Dedicated to reviews and news of music for film, TV and games

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CD REVIEWS - Horizons + The Reaping

Well, I'm pleased to say I'm back, albeit not at the height of my powers, due to a touch of ill health, but nothing serious I hope! Anyway, trying to catch up for lost time, I present two reviews today and hopefully there'll be at least one tomorrow - so watch this space!

Music by Christopher Tyler Nickel
Composer Release CTNCD-001
9 Tracks 53:29 mins

As you will know by now, I am all for lending an ear to the work of a new composing name to me, and this is the case here with Christopher Tyler Nickel, who has managed to stay under my radar, despite having written both concert hall and film and television music since graduating from the University of British Columbia School of Music with a degree in composition. Throughout his schooling, Chris, who plays oboe and piano, performed and toured with many ensembles, including the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the Vancouver Youth Symphony, the Royal City Musical Theatre Company, The BC Sinfonietta, the New Westminster Symphony and the West Coast Symphony Orchestra. His compositions Have been performed by orchestras and chamber ensembles, not only in Canada, but throughout teh United States and Europe. His music has also been broadcast over the radio in Canada and the U.S., and in 2002 the Northeastern Pennsylviania Philharmonic performed his "Fanfare for Freedom," which was broadcast live on the U.S. east coast as part of their 4th July celebrations. Recently, his concerto for piccolo/flute/alto flute, written especially for Sarah Jackson, piccolo of the LA Philharmonic, was premiered by the Sinfonia of the North Shore. In both 2002 and 2003, Chris composed music for the popular "Bard on the Beach" Shakespeare Fesival Concerts in Vancouver.
As far as film and television scoring is concerned, Chris has worked on not only native productions, but also those for broadcast in the U.S. and Japan. His music can be heard in movies of the week, TV series, DVD only releases, shorts, trailers and documentaries; and he has received awards for his work, including the 2004 Gold Metal for Best Action Score at the Park City Film Music Festival; the 2002 Golden Key International Performing Arts Award for Musical Composition; and a Leo Award Nomination in the category of Best Score - Feature Length Drama.
For even more information, go to the composer's website at

So what of this CD, Horizons? Well, it was recorded in the Czech Republic during the winter of 2006 and features the talents of the City of Prague Philharmonic and Chorus, under the baton of Mario Klemens, as well as the composer's own expertise with synthesizers.
To say that the music presented here is gorgeous, would possibly even be an understatement. OK, so other commentators may have accused it of being derivative, and yes, there are echoes of other composers' works here and there; but it would certainly not be the first time a relatively new composer on the scene has been influenced by established masters of their art. Look at James Horner and Christopher Young's early work, to name just two. In any case, in these times when the temp track still holds sway a great deal, it can't hurt to show you can write to order, whilst still retaining something of you own integrity.
Horizons gets off to a great start with the the title track, a sweeping, inspirational, Americana-styled piece. This is followed with a New Age-styled piece, Aurora, which moves to an insistent piano figure and becomes increasingly more powerful with the addition of more layers of seemingly sampled voice and synthesizers. The Shores of My Homeland is an at times inspiring piece of Celtic flavoured warmth, with flute solo by Jack Chen. Then There was You starts out pretty reverential with synth strings, but piano later takes up the melody, before the composer concludes the piece inspirationally with the addition of choir. The Wind's Last Breath is a somewhat melancholy, yet very nice piece, but is followed by one of the standout tracks on the album, the beautiful A Timeless Love, which again features Chen on the flute, and which positively soars at the end. Three more great tracks conclude the disc with, firstly, the equally beautiful and heartwarming One Moment Under the Stars; then the inspirational the Promise, and the concluding Dream, which is similarly styled as Aurora, but with more of a pure orchestral presence, and with something of a laid-back feel.
All-in-all, a great, easy-listening album, and a great showcase for Christopher Tyler Nickel's versatile talents. If you want to hear samples, in addition to visiting his website, where you can also listen to samples of his other compositions, you should also check out his page at
Horizons can be ordered from and from CDBaby.

The Reaping
Music by John Frizzell
Advance Copy of an album to be released by Varese Sarabande in the US on 3rd April
20 Tracks 48:20 mins

John Frizzell's score for this Hilary Swank starrer, in which she plays a debunker of religious phenomena, forced to review her beliefs when she is powerless to explain a series of Biblical plagues inflicted upon a small Louisiana town, is a typical (for the genre) mix of low-key mystery, often piano-driven, atonal suspense, with cacophonal shock moments and spiritual elements, often featuring choir.
The film is produced by Joel Silver and directed by Stephen Hopkins and with such stellar talents involved, both in front and behind the camera, there was sufficient budget to allow the use of an 80-piece orchestra and 60-voice choir, singing in Gaelic.
Perhaps the most interesting, and possibly the most controversial element of the score, is Frizzell's what I can only describe as hommage to Jerry Goldsmith in the cues"Locusts" and "The Boy." which both recall that composer's unique, rhythmic action style, and particularly in his scores for the Omen films, where he used orchestra and choir to such menacing effect. Frizzell's music for these cues creates a fair bit of excitement, as well as a feeling of nostalgia and regret that the great man is not still around.
With all the predominance of orchestra and choir in preceeding tracks, save for the atonal electronic elements, the album surprisingly concludes with the largely electronic-based menacing"Title Sequence," whilst still retaining the choir. It is nevertheless an exciting piece.


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