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Revolt (2017)

“It’s gonna shred,” Bear McCreary said in his Facebook post about the upcoming album release for his newest film score, Revolt. The electric guitar, electronic, and industrial-toned score to the alien invasion film starring Lee Pace is yet another sonic style in the composers ever increasing repertoire. Looking just at his 2017 output, we have the jazzy Rebel in the Rye, orchestral Colossal, the horror film Happy Death Day, and now the metal/industrial Revolt. Rocketing to popularity with his unique and memorable score for Battlestar Galactica, Bear McCreary’s career since then has been anything but cookie cutter. He has yet to produce a score that sounds like a previous one, while at the same time has his own “McCrearyisms” that identify scores as his own (I don’t think that’s a term yet, but we’re going to use it anyway). Battlestar Galactica showcased the composer’s skill at both melodic writing and rhythmic elements. His newest score for Revolt is less melody and more rhythm and tone in composition.

Revolt is a small-scale alien invasion film in the same vein as District 8, Monsters, and The Darkest Hour, here with a more Battle: Los Angeles style following a group of soldiers through war torn Africa. The main theme opens with an 80s, TRON-like synth rhythm that, like McCreary’s Walking Dead main theme, has a hiccup in the rhythm. But instead of a soaring theme coming in over top, harsh electric guitars and percussion take front and center. A cool guitar solo comes in over beats and rhythms at the end of the main theme, not unlike some of his other main titles, beginning with a moving string line, theme, then building layers of orchestration, but here it’s all synth and electric guitars. In a way, it’s an anti-theme. The moving synth beat line ends up being the main thematic element in addition to the rhythm. Yet at the same time, it is as catchy as any of his other main “themes”.

While McCreary has never gone quite this far into the metal, industrial tones that Revolt brings to bear, he has used elements of harsh electric guitars previously. This musical style first entered Battlestar Galactica in the form of “All Along the Watchtower”, McCreary’s version of the Dylan/Hendrix song that developed into the theme for the Final Five, coming back throughout the rest of seasons 3 and 4 in the electric guitars. He also brought a chugging guitar rhythm into the Battlestar Galactica follow-up film The Plan in the epic “Apocalypse” cue, where it also provided more of a rhythmic element than a melodic one. However, the 80s-arcade synth rhythm featured in Revolt is new. Fortunately, it comes back in a number of the score cues besides just the main theme. In “Poachers” it plays over electronic percussion, serving again as the major melodic element. It comes back in “Stampede” in a heavily upped beat that’s so fast I missed it the first time, and again as a quieter beat pattern in “Underground”. The penultimate 7-minute cue, “EMP”, is the last to feature it as both a somewhat subtle background rhythm and major statement toward the end, providing the core of the second half of the cue. This cue, along with “An Awesome American Car” also feature some very fun synth patterns and you can tell McCreary had fun with this unusual score.

The Revolt score does not build to a rewarding finale the way his stunning Colossal score does, and in a lot of ways this score is the entire opposite. Colossal builds slowly with a thematic payoff at the end like Michael Giacchino’s Super 8. The final starts with an acoustic guitar rhythm, adding in orchestral elements like a moving string line and brass until the full orchestra engages. Revolt instead remains more of a sonic constant, maintaining the harsh, industrial and rhythmic soundscape throughout. Much of the album’s cues are harsh or droning electronics, but McCreary is able to work in some of his unique flares and interesting musical ideas. It is not his best score by far, but he makes it more of an interesting listen than a generic score for such a film might warrant. It is a far departure from the soundscapes McCreary usually goes for, and that’s a good thing.

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