While the second film was a complete letdown, a camp abomination, the soundtrack stands out. People who were never fans of the first film mostly can agree that the music was nothing less than brilliant and while this soundtrack doesn’t quite reach those heights, it’s still better than most. With a great theme of its own, owing much to Westerns from previous decades Conan The Destroyer is at its best when it replays classic pieces from the first film, merging them with the new and giving them a unique flavour. Again the score is expansive and evokes both images from the film as well as caressing the imagination muscles. A few of the tracks lack the melodic or imaginative qualities of others, but considering how repetitive most soundtracks naturally are (central one or two themes recurring over and over between tuneless strings and dramatic pieces). While not as essential as the first, this is still worth a listen.
`Riders Of Tamaris’ opens the soundtrack and film in dramatic style, instantly recalling the epic nature of the first. The instruments used
and the structure remind the listener of the first one and when the main theme quickly burst in you know that this is more of an adventure than the first. The tone is lighter, more akin to a Western and there is less of a threatening and foreboding feeling. The track breaks off into several different pieces, unintentionally and ironically conveying the messy plot and jumbled nature of the film, but accurately showing the diversity of characters, places, and themes. With a better script, acting, and if the story had been taken more
seriously the film could have been a greater success – certainly the first track suggests greater things.
`Valeria Remembered’ shows that as much as the first soundtrack conveyed the epic nature of the first film, it was the emotive
and tragic moments which raised its status to great heights. The second track drives the central plot – Conan believing he can bring his lost love back from the dead. His character has been lost since losing her and no amount of revenge and carnage has been able to fill the void. The track has a slightly different arrangement here as well as a few new instruments added. The tragedy here is re-iterated by the fact that we know Conan is being tricked and that there is no way he can reclaim Valeria.
`The Horn Of Dagoth’ opens with a sense of mystery and wonder, twisting harpsichord style strings merged with lower brass notes. Halfway through the track there is a quick shift to wind instruments before returning to the strings. These move together for the final part of the track creating a memorable ending although the melodies themselves are not too strong.
`Elite Guard Attacks’ is the first battle theme, employing the main title theme again. Like the first, Poledouris ensures that we can imagine what is happening without actually seeing it – two ranks of opposing warriors racing towards each other, good and evil, and crashing together in deadly combat. The stings slither around, climbing and falling and there are a few moments taken from the first soundtrack. This is a strong track but lacks the edge of Riders Of Doom from the first.
`Crystal Palace’ continues the mystical theme evoking images of magical places, characters stumbling around in wonder at sights never before witnessed. About a minute in fans of both the Robocop film and soundtrack will notice a very familiar section. There are a lot of similarities between those two soundtracks, both films focus on themes of betrayal and amazement at new encounters. The timing suggests crawling ever onwards in a wary fashion. Towards the end though there is a break to the more heroic theme which sounds like something from a Spaghetti Western before a crescendo of strings. The conclusion brings back the love theme from the original as Conan catches dreamlike images of Valeria.
`The Katta’ is a short track which I wish was longer. It begins with diamond like twinkling sounds and hurried violins before another newly arranged theme from the original is brought in. This fades away softly as if it had never been.
`Dream Quest’ is another fairly short track, especially as the first part is almost completely silent. After that is a mix of smaller pieces – a heroic brass burst, a peaceful flute interlude, a crashing return to the battle theme.
`Night Bird’ returns to mysterious and unnerving sounds, other worldly composition with instruments coming and going in a ghostly manner. There isn’t much of a melody to speak of, just lots of pieces revolving around each other and a couple of motifs.
`Approach To Shadizaar’ is another re-arrangement of one the tracks from the original, this time with the jangly percussion added. It sees the group of warriors and adventurers approaching Shadizaar, and evokes images of tall towers, bazaars, bustling crowds, and excitement. The final minute is completely new though, with a quieter melody showing that Conan has learnt from previous experiences to be more guarded.
`The Scrolls’ is a led by horns over a long sustained string note before a new theme of tragedy and loss begins. This is one of the more emotive moments of the soundtrack and speaks of the sadness of the character. Possibly the best track here it seems all too short and feels like there was more to say and play.
`Dualing Wizards’ is basically the recurring heroic theme arranged in a more subtle way; two wizards fighting rather than two gladiators. Again it seems like this track was cut short when there was plenty more which could have been given.
`Illusion’s Lake’ is another all new track and sounds unlike everything else on both soundtracks. It is a couple of pieces weaved together and repeating to give the impression of mirrors, repetition, mirages, and becoming trapped.
`Conan And Bombatta’ is the main theme with variances accompanying the two men battling. Evenly matched warriors, the fight on-screen is epic and the music matches it. It is a rather abrupt end to the soundtrack and they really should have included a closing credits sequence featuring the highlights from the soundtrack. The film may have been messy but the score is great but this release doesn’t give it the full credit it deserves.
Poledouris again gives his audience some wonderful pieces of music, although not quite reaching the greatness of his first foray into Cimmeria. The moments of brilliance largely come from the recurring moments from the first soundtrack, while there are a couple of equally strong new themes. Unfortunately many of the good moments feel as if they have been cut cruelly short – this is as almost as annoying as the way the film turned out considering how good the first was. The film feels rushed and as such Poledouris probably was not given much time or freedom to create, but again he does more than simply provide a film with some ambient background noise – he lets the music tell a story of its own and raises a poor film to heights it wouldn’t have otherwise achieved. If you’re a fan of the first this is definitely worth getting.
(Originally written in 2009)