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Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight
by Karl Preusser

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

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Dragonlance:  Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Soundtrack) by Karl Preusser

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Composed by Karl Preusser
Lakeshore Records (2008)

Rating: 7/10

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“While the video itself will likely languish in obscurity, without a doubt, the score for DRAGONLANCE: DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT is one of biggest surprises of the first half of 2008. ”

Never Laugh at Animated Dragons
Review by Christopher Coleman


The Dragonlance franchise has been around almost as long as Dungeons and Dragons. This particular world of the fantasy genre was first opened up by Laura and Tracey Hickman with their book DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT. From that were spawned nearly 200 novels, board games and video games. After decades of decent popularity with the D&D faithful, the world of DRAGONLANCE came to video in January 2008.

The animated feature, DRAGONLANCE: DRAGONS OF AUTUMN'S TWILIGHT was certainly shy of the sort of resources that many animated features get today, including those made for television or direct-to-video projects. Unfortunately, the producers were unable to hide this fact and as a result DRAGONLANCE is going to be, for most adults, a very difficult thing to watch. While children, who simply love anything animated, may find this presentation entertaining, most will find ample opportunity to cringe: whether it be from awkward 3D animated characters, stilted writing, uncomfortable, American accented-characters (forgive the stereotype, but British or some European accent is a must for these types of productions), or the painful combination of the lot. These were some of the most difficult 90 minutes of viewing I have had in years. If I were a drinking man, this would have been a much more enjoyable experience playing a Lord of the Rings Reference Drinking Game while watching. All of that negativity spouted, one thing the producers did do right - they hired composer KARL PREUSSER to lay down the musical score. It was Preusser's surprisingly robust score that convinced me to give them film itself a shot. Sadly, not even the composer's dynamic score could lift this feature off the ground, but as a stand-alone experience, DRAGONLANCE proves to be a surprisingly entertaining listen.

I can only imagine the difficulty the creators of this animated feature faced. It's painfully clear that they try to introduce the overall mythos of DRAGONLANCE, the many main characters, and tell a complete story in about 90 minutes. The end result is a rather thin experience as the audience isn't given enough time to truly understand the key dynamics of the world or feel connected to the vast array of characters introduced. Playing behind all of this "disconnectedness" is KARL PREUSSER's score and itself seems very disconnected to the imagery and story. The clear affect on the score of packing so much into so little time is that KARL PREUSSER had to pack a ton of motifs and themes for locations and characters into that same container. Additionally, few of the sequences in the film allow for a piece of music to convey one atmosphere or mood for very long - a fact of which is reflected in the tracks included on Lakeshore's soundtrack release. In the end, KARL PREUSSER's score for DRAGONLANCE: DRAGONS OF THE AUTUMN TWILIGHT plays like a sampler from a much bigger body of work - teasing the listener or attempting to remind of themes and motifs which were introduced in some non-existent, previous effort.

If we look at just some of Preusser's themes, we hear his talent come shining through. In track 1, "Dragonlance Main Title" we get a very bold brass fanfare and the introduction of female vocalists, which he uses quite often throughout the score. It's a decent theme, but the vocals seem to lack the strength and force one would want for this tale. The addition of a strong, male choir would have beefed things up considerably. Prominent vocals can be found throughout. In "Dragonarmies" (2) we hear a solo vocalist with wordless vocals a la Lisbeth Scott's performance on LAIR. In this same track we also hear Gregorian-chant as well as in "Monks/ Draconian Ambush" (12). Onee of the more attractive melodies is found for Fizban ("Fizban's Tale" (3)). This happens to also be one of the track rarities that flows from one segment to the next without a jarring transition in tempo or style. The Fizban motif crops up a time or two later as well (Track 9, 19). "The Inn of the Last Home" (7) is a brief track that evokes a bit of a Hobbiton-like feel; a feeling that is developed further in the succeeding track, "The Circle is Broken/ Blue Crystal Staff (8). For the story's main villain a very declamatory statement is made in "I Will Have that Staff!" (11). The six-note theme finds its boldest performance here and doesn't make significant appearance again until we reach the climactic moments of the film.

Perhaps the very best moments in DRAGONLANCE: DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT come in the action sequences. As I mentioned earlier, many of the tracks change mood and tempo several times within a given piece and among them are engaging action segments. "Takhisis and Verminaard" (4), "Darken Wood" (14), Xak Tsaroth/ Bupu (17) are al tracks which contain significant and evocative segments of action-score. Tracks such as "Escape from the Inn" (9), "Elven Rescue" (10), and the finale "The Battle of Pax Tharkas" parts 1 and 2 (27, 28), exemplify Preusser's true musical prowess for extended action as well. "The Battle of Pax Tharkas" boldly restate many of the main themes of the score; weaving them together and presenting them in two of the longest tracks of the release and bringing the soundtrack to a rousing apex. Admittedly, there seems to be a slight fragility in the brass section when it comes to some of the higher notes, but overall, these pieces are well performed and further kudos are deserved by Preusser and conductors Charles Olivieri-Munroe and Richard Hein for eeking out every ounce of power and feeling the orchestra and choir had to offer.

While the video itself will likely languish in obscurity, without a doubt, the score for DRAGONLANCE: DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT is one of biggest surprises of the first half of 2008.   Upon your first listen, you, like myself, may proceed from to track to track bracing yourself for the inevitable cringe that comes from listening to a poorly written, poorly executed piece. Such cautious listening is to be expected for smaller projects like DRAGONLANCE. Most of the time, we do well to eek out one or two enjoyable themes from a project like this, but this score offers much, much more. It's likely that you may reach the end of this soundtrack without experiencing that dreaded cringe even once.  DRAGONSLANCE is unexpectedly eclectic, featuring contemporary orchestral styles and even middle-eastern flairs, but the score's stronger influences stem from the Celtic, medieval and renaissance music. There are enough motifs to feast upon for even the heartiest motif-mongers out there. This soundtrack is one that can stealthily work its way into your "favorites list," provided you give it a chance. KARL PREUSSER has done a truly admirable job. 
 

Rating: 7/10

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Dragonlance (Main Title) 1:14  ***
2 Dragonarmies 1:43  ****
3 Fizban's Tale 2:20  ****
4 Takhisis and Verminaard 1:40  ****
5 Homecoming 2:12  ***
6 Tasslehoff & Flint 0:38  ***
7 The Inn of the Last Home 1:40  ****
8 The Circle is Broken/ Blue Crystal Staff 3:32  ***
9 Escape from the Inn 2:39  ****
10 Goldmoon & Riverwind/ Campfire 2:22  ***
11 I Will Have That Staff! 0:49  ***
12 Monks/ Draconian Ambush 3:53  ***
13 Sturm is Healed 0:52  ****
14 Darken Wood 2:58  ***
15 Forestmaster/ Pegasus Ride 4:23  *****
16 Fall of the Que Shu 1:22  ****
17 Xak Tsaroth/ Bupu 2:05  ****
18 Onyx's Lair 4:31  ****
19 The Resurrection of Goldmoon 2:25  *****
20 Returning to Solace 0:52  ***
21 Elven Rescue 2:07  ****
22 Qaulinesti Hymn 1:14  ****
23 Speaker of the Sun 2:14  ***
24 Tanis and Laurana 1:44  ****
25 Sla Mori 2:21  ***
26 Flamestrike 1:44  ***
27 The Battle of Pax Tharkas Pt. 1 4:15  ****
28 The Battle of Pax Tharkas Pt. 2 5:42  *****
29 Wedding/ Kitiara 1:18  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 67 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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