Eight Below

Mark Isham

" 8 Dogs, 1 savior: Paul Walker or Mark Isham - You pick "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

It has been an impressive maneuver by Mark Isham. He who wasn't loved at all by fans is making a charm offensive, to gain what he so desperately deserves. Respect. With The Cooler, Crash, Miracle and Racing Stripes, he has come awfully close in gaining your heart too right? And so it was incomprehensible that Running Scared (a typical of the mill thriller score) received air time on CD while an interesting adventure score as Eight Below didn't!

Well, it was available through Itunes, but not all people have either an I-pod or a computer to download this. So eyebrows were raised when this was announced. Either way, it's commercially available, the only question is, is it worth it? For a Mark Isham completist naturally since it's not a genre he so frequently traverses. Is it worth it considering we've heard his most impressive adventure family scores by late namely Fly Away Home and Racing Stripes? Well yes because it's not one of those 2 at all. Mark Isham's Eight Below is different! It doesn't capture the big main theme, it doesn't cover the many racing orchestral footnotes and it surely isn't up there if you compare it with Flying Away Home. But it does have a story to tell, and may I present my version of it?

Once upon a time there was a film that covered a true tale of 8 dogs, crossing over Antarctica to reunite with their master, who had to leave them behind. Their dangers, their heroic measures were all accompanied by Mark Isham, a composer who began to show what he had in store. With "Eight Below Overture" he has in store the main theme, which is a nice heroic flourish of brass. This theme doesn't repeat itself that much in the score, only in "The Journey Begins / The Crevasse" and a couple of other tracks. So there isn't a main theme laden trail to follow, but it does have other perks. The mysterious piano and guitar quirkiness shines in "The Search" while "The Rescue" shouts out great brass suspense in a rhythmic Matrix delight. This is experienced even more in "Pulling Through", where a darker version of the theme suddenly gets sucked into strong suspenseful brass.

And so we continue. A playful relieve is found in "Fifteen Days", the rhythmic brass in "Bird Doggin" is catchy and the spiritual "Southern Lights" is magical through its web of piano (of the theme), trumpets and exotic instruments. While the soft flutes in "The Dogs who Saved my Daddy" calm you at ease, "Leopard Seal" scares you to death with its attacking brass and uneasy strings. But what a thrill ride it is.

The playful sub theme returns on guitar in "The Lamborghini of Snow Cats", which is a true delight. Furthermore, the emotional "Black Ice" is reflected by its piano and strings, "Almost Perfect" grows from solemn piano to a brassy main theme in heroic fashion, and in "My Best Girl" and "Eight Below End Credits" the theme shines even more.

There you have it, Eight Below is a fairytale of emotions, whether sad or exciting. But Isham surely makes it once more interesting through a diverse and lovely orchestral score. It's especially pleasing that Isham continuously swaps moods, from emotion to excitement and thrill. But sadly children, this is not the happy tale, since not all animals return safely home. This being said, Isham supports this emotion with subdued but winning orchestral music. It doesn't rise to the occasion and a big happy family score it isn't, nor does it bring out the best of that genre. But Eight Below surely brings what Isham's been doing of late, namely surprising us with more of his talents. It's a nice effort and it deserves way more attention than Running Scared, so I'll leave it up to you to decide if any gold should be given for its breadcrumbs. But I do know this children, not all dogs lived happily ever after, but Mark Isham's Eight Below surely has a story to tell, now it's time to experience it yourself.


1. Eight Below Overture (3.52)
2. The Journey Begins / The Crevasse (5.39) Excellent track
3. Storm Coming (1.12)
4. The Search (2.52)
5. The Rescue (4.55) Excellent track
6. Pulling Through (3.04)
7. Fifteen Days (2.28)
8. Bird Doggin' (3.47)
9. Southern Lights (6.39)
10. The Dogs Who Saved my Daddy (3.14)
11. Leopard Seal (4.14) Excellent track
12. Ice Bound (2.01)
13. The Lamborghini of Snow Cats (1.30) Excellent track
14. Black Ice (2.27)
15. Almost Perfect (4.56) Excellent track
16. My Best Girl (4.39)
17. Eight Below End Credits (3.22)

Total Length: 61.30
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 15 votes - average 4.43/5)

Released by

Walt Disney Records iTunes release (download only release 2006)

Conducted by

Michael Nowak & Mark McKenzie

Orchestrations by

Bruce Babcock