Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Official Soundtrack
Grade
A
 
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If you're like me, you've watched the previous two films in the theater and then snapped them up once they hit they came out in the stores. So, the basic themes behind the magnificent soundtracks are probably pretty well ingrained into your mind. You hear some of the sweeping themes and you're brought back to the films. A lot like John Williams' themes for Star Wars, the music behind the Lord of the Rings is familiar. But, unlike with Williams, every new soundtrack only keeps a few themes and manages to expand the music with each new release.

Orchestrated and conducted by Howard Shore, the soundtrack features a strong and powerful symphony accented with liberal use of chorus vocals and features Soprano Renée Fleming, Irish Flautist Sir James Galway and Eurythmics vocalist Annie Lennox on the end track Into The West. The package as a whole does wonders to set the tone of the upcoming movie well, while still linking the music thematically with the two previous films.

This album exhibits a great range of emotion. There are some powerfully dark and stirring moments, such as in The Fields Of the Pelennor, and moments where everything seems sullen and sad. A more quirky and upbeat tone is exhibited in the opening track A Storm is Coming, although it is only for a moment and is quickly replaced with a powerful and swift horn and string passages. Hope and Memory starts with a low but steady pace, dips into a more subdued offering and then charges back forward, setting up the eerily dark Minas Tirith. When it comes to dark and powerful tracks that set a great tone, Minas Morgul is hard to beat. Heavy in tone, this piece features cutting stings and deep blasting horns along with a spine of heavy thudding drums. Not to be outdone, Shelob's Lair is likewise as powerful and stirring, so much so that one can imagine how the scene is playing out without even seeing it beforehand.

And, that's the the strength of this soundtrack. Even before the film has hit the theaters, you can just sit back and listen to the music and get a healthy idea of how the scenes will play out. Because of how well the previous two soundtracks worked so well with the director's vision, it's assured that this soundtrack will also accompany the visuals nicely.

Fortunately, there are enough casual compositions, like The Steward Of Gondor, to keep the soundtrack from being overpowered and overly dramatic. Twilight and Shadow proves to be ethereal track that acts much like a safe haven throughout the turmoil present in many of the other tracks.

Annie Lennox's performance in the final track, Into The West, is somber and even pulls at the heartstrings. Her sweet and enchanting vocals flow well over the lull of the music. Lennox's vocal performance adds a poignant exclamation point to the end of the album and serves well to define the finale of the listening experience.

If you love the music behind the movies or just enjoy a powerful and well-delivered symphony piece, go out and get this album. If you're waiting for the final movie to come out and you just want a taste to get yourself prepared, or hyped, feel free to purchase this and spend hours imagining how the movie will play out in your mind.

- - Kinderfeld

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