Michael Kamen

Die Hard [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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The slam-bang score for the 1988 film that defined a whole new subgenre of action movies finally saw a CD release in 2002 courtesy of Varese Sarabande's CD club. Michael Kamen came into his own with this score after making his first venture into big-budget action films with 1987's Lethal Weapon. For Die Hard, Kamen took some of the techniques developed for that earlier film and expanded on them in geometric progression, establishing himself as the premiere action-film composer for the late '80s and early '90s. The CD starts with a relatively contemplative piece, "The Nakatomi Plaza," featuring the introduction of a melancholy guitar motif to represent the emotional turmoil underlying Bruce Willis' character, before unleashing Kamen's full palette for "Gruber's Arrival," a bravura piece demonstrating all the hallmarks of Kamen's approach. For an action movie that takes place near Christmas, Kamen interpolates strains of "Winter Wonderland" throughout the score and uses sleigh bells as a portent of dread, undercutting listeners' expectations by using the pleasant tones typically associated with jolly Christmas carols to accompany scenes of violence and suspense. Similarly, Kamen uses a few snippets of "Singin' in the Rain" during action sequences as an homage to the "ultra-violence" of A Clockwork Orange. Another highlight is the action set piece "Assault on the Tower," a sustained flow of orchestral bombast incorporating most of Kamen's favorite motifs from throughout the score. Except for a strange, unused instrumental version of "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" that is just a bit too cutesy for its own good, this is an outstanding presentation of a seminal score.

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