The dust hasn’t yet settled on the debate about Game of Thrones‘ final season, but to me there is a certain irony to the fact that the one thing that everyone can agree on is that the score by Ramin Djawadi totally delivered. Finally, after several seasons of trying, it all seemed to click into place. I have all the season soundtracks for GOT, and other than isolated moments I’ve really struggled with them. They seem to represent that Media Ventures/modern Hollywood approach to scoring, in which the music has always been supportive and mood-inducing, part of the sound effects ‘landscape’ as opposed to what I’d describe as ‘proper’ scoring such as, say, Jerry Goldsmith would produce. Beyond what has become a very successful and somewhat iconic main theme, most of the music seems to slew away from leitmotifs and big, bold musical scoring- its fine and is exactly what the show’s producers wanted, I’m sure, but over the years I’ve always wondered what it would have been like had, say, Bear McCreary gotten the gig. McCreary’s Battlestar Galactica scores are huge and emphatic and complex and as richly deep as Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings scores. Indeed, McCreary’s ongoing scores for Outlander perhaps indicate closest what his take on Game of Thrones might have been like.
Anyway, I’m sure fans of Djawadi and GOT are ready to attack me already for daring to suggest his scores were lacking. Sure, each season had its standout moments and I’ve made a few in-car compilations over the seasons over the years that work just fine but really, although it’s a stylish intention that is in some ways reflected by Djawadi’s scoring for Westworld, Fringe and Person of Interest too, I really think GOT deserved more. It was always more of a musical wash that lacked the thematic complexity it really deserved.
Well, I’m pleased to finally say that with season eight, Djawadi delivered and did his part. Although the series comprised of only six episodes, the album producers deemed it fit to make this release a two-disc set (available digitally only at present with the physical release due shortly) offering about two hours of score, and I have to say, there’s very little redundancy here, it’s all pretty great. Most will be familiar with his The Night King track, a near nine-minute opus that was put on Youtube and social media following the third episodes airing, and which accompanied that episodes climactic moments. Its a piece of music heavily indebted to Light of the Seven from season six, and in that sense is a little disappointing as its maybe lacking a little originality, but it works very well in the episode and represents a kind of scoring the show didn’t really revel in, in which the music really takes the lead and carries the moment. In a way, much of this season’s music is like that, in that it reprises much of the better musical moments of the seven seasons before and brings them to a kind of thematic peak. So it’s familiar but more, somehow. A GOT greatest hits, maybe.
Its telling, mind, that some of the best music on the album (choral tracks in particular, like Not Today, or Stay a Thousand Years), is either material not used in the series or instead only featured during end-credits, maintaining the series crushing tendency to leave the music as supportive background rather than in a leading role that might draw attention to itself.
If someone has never listened to or bought any of the GOT soundtrack albums over the years, I’d say this one makes the rest redundant, with most of the themes reprised or represented in some way, and it manages to form a cohesive whole musically as a listening experience whereas earlier albums might have felt lacking.