James Horner teams up with Mel Gibson once again for another epic adventure, with this one being set much further back than that of "Braveheart." "Apocalypto" brings us a harsh vision of an ancient civilization, and specifically, the demise of it. The score had to be on par with the movie in authenticity and effectiveness. Based on the music alone, that may be the case but not from the listening experience I had.
To begin with, we hear the chirping birds that Horner used in "The New World" right on the first track. It sounds like the exact same background track. So without even a warmup lap, we're getting hit with his repetitive styles. Granted, it's a nice sound for the setting at hand, but it's too close to what was heard in Malick's film.
In any case, we move on. The score is essentially comprised of native instruments and dark patches of music that form a displeasing wedge. This is as tough a James Horner score to listen to as I think I've ever heard. The purpose seems to have been to establish a very raw, visceral sound that could represent the brutality captured in the film. To that end, it works on some level, though I never really felt any type of emotional response eminating from the score. Perhaps it didn't dig deep enough or maybe it was too blunt. Either way, there is little to find redeeming about it.
The listener is given a bit of a reprieve when the vocal solos are heard duing the score (by Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). These moments offer a bit of a connection from that ancient time to now and it's a welcome bridge. It also offers a glimmer of hope but it's scant; there is no drive for pleasantries here.
In the end, I was hoping for a far more mysterious, moving score than what is delivered by Horner. It should serve atmosphere of the movie well, but with a bit of imagination, we could have heard a musical tapestry befitting a rarely seen Mayan civilization.
This is a rare situation in which I recommend that even the biggest fans of this composer's work should avoid this score. In fact, I'll go one further -- I don't think a score album for this should have even been released. I'd be shocked if there were even a handful of fans who could dig the vibe and flow of the music from this soundtrack.
Final Score: Drearyand brutal, the music of "Apocalypto" should be heard only in the film itself and not on it's own.