Michael Kamen seems to want to be the heavy metal conductor. First, he gets together with Metallica for the hair-brained idea that became S & M; now we have all sorts of bands pairing up with symphonies. Deep Purple, I could understand; the Scorpions I can't. (Memo to Kamen: I don't hold you to blame for Metallica; they haven't put out a good album now in a decade.)
Now, Kamen appears as the composer and conductor for X-Men, the long-awaited film based on the comic book series. Mixing traditional symphonic structure with the almost industrial crunch of electric guitar might fit the action in the film, but it sure wreaks havoc on the eardrums of the casual listener.
First, an admission: Not only have I not seen the movie, but I have no plans on seeing the movie. (When the kids in the neighborhood were reading these comic books, I was engrossed in Uncle Scrooge and Richie Rich.) But I will give Kamen this much credit: more often than not, the listener can get an idea of what is happening in the movie based on the energy level and the volume of the music being played.
This particular soundtrack, even at a comparatively short 40 minutes, sometimes feels like it's three times as long. It takes far too long for the excitement to build on this project -- and even there, it's a concept that's introduced on "Ambush" and brought to fruition only on the next track, "Mutant School." With a film such as this, you'd almost expect the soundtrack to be bristling with excitement and energy from the get-go. Instead, the opening portion is rather dreary.
There are some decent moments on X-Men, coming in the form of the rhythmically powerful "Train" and the disc's closer "Logan And Rogue." But what is surprising, and almost unforgivable, is that the pieces which scream out for an intense performance, such as "Museum Fight" and "Final Showdown," only serve to let down the listener.
Maybe sticking to a totally traditional orchestra would have been disastrous for this soundtrack -- but the mixture of traditional and industrial doesn't work nearly as well as one would hope. Quite possibly this would have been a better disc overall had the soundtrack included works from some of the genre's top acts. If I read correctly, the producers simply ran out of time. This is one project I would have demanded that the calendar be opened up for, if only to keep something half-baked from hitting the streets.
There are, of course, the diehard fans of both X-Men and Kamen, and both will swear up and down that this disc is a masterpiece. For the rest of us, this one is an easy one to pass up.