Film score composer Steve Jablonsky has made a name for himself over the years with a number of scores for assorted Hollywood blockbusters -- everything from children’s animation to Michael Bay's Transformer series -- so he obviously has a knack for delivering what’s needed. However, it’s his more ethereal, atmospheric works that are the shining gems in his back catalog. His score for Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon is a nice example of one of his more evocative, emotion-stirring scores with the occasional gritty action-oriented number. Deepwater sounds akin to his score for Berg’s Lone Survivor, which he created alongside post-rock titans Explosions in the Sky.
What can be said first and foremost is that Deepwater Horizon explores a lot of space: reverberated, jangly guitars and lone piano notes cry out alongside sweltering bass that swims throughout on tracks such as "The Rig" and "Taming the Dinosaurs." "Stop the Crane" is something a bit different and a bit more raucous -- its arpeggiated synth bass cuts throughout while electronic toms punch through rich, urgent strings and sweeping, ornate synth pads. Unlike the more bombastic Bay scores, there’s little room for pummeling percussion and blasting bass here, but there's lots of room for subtle, grainy, and edgy soundscapes that ultimately result in something more like an aural incision than a noisy hammer over the head. Where the album falls down is in the one or two tracks that are too samey in terms of structure or development. That just means that there are too many tracks for one standalone album, but as a score for a film, these songs do hold up, with individual tracks managing to plug different holes in the same pot; existing as different pieces that occupy similar moods, albeit in different keys and structures. The album could have benefitted from a shorter track list to represent the overall picture.
The score has been mixed and panned nicely, though, the result being an all-encompassing film score that doesn’t feel blatantly threatening by throwing buckets of peril at the listener with ominous sonic characterizations, but rather effectively evoking the humanity and need for survival in the film. Like the movie itself, it’s an intense, edgy, nail-biting score that rises and dips in and out of poignant strings, admonishing bass, and pulsating electronic percussion that sonically traverses tragedy, peril, and survival rather than opting for a bludgeoning sound palette that screams action.