"Michael Kamen may or may not be a genetic mutant. But as
far as Iím concerned, the ease with which he demolishes
stylistic boundaries defines him as a freak. The Kamen oeuvre,
which ranges from arrangements for Metallica to neo-classically
inspired scores like X-Men, unequivocally posits him among that
rare breed of musicians who donít merely wish there were no
barriers between genres, but ignore them as easily as a kid with
a comic book ignores the press of dull reality.
On the surface, the X-Men score might not suggest a composer
with one foot firmly in pop pond. There are no cheap
ear-grabbers; no instantly memorable melodies or hummable motifs.
But you donít team up with Bryan Adams for Oscar-nominated,
radio-hugging ballads of the Everything I Do and Have You Really
Ever Loved a Woman ilk without an overly-developed pop
sensibility, and while Kamen is clever enough to embody it in
sophisticated orchestration, his sense of entertainment value is
Tense and menacing string arrangements can be terrific mood
definers, without being engaging of their own accord. But
Kamenís ominous orchestrations, even isolated from cinematic
substance, donít simply evoke an ambience, they set the
table and lay out a ravishing banquet for the ears.
Commencing with an oscillating piano figure that is as brief
as it is unsettling, the macabrely titled opening cue, Death
Camp, soon engulfs us in the menacing shadows of its dark and
edgy strings. Then midway through, the stark atmospherics erupt
in a terrible cacophony.
This is the nature of the entire soundtrack. There are
surprises lurking on the other side of every chord and cadence.
Frenzies of ascending scales, disjointed brass phrases, waves of
strings Ė sustained and pulsing, fanfares and timpani, and
an amalgam of classical orchestration and electronic rhythms (a
sometimes perilous venture Ė it doomed Morriconeís
Mission To Mars) that is utterly absorbing.
Devotees of comic-book culture would have us believe that
their fetish deserves to be regarded as serious art. When it
inspires music like this, Iím inclined to agree."
(August 30, 2000)