Composer: Ramin Djawadi
Label: WaterTower Music
Running time: 74 minutes
Almost as much of a treat as a new season of Game of Thrones these days is the accompanying score by Ramin Djawadi, who each year delivers glorious music which only seems to consistently build and build on what he gave us previously. Not since Michael Giacchino’s incredible work on Lost has a composer delivered a television score so unique to its concept, so filled with powerful, impressionistic character themes and leitmotifs, and so memorably adding to the cinematic palette provided on screen every week in the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels. While it perhaps doesn’t quite match some of the towering pieces Djawadi gave us for Season Six, his score to Season Seven comes very close – as a listening experience separate to the series, it’s almost as breathtaking.
Following another reminder of the catchy ‘Main Titles’, we’re launched straight into ‘Dragonstone’, a regal swirl of dark bass, booming drums and the key central theme for Daenerys Targaryen’s Dragon Queen mixed with a feeling of rousing homecoming, as the character reaches her titular home for the first time as an adult. Such themes are extended later in ‘Dragonglass’, in some senses a companion piece more to ‘Maester’ from Season Six, violins capturing that same sense of wonder that Sam Tarly found at the Citadel with how Dany feels when King in the North, Jon Snow, shows her mysterious caves. Djawadi icily sneaks in the creeping White Walkers signature before hinting at the new Targaryen love theme swirling around both Dany and Jon.
Said theme is really the primary component of Djawadi’s score, building much of the album around its construction as indeed the season builds around Jon & Dany coming together. ‘See You For What You Are’ slows it down before it explodes outward with ‘Truth’, arguably the best track on the score, which beautifully crystallises the love theme of the Dragon and the Wolf and sets it up for even greater development in the final season. It’s stunning, among the finest pieces Djawadi has ever delivered, which is fitting given it will symbolise the Song of Ice and Fire. Though it’s not the only piece Djawadi plays with and concentrates on; he’s also fascinated with what you sense is his favourite musical construction, the Castamere-Lannister theme.
If there’s a truly signature Game of Thrones piece of music, it’s the orchestral version of ‘The Reyne’s of Castamere’, a well-known ballad in the series/book series all about a Lannister betrayal and massacres and it has grown to symbolise the character of Cersei Lannister across the series. ‘The Queen’s Justice’ here speeds it up before Djawadi introduces deeper levels of bass and drums, not to mention a powerful male choir, in ‘Casterly Rock’. It presages ‘Spoils of War 1 & 2’, a big two-part war theme in the middle which stitches together the Lannister & Targaryen themes in tremendous fashion, weaving them before ending on a mournful, haunting Lannister refrain, echoing akin to a ravaged battlefield. ‘A Lion’s Legacy’ later attempts to recapture the original Castamere glory.
Djawadi works hard to develop Cersei’s sinister sound though in another standout track, ‘The Long Farewell’, set to a particularly disturbing moment of Cersei vengeance early in the season, which begins in decidedly eerie fashion with a low, hanging note and discordant strings before edging into a terrifying refrain. In a way, much of ‘No One Walks Away From Me’ can pair with it as an ode to Cersei, but it does end on a much more triumphant use of the Castamere theme for her brother Jaime Lannister, as he makes a crucial decision. Either way, as ‘Message For Cersei’ also shows with a much slower, haunting take on the piece with a continuing, rumbling light bass, Djawadi’s fascination with this emotionally complex theme shows no sign of abating, and is as central to the album as Jon’s piece.
Around these developments, some of the more traditional, bombastic action motifs that have always been central to Djawadi’s scores feel a little rote, such as ‘Against the Odds’ or parts of ‘The Army of the Dead’, although that does at least convey a ticking clock of impending doom in places and explodes into the traditional mechanical rumbling of the White Walkers, paired with a steady marching beat of drums. It does capture a sense of epic destruction with its big bass and choir, though the strongest action cue has to go to ‘I Am the Storm’, set to the Greyjoy-Targaryen sea battle, filled with crashing cymbals, drums, fast synthetic beats and a growing, pulsating sense of danger which boils into desperate action, before ending mournfully to reflect Theon Greyjoy’s turmoil.
Showing his range, some of Djawadi’s finest tracks are again softer and more etherial, or indeed brooding such as ‘A Game I Like to Play’ and later ‘The Dagger’, which work in tandem as reflective of dangerous Winterfell plotting with undulating menace, before ending with a glorious final refrain of Littlefinger’s theme which feels like a musical conclusion to a terrific character, in a manner you hope all of the main characters will get in the final reckoning. The curtain then comes down with what could rival ‘Truth’ as the standout piece – ‘Winter Is Here’, a beautifully haunting way of ending the album and the season, with soft, foreboding piano which drips like the falling snow over Westeros.
A fitting and memorable way to cue up, hopefully, a final salvo from Ramin Djawadi for the eighth and final Game of Thrones season, resolving the myriad of stunning themes he has developed and evolved over the last several years. Season Seven, the album, is essential for fans and completists but stands as a thrilling, beautifully composed and varied piece of orchestral and synthetic music which belies its television roots. Close to being Djawadi’s best.
Game of Thrones: Season Seven is now available from WaterTower Music.