Eshkeri's presents his main theme in the opening track "Oishi's Tale" - Oishi being the general of the ronin. It's a short 6-note theme, with a sense of noble heroism, especially when performed by the brass section. [...] The opening cue is a great indicator for the rest of the score. There is dense string writing and taiko percussion [...], yet there is also a mournful theme for solo cello (skillfully made to sound like an erhu by Caroline Dale) and bamboo flute. There is great sensitivity here and throughout, which is what ultimately lifts this score above the norm.
The score unsurprisingly has a number of action set-pieces, [...]. The composer applies a 5-note string arpeggio to most of the action cues, which (again) really helps bind this score together. [...]
Further action cues like "Shrine Ambush", "Palace Battle" and "The Witch Dragon" are nothing short of epic, courtest of the racing strings and fat brass chords. There are plenty of big drums here but, contrary to a lot of modern scores, they are not the means to an end. At all times Eshkeri maintains melodic (or at least harmonic) writing that brings life and genuine excitement to these cues. The string writing in particular is breathtaking; with the London Metropolitan Orchestra doing a stellar job keeping up the pace.
Despite the abundance of big music, there is plenty of space for reflection. [...] Before the album closes with a rousing rendition of the main theme, Eshkeri offers us two incredibly emotive cues. "Mika and Kai" is a beautiful love theme for strings and bamboo flute. It is so gentle, yet feels so tragic. "Seppuku" sees dense strings continuing this love theme and countering it with the score's main theme. Absolutely sublime!
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Underrated and not heard as much as maybe it should be, this soundtrack suffered by the misfire of the movie. Full of epic, stirring themes that surround the soft, soothing sections, it gets better with hearing it a second time and actually allows you to enjoy the move more in the same way. Once again, Eshkeri shows how good he is and presents medieval Japan for the rears to match the sweeping vista from the film. I'd recommend this to any collector of movie scores. Strong, subtle, powerful, soft all the way through and brings a tear more than once.