By Charlie Brigden
My first question when listening to Steven Price’s score to World War II movie Fury was whether or not I should ignore Gravity. Gravity was a great score that came out of nowhere, and excitingly provided us with another new composer with boatloads of talent. But it was a movie set in space that relied on the score like few other movies, as well as potentially being lightning in a bottle. What should I do?
The answer is that it’s impossible to ignore Gravity. Not because Fury isn’t a good score, and not because of the quality of Gravity‘s music, but simply because a lot of what made Gravity great is carried over here through Price’s stylistic choices. But obviously the scores don’t really require much comparison; being a war movie Fury‘s music is designed to fight with huge sound effects, explosions, mortars, machine gun fire. Like Gravity, there feels a blur of sound design in places but this can only be deliberate to make the score work with the sound to provide a more immersive experience.
To wit, Fury opens with with percussion that echoes automatic gunfire, and those big grinding electronics from Gravity acting as the machinery of war, particularly tanks (the title of the film is named after one of these). Yearning strings and big melody lines are brought in, but what’s also interestingly inserted is male chanting, something which becomes an integral part of the score in both male and female varieties. It’s a fascinating angle, and Price doesn’t just use them as many scores do to underline certain scenes – usually emotional – but instead they’re the voice of the war itself, as if some ancient battle is being recalled. The resulting effect is really powerful and a cornerstone of the score.
The way Price uses the instruments reflects the chaos of the situation, and the influence of violence and aggression. Strings saw through the guitar in ‘Ambush’, brass stabs while harsh voices chant in ‘The Beetfield’, with violin strokes moving furiously, but it’s not without introspection. ‘Emma’ has a beautifully tragic cello line, with male and female chants intertwined, and ‘Crossroads’ moves from distant wind and electronic distortion to male chanting being taken over by female. The female vocals act, albeit traditionally, as a calming influence, and like with Gravity, their importance to the score cannot be understated.
Also like Gravity, Fury has a brilliantly emotional climax using the female vocals, firstly ethereal with solo piano before building and building while being accompanied by strings. It’s a beautiful moment on an album surprisingly full of beautiful parts. Price has captured the fury of the war but also the voice of the lost and the haunted. Who knows what he’ll conjure up next.
Fury is out now from Varese Sarabande