Let’s start out by clearing something up: I’m not a Mad Max: Fury Road fangirl. In fact, I was super late to the proverbial party and didn’t see the movie until well after its home release. Action movies just aren’t my thing—I only like movies where everyone dies of sadness or boredom.
My point is, I went into it thinking that it was going to be stupid garbage and I went out thinking it had an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Junkie XL did the score, so no surprise there. (If that name sounds familiar but you are having a hard time placing it on anything, he recently did the soundtrack for Deadpool as well as several other genre films and video games.) What was surprising, though, is that Mad Max: Fury Road took home took home six Academy Awards—but Best Original Score was not one of them.
In a film with minimal dialog and maximum ass-precariously-on-seat action, the soundtrack becomes a pivotal participant. And when a film is 90 percent driving huge trucks covered in spikes and razor blades and Gatling guns and a crafter’s-wet-dream supply of metallic spray paint, it would be easy for the score to become repetitive. Aggressive, driving percussion (yep, that there is a pun) dominates the music, but there is a healthy dose of strings to keep it feeling human. And isn’t that what the film is about, at the end of the day?
My favorite part of this soundtrack, hands down, is how it plays an active role in the movie and does not just serve as a backdrop. When discussing Fury Road with someone, they mentioned they didn’t like how over the top it was and used Coma-Doof Warrior and the drums on the rigs as an example. Coma, if you don’t remember, is the guy on bungee cords wearing his mother’s face and a onesie, wielding a flamethrowing guitar strapped to a truck.
Over the top? Okay, Coma may be that a bit—but it absolutely made sense for the War Boys to have a drum corps in their fleet. War drumming has been a thing since forever, and there is a good reason for it. Not only is it a way to boost adrenaline and morale, it is a way to give commands to a large number of people concisely. And when your military unit consists of a fleet of insane vehicles all driving 100 miles an hour, the ability to coordinate and synchronize becomes hyper important.
Watching sweeping shots of the vehicles rip by, drummers pounding away in “real time,” and hearing that folded into the music was incredibly effective. It added an element of viewer presence and intensity that would have been lacking otherwise.
The Fury Road soundtrack is a must-have for soundtrack collectors. Its brilliant use of vocals and strings keep it accessible without loosing its purpose as a battle anthem.
Mood: WITNESS ME
Highlights: “Brothers in Arms,” “Chapter Doof”
Final Score: 5 out of 5 Nobuo Uematsu Bandannas