GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS / COMPOSER: BEAR MCCREARY / LABEL: WAXWORK RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Waxwork Records has given Bear McCreary's score for the latest instalment in Legendary Entertainment's MonsterVerse, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, an appropriately giant-sized release. Spread across three 180-gram vinyl LPs, in a deluxe ‘monster pack’ sleeve, the set weighs in at over one kilogram, and is positively astonishing.
Even for those who've not yet seen the film, the music is appropriately bombastic. While Alexandre Desplat's score for 2014's Godzilla reboot is excellent, it was a departure from the brass-laden music to which fans of the series had become accustomed over the last 60+ years. McCreary's score, on the other hand, leans heavily toward those original scores, causing no small amount of excitement and heart-fluttering when it was announced he's be interpolating the scores of Akira Ifukube and Yuji Koseki.
The first track released to the world from the score, Old Rivals, ably exploited that nostalgia by using both Godzilla and Ghidorah's themes, and paired as it was with a cover of the Blue Öyster Cult classic, Godzilla - bolstered with taiko drummers, members of Dethklok, and System of a Down's Serj Tankian - it seemed as if the film and score might be nothing more than fan service.
There certainly was quite a bit of that, goodness knows. It seems that King of the Monsters shares more than one might think with another retro-styled 2019 release, Bumblebee. That movie took everything that didn't work about the earlier Transformers movies and focused in on what hardcore fans wanted - fighting robots and a few human characters to ground the story, as opposed to a cavalcade of human troubles with robots as the background - so did King of the Monsters focus on fighting kaiju and the relationship of a family, rather than trying to jump between multiple storylines. And, much as Bumblebee offered up Stan Bush's The Touch in 1980s context, so does McCreary able update that BOC chestnut.
However, the score is so much more than that. There are a full 17 different Titans in King of the Monsters, as this franchise's kaiju have been dubbed. Trying to nod to all of them would've resulted in any number of cues, but it seems as though McCreary looked more to create a sense of awe with which to permeate his score. Still, as McCreary states in the liner notes, he was writing not a score, but an opera, wherein he tried to give the major players their own voice and sound.
The end result is what director Michael Dogherty refers to as ‘something truly special’, which adds new layers and a rich mythic spirit to Godzilla's legacy. It is truly epic, and the manner in which the composer is able to go from massive action themes such as Old Rivals to the wistfully mournful Goodbye Old Friend is superlative. McCreary's been honing his chops for years now on sci-fi action scores, but Godzilla: King of the Monsters is his masterwork.
This being a vinyl release, there was some rearranging necessary in order to get everything to properly fit on three LPs, and the way in which Waxwork did it actually works to the benefit of the score. The final side of the third LP begins with King of the Monsters, which plays over the film's end credits, and then goes into McCreary's cover of Blue Öyster Cult's Godzilla, followed by his rearrangements of the original Toho themes for Mothra, Ghidorah, and Godzilla.
This is also the track listing used by the WaterTower Music compact disc release, whereas the streaming versions seem to opt for kicking off with the Akira Ifukube Godzilla theme, then go into the BÖC cover. If you're looking to instantly hook in one's otherwise unfamiliar listeners, that might be the best way, but putting what are essentially cover songs all together in one place really allows the listener to experience the film score on its own, rather than immediately contextualised by nostalgia.
Putting the score on three differently-coloured LPs is a wonderfully inspired idea, and they all look amazing. The swirls - keyed to King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan - are the sort of product that makes one sad that they have to live in a sleeve for most of the time. They almost glow with life when held up to light. More to the point, they sound superb, reproducing the score just as effectively as seeing the film in a big theater. If ever there were a film score that needed to have the knob cranked a little higher, this is the one, and it's one which benefits from it.