would be unfair to talk so much about Dany’s heroic theme without mentioning how much her rival from this season, Cersei, features as well with her more quieter, more restrained but equally rich theme; the composer dedicates three cues towards the end only to her. The new theme for the army of the dead includes a build up that could proudly find its place on any horror score.
And then there’s the end, the final cue: “Winter is here” is a slowed down solo piano and violin version of the main theme that it alone justifies the price of the album. Forget “Game of thrones”, this is how a winter theme should sound in real life; each piano key stroke feels like a snowflake and the soft choir sends shivers up my spine. With all the buzzing, loud or quieter, of the other themes in this album, the end almost shocks me with how minimalistic it is. “Winter is here” is the best cue from “Season 7” and a completely different way to enjoy the main theme.
Without being the best album of the series, the music of “Game of thrones – season 7” with its quiet and restrained tone for most parts, with our favourite characters and houses themes revisited and with the best moments from the season punctuated musically is Ramin Djawadi continuing to paint his musical fresque of the Westeros world; he is close to completing it…next year, one more time, with feeling.
Cue rating: 90 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 38 / 74
Album excellence: 51%
Shall We Begin?
The Queen’s Justice
Against All Odds
See You For What You Are
Message For Cersei
The Army Of The Dead
Winter Is Here