Jerry Goldsmith is very much an 'on/off' composer, at his best his work is unmatched, at his worst his work is just operational. Luckly his work for The Ghost and the Darkness falls into the 'inspired' category. Not only was the film one of the most original projects of this decade, but Goldsmith's score for it is one of the most inspiring scores to come out in a long while. The score is blessed with a raw energy that is simply hard to put into words.
From the first track onwards it is very clear what Goldsmith is trying to achieve. Native drums are used with African and Indian chants to incredible effect, with full orchestral backing. The main theme is very memorable in a playful kind of way and it is used extensively throughout the score, even for darker moments. There are hints of Indian as well as Irish influences in the score and Goldsmith also uses electronic effects for the more frightening moments of the score; the effect that sounds like a lion breathing is especially effective. The score's raw energy and power stem from such chanting as found in "The Bridge"; when combined with a full orchestra these chants exhibit a greatness found in few other scores.
The music focuses on building tension and excitement, as aided by constant chanting. The horror, when it comes, will make the hair on your body stand upside down. Drums start beating wildly, there are outbursts of timpani and in the background, and muted chants signify danger. Anyone who has seen the film will know just how dominant the music is to the whole experience.
The last five tracks are native traditional chants and have nothing to do with the film itself. I intially welcomed the inclusion of these chants with open arms, but unfortunately many of the chants have western pop trappings which takes something away from the traditional experience. Nonetheless, they are a nice bonus and certainly don't inhibit the Goldsmith experience.
I cannot imagine better themes and orchestrations for a movie about man-eating lions... The Ghost and the Darkness is a breathtaking score. And, like many other Goldsmith scores, the last track builds to a huge orchestral finale, that, with the drums and chants, is as impressive as ever.