Mad Max: Fury Road


Pro: Everything
Con: Not for everyone (so...not really a con as much as a simple fact)

The Bottom Line: I love it. I love everything about it. I might even go so far as to call this soundtrack a slice of genius. 

Like many others, I thoroughly enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road. It was a brilliant sort of blend of action and good storytelling. Not really something you see that often. If something is full of action, it often feels excessive, and if good storytelling is present, action can be the victim in its wake. Not to mention that I have a strange sort of fascination with the world of the post-apocalyptic.

But we’re not here for the movie; we’re here for the music. My sister was the one to ultimately buy it, while I debated, unsure if what I’d heard in the movie was more than just a whole lot of banging percussion. That, without the movie, the music wouldn’t be able to stand well on its own two legs.

Holy shit, was I wrong. Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, was signed on to this project. I love seeing – or rather, hearing – folks I’ve never heard before, though for the life of me I thought I’d heard of Junkie XL somewhere. But Tom is amazing in that he brought two forms of music together in an absolutely masterful way. I’d been wanting to hear a soundtrack that’s harder than anything before, and this is it. Yet while we get percussion and metallic electronic insanity, the natural instruments of the orchestra are certainly not forgotten.

Only 17 tracks, but around 70 minutes, it will still be over all too soon, trust me. Each one has something to offer, so buckle up. Or don’t. It might be more fun that way.

1. Survive – 1:30 Welcome to the world of Mad Max. Endless sand and sun. Mild insanity and a lot of metal. This is the creeping start to a soundtrack full of dark cello and much more.

2. Escape – 2:14 Don’t have your volume too loud; the sound of Max’s demons might startle you. The strings give us the slow wind up before a burst of power and the chase theme we’ll hear throughout the CD makes its debut. A hard opening to a hard movie.

3. Immortan’s Citadel – 8:40 A slow, dramatic climb with a lot of lurking notes, that slightly off-key sound, and generally an introduction to a place we don’t really want to be. Near the middle, it gets full-on drastic, monstrous and looming with the entire orchestra doing things I almost feel like I haven’t heard before. Then it starts its march, one-two stepping its way out the gates and into the wild world of the post-apocalypse. The heartfelt strings at the end may surprise you.

4. Blood Bag – 2:30 The shit has officially hit the fan, and the pursuit has begun. The drums lose their minds in spectacular fashion, with the spotlight momentarily taken over by an end-of-the-world guitar.

5. Spikey Cars – 3:11 The chase theme is back while the percussion pounds away. It winds around like twisting metal stairs, pausing for just a second to let Immortan’s chorus fade in before jumping back into battle.

6. Storm is Coming – 5:36 One of my favorites on here, this features a tremendously massive sandstorm – and we’re going in. As the thumping continues, there exists a moments in which the flame-throwing guitar takes point, and the orchestra and a hint of chorus stand back in awe of churning sandstorm power. The strings take over, bolstered by the brass, and then let the percussion kick back up again for more chasing goodness.

7. We Are Not Things – 1:37 A huge shift in musical design, this is pure orchestrated design. Sad, though.

8. Water – 3:15 Starting slow, things jump into drums that quite possibly aren’t found in a typical orchestra. Loud, deep, and trash-can banging fighting work

9. The Rig – 4:13 Opening like track 1 with that dark cello, and remains dark and threatening all throughout, slowly working its way up into a need to get going. Then that need gets very, very urgent.

10. Brothers in Arms – 4:22 Yes. This, my friends, is my favorite track on here. The chase theme goes full out to the point that I crank the volume until I probably shouldn’t crank it any higher. This is where everything comes together – the cello, the vibrant strings, and that rust-coated electronic blend. There are points where it gets that pinch of heroic beauty and every second is to be savored.

11. The Bog – 6:58 Tension-filled, it’s all about hurrying here. Things stay relatively level until around the 4:50 mark when the chorus lets us know things are only going to get worse – and much more dangerous.

12. Redemption – 1:45 Simple, lamenting, with low cello and bass; a piece where hope is hard to find.

13. Many Mothers – 5:15 Now this encompasses the full, dramatic operatic kind of music that you get in bits and pieces throughout the CD. It's powerful and makes me think of things like Mozart's "Requiem" because of the way Holkenborg handles his strings and the climactic moment when Furiosa discovers the thing she has sought for so long is no more. Very heart-wrenching and the peak of sound the represents the moment hope has been lost.

14. Claw Trucks – 5:31 We're back on the road and ready to fight, so we're leaping back into the style of "Brothers in Arms" and going in hard with a ton of percussion from all walks of life. But this is just the appetizer to what's next.

15. Chapter Doof (Extended Version) – 7:04 Second favorite track on here. This is the high finale, complete with Mad Max whirlwind string theme, hammering sound, and nonstop speed. Similar to "Storm is Coming" but with Doof's guitar solo rather than sand tornado awe. A perfect matchup to what you see on the screen. I love that it's this long, and if I could have it run even longer, I'd be all for it. I love the slow windup around the 3:40 mark and the layer of the strings on the trumpeting growl as we zoom over the desert sands.

16. My Name Is Max (Extended Version) – 4:43 Back to sad orchestration like "Many Mothers" as Max does what he can to stitch up our favorite Imperator. And yet this one contains a few grains of hope.

17. Let Them Up – 2:36 This one starts dramatic and keeps going until the end. It may be short, but it sounds longer than it is. It's also unique from the rest of the soundtrack in its mix of jubilant tribal and flourishing operatic choral blend. Triumphant all the way to the end, it's a great way to finish out the music – and the movie.

The one thing that continues to wow me about this soundtrack is just how well Holkenborg put both the synthetic and the instrumental together. This concept isn’t new, as we all well know, but the styles aren’t like anything we’ve really come across. Not like this. On the one hand, we have really hard, grinding electronic chunks that match with the guzzoline machines and bullets, yet on the other hand the orchestra at work – the strings in particular – are huge and sweeping in a style that reminds me not of any current soundtrack composers, but of the old masters who wrote dramatic works with broad brushes.


It sounds weird, I know, but when you compare tracks like “Many Mothers” and “My Name is Max” with other near-dubstep sections, it makes sense. You go from high octane to heroic climax and back again. In a way, I dare say that it's brilliant. I love the juxtaposition of these two sounds and styles, and it's going to take a long time before I wear this soundtrack out. I'm going to be careful so I don't listen to it too often, enjoying it like fine wine before my ears get interested in something else. Even better, more Mad Max movies are being made – and if Holkenborg isn't assigned to them, then I'm going to be pissed.

NT

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I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.