If there’s been one constant in this site right from the beginning it’s been my love for the film Conan the Barbarian and it’s equally great orchestral score that was composed by the very underappreciated film composer Basil Poledouris. Sure, everyone loves John Williams and rightly so. Then there’s the inexplicable love and worship of Hans Zimmer. Zimmer does some good, and sometimes, great work, but his overall work all tends to sound the same.
Basil Poledouris, on the other hand, seem to have been pushed to the sidelines despite creating some very iconic pieces of film scores in his lifetime. The peak of which will always be the orchestral score he composed for John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian.
I’ve chosen some key pieces from this soundtrack throughout the years. From the Carmina Burana inspired “Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom”to the rousing “Anvil of Crom” intro all the way to the melancholy and introspective “Orphans of Doom/Awakening”. I think in time every piece of music from this score will make it onto this site. That is just how great this soundtrack from start to finish really has become. Even it’s weakest moments have elements of to them that make them stand out from the latest Zimmer.
Today, it shall be the section of the score for the film that accentuates Conan’s decision to take on a quest that will finally bring him to the very warlord who destroyed his people and killed his family: “The Leaving/The Search”.
For the latest song of the day I couldn’t make up my mind on which of the two I had picked I should post so I decided to just treat the two as a pair thus the latest “song of the day” is, for today, “songs of the day”. Once you hear what I had chosen you will realize why they had to be together.
The latest song of the day is from film score composer Basil Poledouris and comes from his best work and what many consider as one of the best film scores ever put up on the big-screen. They are “Anvil of Crom” and “Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom” from Poledouris’ score for Conan the Barbarian. These two pieces, especially from the Varese Sarabande release of the soundtrack, form the very powerful introduction to the Hyperborean world that Conan inhabits.
“Anvil of Crom” starts off the film and does it with such a bombastic combination of timpani drums setting the rhythm with French horns (a massive 24 in total) keeping up to speed with some very strong brass work. This intro to the film has become synonymous with the film and has become famous for being used by other filmmakers to score trailer for their own films. While the piece is just under 3 minutes in length the power of the sound Poledouris creates helps set the tone for the rest of the film and what audiences should expect.
Following up “Anvil of Crom” is what will turn out to be the motifs for the two main characters in the film. “Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom” comes in in a peaceful manner which builds up to become Conan’s theme. This is the riddle of steel of the tracks title. But this doesn’t last long as “Riddle of Steel” is suddenly joined by the more orchestral and doom-laden sound of “Riders of Doom” which will forever become the theme for Conan’s nemesis, Thulsa Doom. This second track bears a significant resemblance to Carl Orff’s own orchestral masterpieces, “Carmina Burana”. While there’s still a few people out there who thinks that Poledouris cheated somewhat in using Orff’s work as too much of a guide I would have to disagree. Poledouris might have used “Carmani Burana” as a template but the overall execution and final product stands on its own and have become one of the most iconic piece of film music ever heard.
When listened to back-to-back it would come to no suprise why the two had to be picked together. “Anvil of Crom” and “Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom” belong together and should be listened together. Everytime I listen to it I instantly imagine times of high adventure and lands long-forgotten by the march of time.