TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Score Running Time: 70 mins 51 secs

mean guns soundtrack cover

reveiw by Daniel Schweiger
Film Music Magazine
Albert Pyun arguably never had it better than when he made his visually splashy directorial debut thirty years ago with "The Sword and the Sorcerer," a film that energetically personified the wackier excesses of that titular 80′s genre. One element that made "Sword's" low budget a virtue was a powerful score by David Whitaker (available on Buysoundtrax), whose rousing music impressed, even when the playing of it didn't. Flash-forward now to the "Sorcerer's" sorta follow-up "Tales of an Ancient Empire," which takes on said kingdom with even far fewer shekels. But at the least, let it not be said that longtime Pyun composing collaborator Tony Riparetti ("Mean Guns") hasn't successfully given his all towards putting musical production value into this intended epic. Howlin' Wolf continues its love for the Pyun efforts of this underrated composer with one of his best works, perhaps made all the more powerful by the fact that Riparetti didn't have the London Philharmonic at his disposal. The sound of ancient instruments jams with voices, powerful action and evocative atmosphere that certainly conjure a mythical kingdom in the listener's imagination. Even with the cues taking on surprisingly long quests of running time, Riparetti always keeps the music interesting by combining a modern ethnic action sound with the feeling of an older, adventurous sound. But what really puts metal into this "Kingdom" are Riparetti's rocking guitar passages. It's certainly fitting that Kevin Sorbo is the lead actor here, as "Empire" succeeds best as a fun flashback to the late Joel Goldsmith's underrated heavy metal n' orchestra score to "Kull the Conqueror," a combination of thrash and fantasy stylings that one again proves here that musical resourcefulness, talent and a rock background are the three best blades of all.

review by Steven A. Kennedy
Film Score Monthly OnLine
Howlin' Wolf Records continues its stream of recent releases featuring Tony Riparetti's scores for older Albert Pyun films. Each has had its unique genre connection, from sci-fi (Cyborg) to crime drama (Mean Guns), and now we are presented with a sword-and-sorcerer epic, and a very recent one at that. Tales of an Ancient Empire (2010) marks something of a return to Pyun's roots, as his first film was the cult favorite The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982). Here Kevin Sorbo is a character distantly related to the one played by Lee Horsley (Matt Houston), who returns as the character Talon in this belated sequel. Tony Riparetti, Pyun's most-used composer, is on hand to provide musical support. (David Whitaker, who scored the 1982 film, passed away earlier this year.)

The opening track "Old Guys Rule" has a percussive drive reminiscent of an Asian-fu film, with melodic lines that similarly suggest that cultural landscape. The rhythmic syncopations both in the percussion and instrumental stabs come across like mix of techno, Brad Fiedel electronics, and Jerry Goldsmith (think Total Recall). Guitar and orchestral rock appear in "Three-Bladed Weapon," and this kind of mix of metal and percussion carries the bulk of the underscore.

In some respects this all leads to an aural blend of what one might expect from a high-end TV series or mid-grade video game score. That may sound like faint praise, but considering the film itself, Riparetti's score is likely the best thing to come from it. "Our Kingdom Needs Us Know" is reminiscent of something out of Gladiator—minus the vocalizations, though chanting does show up later in the album during "On the Beach" and "I'm Called Aedan."

This score differs from most electronic and/or sample-heavy music on a number of levels. First, Riparetti doesn't incessantly loop his percussion. Second, when samples are used they are "performed" realistically and used sparingly. Third, once these ideas start on their way, they do not remain in one harmonic area forever.

Along with the previous two Howlin' Wolf releases, the present album, limited to 500 copies, offers an ever-expanding window into the breadth of Tony Riparetti's abilities as a film composer. These scores, created many years apart, also show how far the electronic tools of the industry have come. A song, "Heart of Stone," performed by Pete Murray, rounds off the Ancient Empire disc.