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Howard Shore strikes again with another astounding score - but gone are the hills and dales of the Shire. In the darkest soundtrack yet, Bilbo Baggins and friends are deep into their relentless quest... but where there is a Hobbit, there is always hope.
With a company of dwarves and a Hobbit burglar, Thorin Oakenshield seeks to retake Erebor. The music (and the film) are darker than before, with a greater sense of danger. Still, the familiar 'Lord of the Rings' tune shines through in the first track on the album. Photo: Facebook
The pulsing rhythm of the low strings propels the drama forward in this most epic of soundtracks, where the threat of attack is always round the corner. Photo: Facebook
It doesn't come much more disconcerting than using magic to communicate with the dead - and Howard Shore captures this terrifying atmosphere in the booming brass and ominous strings of this track. Photo: Facebook
Continuing in the darker vein, this track is dissonant and frightening, packed full of mournful, angular sounding cello tunes. In the film, Mirkwood exerts a strong hallucinogenic influence over anyone who travels through, represented here in the music by the creepy sounding waterphone. Photo: Facebook
High-pitched strings, clashing chords, long held notes - the clue's in the title with this uncomfortable sounding insect-inspired piece. Howard Shore uses a series of cluster chords throughout the soundtrack to represent the spiders - and this isn't the last we'll hear from them. Photo: Facebook
Almost relentlessly sinister, The Woodland Realm uses exotic instruments including a tabla and a frame drum to conjure an 'other-worldly' feel to the music, first heard in the prologue to An Unexpected Journey.
The mellow sound of a cor anglais, an oboe, and a delicate flute bring a different soundworld into this peaceful track, topped off with an ethereal solo voice.
Bard the Bowman is represented by an athletic brassy theme, which sounds similar to the music from the Erebor theme: it's all part of a device used by Howard Shore to show Bard might be sympathetic to the Dwarves.
Combining the haunting solo voice with the spindly spider music, the music in The High Fells never fails to surprise and confuse. It's impossible to know what might happen next - as the music is interrupted by rushing strings or unexpected horns with no warning.Photo: Facebook
Not as uplifting as its title might suggest, this track is full of pulsing strings and angry French horns. It may be another example of Howard Shore's darker music, but it still has a folky edge.
Kicking off the second of two discs, Howard Shore combines cheery Lord of the Rings-style folky hues with short, brusque tunes in a minor key to create an unsettled mood to the music. Photo: Facebook
Long ago, Girion, Lord of Dale, attempted to defend the people of Esgaroth from Smaug the dragon. The Dale is now desolate and bleak - represented by Howard Shore's gloomy music. Photo: Facebook
A mournful cry from the lower strings, matched by booming brass chords; the loss and destruction felt by the community is clear in the music.
It's the turn of a plaintive French horn to inject a sense of pathos and loss into the music, before rushing strings take over the tune - it's time for action, and there's a sense of optimism in the music. Photo: Facebook
Eerie and unexpected, Howard Shore makes use of the spidery strings once again - it's some of his most threatening music yet. Photo: Facebook
After the teeth-on-edge drama of A Spell of Concealment, it's time for a moment of reflection once more as the music becomes more relaxed and optimistic.
It's back! The Shire theme first heard in Lord of the Rings starts this movement, before transforming into music that's altogether more serious. It's a reflection of how far the hobbits have come since they left the Shire - physically and emotionally. Photo: Facebook
Time is running out - and it's clear in the music, which uses chimes and bells to sound like a clock, combined with the spidery music from before to add to the sense of urgency and drama.
A fine example of Howard Shore's string music here, heard so often throughout the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film soundtracks. It's a return to peaceful music and beautiful harmonies, as a solo voice pierces magically through the texture once more. Photo: Facebook
With a title like A Liar and a Thief, it's not a surprise that this track is characterised by its unexpected twists and turns. The invasion of the battle drums adds yet another reason to feel uneasy.
Smaug's power is nearly beyond reckoning, and his music tells the same story. Howard Shore uses unusual orchestral instruments including a dizi flute and a bass oboe to add a sense of unusual dark magic to the score.
Bilbo and his companions mean business - and it's never clearer than in this booming track. The forging of the iron armour is even represented by the metallic clang of percussion instruments added to the orchestra.
Ed Sheeran adds an unusual dimension to the album with this intimate song, accompanied by guitar. It's a delicate start, opening with Sheeran singing unaccompanied: "Oh misty eye of the mountain below, keep careful watch of my brother's soul...."