This is the final soundtrack for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, so Howard Shore no doubt had plenty of pressure to create something as stunning as the first two – if not even better. There are 19 tracks total, so expect this review to get a little lengthy. When it comes to these scores, it’s hard for me to avoid pointing out all the joys of each track.
1. "A Storm Is Coming" - Here we have another slow, slightly ominous opening – somewhat like both other soundtracks, going into a relaxed flute-like move. Eventually Gollum’s sounds come into play – a sad, sickly violin soon moving into the Mordor theme with several instruments playing what almost sounds like different pieces at once to make one full piece. This is a good opener – almost like a mix of music that gives a summary of what’s happened before.
2. "Hope and Memory" - A slightly quicker pace here with strings and the like, slowing down into another flute with a slight Shire relaxation to it. But it soon leaves that behind and goes into some beautiful strings and horns that form into the Lord of the Rings theme, eventually fading off.
3. "Minas Tirith" - Another slow, ominous start here – not what you’d really expect coming from a track named after the glorious white tower. Instead it’s darker with low brass and threatening strings. However, soon taking over is a slight piece of what will eventually become the theme for the Return of the King, a chorus picking up in a rising tone leading into those horns again, though not as ominous. But then something happens – Ben del Maestro sings a small piece and I must say, I can never get enough of those vocals. The brass takes over again and the song turns into the full-fledged theme, brave and very king-like with its head held high. It’s a great piece and utterly perfect for this movie.
4. "The White Tree" - This one is great – I love it. For a thought on where we are in the movie, this is the lighting of the beacons of Amon Din. A slow, sad melody starts us off, going into a more urgent tone before getting even faster and picking up in both pace and sound. Trumpets start to get into it and soon those quick moving violins join the rest of the orchestra as it rises into the theme of the movie. The sound here is great and you can just see Gandalf riding his horse Shadowfax over the land and then right into the White City.
5. "The Steward of Gondor" - Now this song I absolutely love because Billy Boyd (Pippin) sang. I got so excited in the movie theater when he started singing and then just sat there listening happily because he’s got a beautiful singing voice. This track starts off with lone winds playing, displaying the gap between Faramir and his father. Gentle horns take over into the theme again, but this time it does not rise to the same glory as in track 4 or 3. Instead it stops – and Pippin sings solo. No instruments, no chorus – it’s just his voice all by itself. I love it. But then some frightening strings start to play in a buildup of…we’ll never know fully because they stop to allow Pippin to get his final word in alone, the track ending with a few winds afterwards.
6. "Minas Morgul" - It’s kind of an abrupt change from what was just playing and if you’re volume is up kind of high, better make sure to turn it down first because you’ll find a sudden Mordor-oriented sounds resounding powerfully in your ears. I mean, after all, it is a song for Minas Morgul. There are some nasty sounding strings here and horns blasting for the evil. Good stuff I must say. It does calm down a bit at the end, but leaves one in a bit of suspense.
7. "The Ride of the Rohirrim" - The sounds of Rohan never get old. I love that hardinger and it’s Rohan-fading-kingdom-still-full-of-glory theme. This reminds me a little of something between “The Hornburg” and “Forth Eorlingas” from The Two Towers soundtrack. It’s short, but sweet.
8. "Twilight and Shadow" - Another slow song here with that same voice of Renee Fleming, singing on her own in beautiful tones like representations of both melancholy feelings and simple beauty. Strings are the primary instruments here, reflecting perfectly the title of the song. Then of course you hear Arwen’s theme – Renee’s gentle singing with a chorus behind her, finishing with a hopeful note.
9. "Cirith Ungol" - Ah the Stair. Wasn’t that nasty stair? Even I never pictured it like that. But it’s Cirith Ungol, so of course you’re going to have some evil sounding music here; quiet, threatening…and then fading into a bit of Hobbit-like hopeful music before getting very bad sounding indeed.
10. "Anduril" - No doubts of having Elven music playing here. Anduril is reforged! This song is kind of like one big Elven/Man triumph piece. The King now has his sword - horns and strings abound! (and don’t forget a quick chorus!)
11. "Shelob’s Lair" - Enter the lair of the spawn of darkness, which equals some low and creepy music. Then it picks up quite a bit – you know how strings can really freak you out sometimes all by themselves in that fast paced “look out!” tone? Or rising up and down in what seems to always be in scary movies? Well here you go!
12. "Ash and Smoke" - Moving along, I know it seems like we’ve had a lot of ominous music so far, but hey, it’s one big ominous film – who will triumph? Or more or less, who won’t make it? Bring on the chorus who sings for either the defeat of mankind or in the hope that it will prevail. Bring on the violins and other instruments that sound for the beginning of war! This song picks up quiet a bit near the end, just simply screaming war.
13. "The Fields of the Pelennor" - Battle! Slow horns…can you hear the drums? Rising sounds, reminiscing of “Isengard Unleashed” before changing into it’s own war, sounds going even higher until the chorus leaps into action, drums pounding in the background as the trumpets sound along with the chorus. Can you see the action? Can you see the Rohirrim riding into battle? Then a sudden change in the song turns into an almost victorious sound, going and going until the end.
14. "Hope Fails" - This begins with a very low sound (an oboe perhaps? Or a tuba?), soon going into strings – but then changing to a lighter note with undertones of Mordor. Suddenly the instruments get very dark indeed and continue until an abrupt stop.
15. "The Black Gate Opens" - A quick paced opening here, with pieces from the movies’ overall theme that began so long ago. Then a piece I love. A gentle, lone flute singing amidst the drums, soon accompanied by strings. Frodo and Sam alone amidst so much evil. Then the chorus begins (I love the chorus) and soon after you hear the flute again. “Do you remember the Shire Mr. Frodo?” The flute continues like a little light of hope until the horns change their tune, along with the rest of the orchestra and take on a song of hope (and a sound that you’ll hear later on as well).
16. "The End of All Things" - Another abrupt start here, the chorus breaking into Mordor-like singing before breaking off and Renee Fleming taking over on her own, only not so hopeful this time. Then the chorus begins again, the music getting more and more distraught. Finally a sudden change for the better before disappearing entirely and Renee picks up once again, a cheerless song that will be the end of this track.
17. "The Return of the King" - This is by far the longest track on the CD – over 10 minutes. You can’t beat that. This one is obviously during Aragorn’s coronation and the return of the Hobbits to the Shire. I love this one also because Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) sings. And he’s got a beautiful voice too. The only issue is the fact that it’s so quiet. I'm not sure what the mixers were doing, but you may find yourself cranking the volume to properly enjoy the moment. The rest you'll find music fit for a king before a little bit of Elven sneaks in. The King now has his Queen. Once Gondor is left, we find ourselves back in the Shire, theme and all. From there we remain in the Shire and get to relax with all the lovely flutes and strings that were heard in the beginning so long ago.
18. "The Grey Havens" - This is one of the softest songs on here, gentle winds, quiet strings, even relaxed horns bring it all together in this final ending of the story. You can just see the ship on the harbor on the waves, balanced on the golden sunbeams on the water. If I think too much about the end I’ll start to tear up – I won’t lie. This music is that strong when put together with a feeling. The story is over, friends must part ways and go back to how things were. The melody here is both sad and happy, a wonderful and perfect mix – even with a bit of Shire theme within it. When you get to the end of this song, you just know that the story is indeed done – Middle Earth can breathe again.
19. "Into the West" - This song makes me want to cry every time I hear it…hold on...I have this playing while I go…talk amongst yourselves………*whew* Ok, sorry. You see, this is like a wrap-up; a closing that lets you know that there won’t be anymore Lord of the Rings to see. Everyone’s gone to happier times and the adventure is over. As grueling as it was, we enjoyed it didn’t we? Here you can hear Annie Lennox sing, who’s done other CDs of her own. My mother actually surprised me by knowing who she was (cuz I didn’t) and showing me a CD. Cool. Here though, she is just right for this quiet song. Her voice is the primary sound, backed up by what I believe to be a harp as well as other strings gently singing and something that is making a soft tinkling sound. I know that a few of these lyrics came from Legolas’s song near the end about going into the West. After Annie finishes her song, the orchestra takes over for the final tunes. Here you can definitely tell this is the end and actually it sounds more like the end of a play or symphony, but it works perfectly anyway.
“And he lived happily ever after until the end of his days.”
Originally posted at Epinions.com