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Jóhann Jóhannsson: Why I Believe He Has Joined The Ranks of Zimmer & Morricone.

GeorgeTaylor GeorgeTaylor I have recently watched some of Denis Villeneuve's films; Sicario and Arrival most recently, and they have instantly jumped to my Top Movies of All Time list, along with the soundtracks for them, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

His Work

Jóhann has done other works I am aware, however, I believe his work for Arrival and Sicario are his masterpieces thus far. And I put these two forward as the pillars for why I think Jóhann has joined the ranks of cinematic movie composers of Zimmer and Morricone. I shall say, I am NOT saying he is better than Zimmer or Morricone, just that he has joined the ranks as one of the best Cinematic composers working.

Jóhann's scores and soundtracks for Arrival and Sicario are utterly sublime. I can not recall a movie soundtrack or score that I have heard in recent times that evokes such a sense of awe and amazement and captivation. As of writing this right now, I am listening to 'Arrival' from the album 'Arrival: Soundtrack', and every hair on my body is on end. The echoing musical element, that sounds like a whale to me, is utterly spine-chilling, euphoric and captivating. The other track that I find truly profound is 'First Encounter', a subtle and impending build up that combines awe and dread simultaneously; haunting and bellowing horns and additional sounds that encapsulate the moment perfectly. Again, I am listening to that track right now, and the sounds echo through every chasm and part of my body; musical and movie score perfection. I almost cannot breathe properly listening to these movie scores. (There are other scores that are incredible to Arrival

Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in "Arrival"
Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in "Arrival"

The score to Sicario is another testament to Jóhann's magnificent ability to convey the emotions and thoughts and sight of what is on screen, what the people on screen are likely feeling as well as the viewers. Sicario is a movie that revolves around fear, dread, deceit, and revenge. Throughout all the soundtracks to this magnificent movie, Jóhann's scores carry this across majestically and thoroughly. 'The Beast', 'The Border', 'Convoy', 'Night Vision' etc are just some examples. Each has an underlying drum beat to them, that carries on it the feeling of an impending ultimatum. They all build up a feeling of such dread, fear, angst, and emotion in the viewer, the likes of which I have never before come across, to be honest.

Benicio del Toro, Sicario
Benicio del Toro, Sicario

His Style

Obviously, I am not a world-renowned musician or music critic, I am merely offering an insight from an avid movie and music fan. And Jóhann's work has well and truly captivated me and in my view, has lifted him to the ranks of Zimmer and Morricone, not better, maybe as good, but his name should be mentioned amongst them.

From listening to his work on Sicario and Arrival to me, it seems as though he draws inspiration from African sounds. Tribal drums and instruments (such as in 'Heptopod B') orchestral sounds and wooden instruments, string-based instruments and deep, unsettling horns and bass, all combined, aid in conveying the emotions and thoughts of the current scene. These elements are both evident in Sicario and Arrival's soundtrack and if I had to choose one track from each album to play to someone that I believe encapsulates Jóhann's brilliance it would be 'First Encounter' from Arrival and 'The Border' from Sicario.


Some may disagree or agree, and that is both fine. I am not saying that Jóhann is better or equal to Zimmer and Morricone, yet. I believe he has joined the ranks, at this point in time, of those two. Time will tell whether or not we can truly classify him amongst those two. But given his current track record, for me, that seems like an inevitable occurrence.

Posted in Arrival,

GeorgeTaylor GeorgeTaylor

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