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Soundtrack review: Higher power (Kevin Riepl – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Higher power (Kevin Riepl – 2018)



“Higher power” is a 2018 sci-fi movie, directed by Matthew Charles Santoro and starringRon Eldard, Colm Feore, Jordan Hinson, Marielle Jaffe, Austin Stowell. When the Universe decides what it wants, it’s pointless to resist. With his family’s life at stake, Joseph Steadman finds himself the unwilling test subject of a maniacal scientist in a battle that could save the world, or destroy it. Kevin Riepl, whose recent score for “Atropa” was one of the best surprises of 2018, wrote the score.

The composer wastes no time in introducing us to an aggressive, uncomfortable atmosphere with the opening cue “Hello doctor”; there is a dark sci-fi retro vibe in this one that is quite attractive to me. If “Atropa” felt broader, more melodic in sound, “Higher power” goes for the jugular in a raw, pulsating way. I am a fan of electronic music so naturally the “Main titles” are right up my alley and make me want to see the movie as well. I also like how Kevin Riepl experiments; I will always fight against generic sci-fi music and I applaud composers who use their imagination and combine synth, electronic, sound design and orchestral elements in a meaningful composition. With every cue I listen Kevin Riepl cements himself as one of the go to Sci-fi composers today, as he is developing his own exciting sound, a musical spider web that grips me with every new thread. This is not a linear, straightforward composition; there is depth in the music as it covers all aspects of this story, from the emotional side to the horror side to the doubts and possible destruction. I heard sadness in the beautiful “Beach lighthouse” which combines heartbreaking strings with a soulful piano. I listen to this and I compare it to the more aggressive, abrasive parts of the score and it just show me the range this composer has.

There are cues that feel like improvisations but equally exciting because I never know where the music will take me; “Observation” is one such piece which combines electric music with an orchestral motif that feels like a distant echo. There is method to this chaos and I will always appreciate this way of writing film score. Science fiction is the one movie genre that liberates imagination, where everything goes and it’s an invitation for inspired composers to do the same and just go with it.

“Higher power” is a Sci-fi score that has everything it needs to make for a rewarding standalone listening experience: there’s action, there are frights, there is emotion, everything wrapped in a raw, dense coating that kept me invested for the almost 80 minutes of this album. Kevin Riepl knows how to combine sounds in his imaginary lab to create a captivating film music album in which you will surely find something to connect to. I am sold on his qualities as a Sci-fi music composer and I hope he will soon get a high profile movie in this genre to showcase these qualities. He deserves it.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Main Titles
Beach Lighthouse
Fate Page
The Shipyard
Joe’s Final Form
Cosmic event

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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