Hans Zimmer, Henning
Lohner & Martin Tillman,
The Ring, The Ring Two
(Decca, 2005)

What do you get when you combine Hans Zimmer, blockbuster soundtrack composer, with Martin Tillman, crossover cellist with worldbeat tendencies? The Ring Soundtrack, covering both The Ring and The Ring Two, offers one answer to such a question: a dense, eerie, melodic, but ultimately uneven score.

Lacking any interest in horror films themselves, I nonetheless often like their scores, particularly when they are quietly spooky -- James Newton Howard's score for The Village, for example. Although less uniform in tone, The Ring manages pretty well for the first three quarters of the CD.

The opening piece, "The Well," encapsulates the first eight tracks. It begins with a quiet, melancholy piano melody that is repeated, slightly more menacingly, in strings before trailing off into tinny, antique music box notes. But it keeps going: the music box is replaced by an insistent, staccato, something-hungry-is-after-you sound more typical of horror soundtracks, which in turn fades into quieter melody and rises again into suspenseful riffs ... and so on. At over 11 minutes, "The Well" goes on a bit long and, given the many different themes and moods it encapsulates, could easily (and beneficially) have been divided up into several tracks. Still, it makes for interesting, evocative, often melodic listening.

Like "The Well," most of the subsequent seven tracks are a bit bipolar, flitting from soft, sustained strings and piano to near cacophony. Because the tracks are so eccentrically divided and all cover several of the same themes, they don't tend to stand out from each other, blending instead into a fairly cohesive whole. That's not to say that there aren't highlights; interesting percussion in "This is Going to Hurt" and the heartbeat-like pulse in "Not Your Mommy" heighten suspense, and most of the tracks feature beautiful string sequences that Tillman presumably had something to do with. Taken together, they are probably too sporadically noisy to make for comfortable background listening, but they certainly have spooky ambience in spades.

Track nine, "She Never Sleeps," is my favorite. It's a short, harder edged, almost Matrix-like version of one of the soundtrack's themes, and although different in mood than the previous tracks, would have been perfect as the concluding track of the CD. Unfortunately, it's the only such remix that really works; the three that follow it are fairly obnoxious and undo much of the atmosphere built up by the first nine tracks. With its disco beat and twangy electric guitar, "Let the Dead Get In" is an absurdly upbeat (and inappropriately named) reprise of "Shelter Mountain." The techno-driven "Seven Days" is downright cheesy, but no more so than the final track, "Television," which tries very hard to be metal ... and music boxy, at the same time.

Program your CD player to stop after "She Never Sleeps," and The Ring is a fine, if imperfect, horror flick soundtrack with enough melody to reward the casual listener.

by Jennifer Mo
26 August 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.