Tomb Raider (Junkie XL) – Film Score Review

Baz Greenland reviews the Sony Classical release of Junkie XL's score for Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider is getting it’s second live-action cinematic interpretation in the cinemas, with Alicia Vikander replacing Angelina Jolie in the lead role. And to coincide with this, Sony Classical has released the motion picture soundtrack, which is available to buy now.

Grammy nominated and multi-platinum producer, musician, and composer Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL. is the man behind the music. The self-proclaimed ‘full contact composer’ makes great use of keyboards, guitar, drums, violin, and bass to help bring this cinematic story to life.

There is something very exciting about this score that stands out as epic and entertaining in equal measure. It is under mistakenly the work of Junkie XL, with some bold, keyboard synth and sweeping violins and bombastic drums. There are some notable influences too that makes it feel a mix of Graeme Revell & Alan Silvestri’s, particularly in Lara Croft’s main heroic theme. But what it does really well is capture the sense of danger and adventure you can imagine a Lara Croft adventure to have (I write this yet to see the film).

The album is a treat, delivering us fourteen sweeping tracks, each with a majesty of its own. Admittedly it does feel rather too intense sometimes, the same huge notes repeating across the soundtrack but it certainly sweeps you up into the dramatic nature of the story. The opening track ‘Return to Croft Manor’ really sets the standard, an eight-minute emotional journey that begins with a beautiful, melancholy mix of piano and synth chords before building into a fast paced percussion beat. There are some huge soaring, emotional moments and darker undertones here, full of tension, passion and sinister touches. This is something quite beautiful and special with a gorgeous, uplifting ending. It encapsulates the magic of the whole score and if you were to buy just one track, this would be it.

This is followed by ‘Seeking Endurance’ where Junkie XL’s familiar stylised synth beats are mixed with a dramatic, uplifting score; the fast pace really captures the sense of drama and adventure but at just a minute you are left wanting more. Fortunately the third track ‘The Bag’ gives you just that with tribal beats and frenzied movements. This is an incredibly exciting piece though not easy listening. With the haunting choral backing, deranged sounds, offbeats screams and thundering beats, it is one of the most intense and dramatic tracks on the album.

The fourth track ‘Path of Paternal Secrets’ returns to the familiar sweeping scale of the first two, the same dramatic percussion beat and gorgeous orchestral sweeps, this is packed full of emotion, pulling the listener into the heart of Lara Croft’s adventure. ‘The Devil’s Sea’ is another bold  track, with a fast-paced beat, frenzied strings and string synth with a real emotional core; another dramatic, exciting piece.

And then we have ‘Let Yamatai Have Her’ a track not available for individual download (possible because it is an immense 13 minutes long). But what an adrenaline-pumping epic odyssey it is. It starts off slow, full of passion and sadness and when the oriental vibe kicks in and the heavier beats take over it feels like it could be out of a Bond movie (the sinister, industrial synth ending that could be any big bad’s theme). It certainly is a track that builds and builds in intensity, huge, epic thundering beats and sounds, a softer, emotional middle and an explosive cacophony of atmospheric synth sounds and tense, repeating percussion beats, full of tension and menace. This is an audacious and memorable track indeed.

The seventh track ‘Figure in the Night’ has a bold, frantic beat that veers on full slasher movie vibe with strained strings, distorted synth beats while ‘Remember This’ finally offers a nice come down from the tracks that precede it. It is a softer, emotional piece, somber and beautiful. Not that this quiet denouement lasts; ‘Never Give Up’ is another soaring, emotional piece that builds and builds and explodes into a frenzied percussion beat that is daring and thrilling. It pulls you into the heart of the action.

The tenth track ‘Karakuri Wall’ also packs in plenty of atmosphere; the soaring orchestral sweeps and ominous low percussion create a sense of awe and dread, while its climax has a fantastical, Indiana Jones vibe. This feeling continues with ‘What Lies Underneath Yamatai’. Again it is packed with atmosphere, that searing, guttural sound almost two minutes in puts you on edge. Fantastical and nightmarish, harrowing and beautiful, this utterly absorbs the listener in a magical, epic and dangerous world; the haunting choral backing is chilling, the string movement ominous and terrible.

The final three tracks build into a beautiful, epic conclusion that gives the listener little time to rest. ‘There’s No Time’ is another gorgeous, hopeful piece tinged with melancholy that ascends into a thundering, thrilling, heavy percussion beat with a rousing orchestral flair. This is tense and exciting. ‘Becoming the Tomb Raider’ opens with a lovely, simple piano piece and a beautiful, gentle string backing. The occasional percussion beat adds a dramatic flair to this stunning, epic track and that intensity builds in an uplifting, powerful conclusion; Junkie XL mixing in chilling, atmospheric synth sounds before unleashing a relentless, thrilling, final frantic pace that builds into a joyous, triumphant climax. The fourteenth and final track ‘The Croft Legacy’ is a gentler but no less epic piece to end on, with a steady beat, atmospheric chords and ominous, racing string movements. There is a real sense of hope and adventure in those final few beats.

I haven’t enjoyed a real epic soundtrack like this one for ages; it is bold, brassy and courageous but finds time to add real depth, beauty and atmosphere too. If you’re looking for easy listening, this is not for you. But if you want to be pulled right into the heart of the adventure, Junkie XL will take you there…

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