Soundtrack Review: EMPEROR (Alex Heffes)

EmperorCDMusic composed by Alex Heffes
Label: Lakeshore Records
Catalog:  Digital Download
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Rating: ****

Buckinghamshire-born Alex Heffes is used to intricate stories and backdrops, he has worked in projects like IB, State of Play, Touching the Void and One Day in September. The story of Emperor deals with the question of whether or not the Japanese Emperor should be punished for his war crimes, taking into consideration that he is highly revered by the Japanese people. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee-Jones) assigns the expert in Japanese culture, General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), for the hard and ultimate task of determining the Emperor’s future. The film is based on the book His Majesty’s Salvation by Shiro Okamoto.

Although Heffes belongs to the new age of composers he would not be categorised as such, his style is way more classical than other contemporary composers such as Brian Tyler, Lorne Balfe and Paul Leonard-Morgan. The reason why two of the mentioned composers are Scottish is simply because Heffes has a very distinctive sound, that could be compared to great contemporary classical score composers that come from Scotland, such as Patrick Doyle and Craig Armstrong. Particularly, Heffes combines the effect of Doyle and the exposition of Armstrong but with a tad of sensibility.

On Emperor, due to the complex backdrop, Heffes employs the use of layers to give the notion that there is a rather more complex situation going on than the one at hand and in the future things can get even trickier. There is a lot of momentum and baroque beauty on “Opening Title” that does not present exactly the sort of strings one would expect for an opening track. Heffes pretty much expose the main ideas on  “Opening Title” that serves as a synthetical form of establishing  the sound palette and the approach to tell the story on his own perspective.

Percussions play a large role on moving the narrative forward and make an interesting counterpoint with pieces like “Tokyo 1940” that have a more dramatic and melancholic feel. “Nothing is Black and White” has a thriller-esque quality that could be easily put on a 1980’s noir film or fairly used on Blade Runner due to its varied dynamics. Dynamics is a feature ultimately well-explored by Heffes that tries to show things can change quite easily and so subtly that many people will not really notice how different they used to be. A good example is “Fellers and Aya” and its piano-cello mini-counterpoint.

Summing up, Alex Heffes created a very sophisticated score that can be essentially exciting every time you listen and you will be able to discover different nuances, instruments and perspectives every time you hear.

Track Listing:

1. Opening Title
2. Let’s Get It Done
3. Aya
4. The Investigation
5. Tokyo 1940
6. Nothing Is Black And White
7. Fellers And Aya
8. Trapped In A Vice
9. Rebellion
10. Time Is Running Out
11. The Imperial Palace
12. Reading The Letters
13. We Did Our Duty
4. Imperial Convoy
15. The Emperors Speech
16. End Title
17. Aya’s Theme Piano Solo

Total Time: 55:27

Atila Almeida

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