SHADOWBUILDER/Eckart Seeber/Keep Moving Records
TO THE ENDS OF TIME/Eckart Seeber/Keep Moving Records
“When God created light, the first shadow was born.”  Thus reads the tagline for SHADOWBUILDER, a 1998 American horror film, based on a Bram Stoker story and directed by former spfx specialist James Dixon, who made his directorial debut with this film.  The powerful, Gothically-infused score is the work of Austrian-born composer Eckart Seeber, whose earlier film works were providing new scores for Hong Kong action films ISLAND OF FIRE (2001) and LEGEND OF THE RED DRAGON (1994); he also served as a music editor on SPIDER MAN 2 (2004).  In the movie, a demon is summoned to take the soul of a young boy who has the potential to become a saint; by doing this he will open a doorway to hell and destroy the world.  Seeber was brought in late in the project, after a previous score had been rejected as unsuitable, giving the new composer barely six weeks to create and record a broad replacement score for large orchestra and choir.  The music’s large scale fits the Gothic stylism of the film and its quasi-religious focus on demonic warfare.  The choir accentuates the film’s religious notions, while the orchestral material gives a great sense of size and scope to the stakes present in the demon’s earth-shattering business.  It’s a thoroughly serious work in terms of its orchestral writing and instrumentation, and the effect of the choir on top of the symphony orchestra is thrilling indeed. This is large scale, Gothic fantasy scoring at its best.

The second score, released concurrently with SHADOWBUILDER, it’s also a wonderfully large scale orchestra/choral work, but with a much lighter tone.  Directed by former Hollywood prop master Markus Rothkranz, TO THE ENDS OF TIME (1996, TV) is an elaborate indie fantasy about a mystical kingdom where an evil witch takes over the control of time, and the young lad who is forced to grow up too soon in order to break the curse.  The label’s press release for this score describes it as “one of the most beautiful, thematically conscious fantasy scores of the last two decades and it’s just a shame it isn’t better-known,” and I’m inclined to agree with this assessment.  The score is brimful with sturdy, engaging themes, each constructed out of an immediately attractive melody line; some standing alone only for one cue, others forming significant anthems that will ride out the journey of the film.  Seeber’s main theme, associated with the heroes of the saga, emerges out of bristling choir of “Morlin Ships,” surging into a sparkling, uplifting horn melody decorated by a spiraling bunting of high woodwinds; it is reprised proudly in the cheer-worthy resonance of “Knighthood and Farewell;” and it concludes the soundtrack with wonderful vocal piece sung by soprano Christine Seeber (Eckart’s wife), which rises from the quietude of soft voice and solo piano accompaniment to the fully charged voice backed by full orchestra.  A secondary theme, an eloquently rousing assembly of horns and winds with muted timpani, is associated with the element of time in its various measures, and featured in “The Discovery of Time” and “The Fortune Told.”  
Seeber’s understanding of large symphonic form and classical orchestration is well in evidence on this score, like SHADOWBUILDER, is often reaches massive heights of striking drama and elegance, as in “The Clock is Ticking,” wherein the might of the choir is particularly affecting); the proud, galloping trumpet melody of “Through the Desert,” imbued with multiple snare drums, gathers to a wonderful crescendo midway through, followed by subdued and reflective comments by winds and horns; the stirring heraldic anthem of “Climbing the Clock” for choir and orchestra. There’s even a bit of comedic fun in “Loffo Rescues Stephanie.”  Much of the music hearkens intentionally back to the classic Golden Age style of Korngold, Steiner, and Rózsa (the latter, especially in the surging march “Gamarah,” which recalls that composer’s historical scores).   Seeber’s solo string writing is quite sublime, especially evidenced by a sumptuous “Love Theme” and the delicious fragility of “Stephanie’s Gift,” while his vibrant, paired trumpet arrangements in “Turning Back of Time” are dazzling.   

Both scores were recorded by the Ukrainian State Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of conductor Vladimir Sirenko, and have an impressive, large scale sonic dynamic that is well mastered in this album.  While the choir in SHADOWBUILDER was of the heavily chanted Orff variety, the choir here takes on a more victorious, elegant and heraldic nature.  Originally issued in part by Seeber’s own Sonovide label as promotional items, these new releases by KeepMoving Records contain the complete scores with about 20 minutes of previously unreleased music on each disc (newly mastered and mixed). Both CDs come in a handsome packaging with 12-page booklet featuring liner notes by Hungarian writer Gergely Hubai, discussing the creation of the films and the scores based on interviews with the directors and the composer.
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Source: | Author: Randall Larson