Anybody who saw "Wing Commander" in the theatres in early 1999 most likely had impressions on the music, regardless of what his or her views on the movie itself were. Whether you loved or hated the movie, the original score by David Arnold and Kevin Kiner is easily one of the greatest military orchestral albums ever.
David Arnold has previously composed such sci-fi movies as "Stargate" and "Independence Day". As a collaborator with Kevin Kiner, the two had worked together on the soundtrack to the television series "Stargate: SG 1". Arnold composed the themes, and Kiner composed the rest of the soundtrack.
Wing Commander OST opens with perhaps the greatest orchestrated track I've ever heard, the Wing Commander "Overture". A perfect piece of military music, it is epic in scale, with an opening flourish of bells, strings, blazing trumpets and horns, and deep, bass-filled drums. The energy of the composition is so intense and infective, it takes dramatic soundtracks to an all-time, inspirational high. The way it repeatedly builds up and slows down in its is mood is excellent, sparking visual recollection of the opening credits of during which it is played.
Another excellent track is "Torpedo Kilrathi". Completely enchanting, it starts out with very soft, building strings, bristling with unseen, seething energy. Then it kicks into overdrive, and the military style of trumpets and violins bomb-blasts through. The tension is built up and exploded outward, as the battle between the Kilrathi and the Tiger Claw rages. The mood turns from sinister to frightful, then frantic, with a flourish of percussion and blazing trumpets.
"Into the Quasar" is similarly astounding. Beginning with a deep gong and marching drums, it is joined by trumpets and strings that increasingly build in intensity. You can feel the danger approach as the music becomes more urgent, more impending and panic-filled in its composition, until, finally, there is a sudden pause in the music, filled by a synthesized beat, before all is safe. A victory flourish - a replay of the theme from the overture - along with light strings and chimes, end the song.
Stop for a minute. Did I just say "synthesized" a couple sentences ago? Yes, and although at first it may seem like a bad thing to put in synthesized music and sounds with an orchestra, in Wing Commander, Kevin Kiner and David Arnold integrate the seemingly opposite styles into one. A bit of synth is injected into almost every track on the CD, and it is done so well my brain usually never notices it.
Many of the themes (as mentioned, by David Arnold) are heard many times throughout the 37-minute long disc. Parts of the Overture are re-orchestrated and featured several times, and even though this cuts down on the actual amount of fresh material on the short disc, the Overture itself has been composed in such a way that it is very difficult to get tired of it.
The last three tracks on the CD have been my favorites as of late: "The Big Battle", "Kilrathi into Scylla", and "Big Damn Ending". The military battle music is intense. "Kilrathi into Scylla" is a rehash of sorts of "Into the Quasar", but given more orchestral intensity. It includes the pumping, electrical musical themes of defeat, destruction, and finally victory, with a blazing reprise of the Wing Commander Overture. "Big Damn Ending" is a short track, at 2:07, but it is also one of the best on the CD, with a soft opening and a blistering reprise of the Overture before a final dramatic close.
A lot of people may just dismiss this CD offhandedly, because of the movie. My suggestion would be to let go of any expectations or feelings you may have garnered, and listen to just the music itself. The fact that I can still write so enthusiastically about this CD, after playing it almost everyday for the last six months, is testament enough to the power of the compositions and arrangements. If you are in any way a fan of great orchestral works, then this is a must buy!