Michael Kamen

Die Hard 2 [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Michael Kamen, who composed most of the music on this album (the exception being Jean Sibelius' tone poem, "Finlandia"), is getting to be a well-known and popular composer, veering from action films along the lines of License to Kill to movies along the line of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (from which there's an excellent soundtrack album on Warner Bros.). Die Hard 2, obviously, is an example of the former. While showing a knack for suspenseful cues, much of Kamen's writing here has a loud, rackety quality to it that probably does an excellent job with the movie, but doesn't do so well in the shape of an album (the aforementioned "Finlandia" aside; the recording here is adequate, if a little punchy). Part of the problem is the use of bamboo flute for the villain's theme -- a flute that's too often played in a dry environment where a little reverb might have done wonders and heightened the minor-key menace. On "The Church," this bamboo flute trill is played against drawn-out orchestral cues, and the orchestra wins hands down. "The Runway," however, gets some kudos for managing to switch rhythmic bases several times in a short space while never losing track of its suspense background, managing to be fairly hair-raising and highly visual throughout. "Snowmobiles" and "The Terminal," in the meantime, are fairly standard, and very well done action-climax cues, with, as evidenced throughout the album, some excellent percussion work, especially with tom-toms that manage not to be in your face but instead populate the space behind the orchestra. These days, that's quite an unusual technique. Overall, there's something very traditionally 1950s about much of this score -- the drawn-out orchestral stabs, for example, are classic stuff that resemble any one of a dozen Bernard Herrmann thriller scores; one can almost see the odd angles, the monochromatic film noir photography, the desperate looks and desperate actions, and jarring cutaways. In that, it's terrific homage. However, it's not likely to make it a regular visitor to the CD player in the average soundtrack buff's household.

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