There's no denying the effectiveness of John Frizzell's score
for orchestra and synthesiser in the fourth of the Alien series,
unless you're Variety's Todd McCarthy, who strangely found it the
only weak aspect. The music makes a major contribution to the
palm-sweating capacities of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's thriller,
provoking all the adjectives you'd hope to be able to apply to an
Alien score - tense, dark, edgy, disturbing, thrilling,
otherworldy and intense among them.
Whether or not it's too intense for ready listening on CD is
debatable. Certainly the sombre opening minutes, with their odd
touch of cloudy atonality (supremely effective in a Gyorgy
Ligeti-2001 way) are easier to assimilate than the sonic hysteria
that takes over as H.R Giger's acid-drooling monsters go
comprehensively ape. Manic, repeated riffing is the go here,
massive orchestral blocks of sound wielded as if in an attempt at
smashing the listener into submission. It's enough to make
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring sound like Handel (and if you really
want to test that proposition, a song from Handel's Julius Caesar
sung by Maureen Forrester is included as the fourth track).
But then it's safe to assume that anyone buying an Alien
soundtrack is prepared for a full-blooded experience. And
intensity is always preferable to insipidness. My only grumble is
with the recording quality, which doesn't do full justice to the
richness of the musical resources.