Here we are again. It is time to write another review about a soundtrack by Tom Holkenborg, as I have recently done with White Lines, The Snyder Cut and Godzilla vs. Kong. This time I will take a close look at his music for Army of the Dead, which is the latest movie by director Zack Snyder, with whom Holkenborg has developed a close relationship. After being released in the movie theaters for only a week, the movie appeared on Netflix, making it possible for me and other Netflix subscribers to watch it in the comforts of our homes.
Army of the Dead is a zombie movie, where a group of people need to perform a heist, with some sarcasm and dark humor to it. The film can be seen as the spiritual prequel to Snyder’s first big movie Dawn of the Dead. What I find interesting about this movie, and also the music, is how different it is from Holkenborg and Snyder’s latest collaboration, Justice League. Whereas that movie is more than four hours long with a bombastic orchestral score, the music for Army of the Dead is quite the opposite. Not only is the score for the two-hours movie only 48 minutes long, but the music style is also very different, as can be heard best in “Scott and Kate.” If you look at the tracklist, the majority of tracks are divided into multiple parts. For “Scott and Kate” that is not really necessary, because all the three parts blend very well together. It is a combination of a simple melody on the piano together with the vocals by Holkenborg’s assistant Sara Barone. Both the voice and the piano are manipulated and looped in the cue, giving it a sad and tranquil atmosphere. In “Not Here” this theme is a bit different since it is an orchestral take on the melody.
Many tracks on the album are more like exercises in sound design. A good example can be heard in “Toten Hosen,” which is more like an atmospheric track than anything melodic. The same applies to both parts of “Battle Hallway.” In part one, you can hear the sound texture that Holkenborg has created for the bigger and smarter zombies in the movie very well. The track “Swimming Pool” is quite in contrast to those, and the music shows the Junkie XL side of Holkenborg. It is a dance track that I cannot find in the movie. Either I skipped over it during my search, or it is so far in the background that I did not notice. As with “Scott and Kate,” the track “Zeus and Athena” is divided into multiple parts, but they can be seen, in my opinion, as one piece. It represents the two alpha zombies, and Holkenborg gave them a godlike status by adding a choir to the piece, making the alphas sound heavenly instead of the monsters they are.
The movie is definitely not a standard heist nor a standard zombie movie, and the film music reflects that very well. The music Holkenborg wrote for the movie is very much its own thing. Songs are also very important in the movie, and one of them, a new version of “Viva Las Vegas,” can be found on the album, but there is also an amazing use of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung during a certain scene. Songs being played at key moments also illustrate the fact that the score itself does not play a major role in the movie, and can be heard in the background to give texture to all the weird things happening. For that specific job, the music is fine. The soundtrack is also an interesting example of the wide range of styles Holkenborg has mastered in his career, because on the album, you can hear sound design with many effects, a dance track, an emotional theme and a fantastic implementation of human vocals. While it is not a score I will listen to without watching the movie, I do think that this kind of score suits Holkenborg much better than orchestral ones.
Listen or buy
The highlights are in bold.
- Viva Las Vegas (From “Army Of The Dead” Soundtrack) (5:55)
- Scott and Kate Part 1 (5:24)
- Scott and Kate Part 2 (2:49)
- Scott and Kate Part 3 (4:42)
- Toten Hosen (3:56)
- Swimming Pool (1:05)
- Not Here (1:50)
- 3 Flares (4:42)
- Battle Hallway Part 1 (4:00)
- Battle Hallway Part 2 (6:41)
- Zeus and Athena Part 1 (3:17)
- Zeus and Athena Part 2 (4:14)
Total length: 48 minutes