CHASING LEGENDS – Haik Naltchayan

Original Review by Alan Rogers

The Tour de France is a gruelling bicycle race held in France and neighbouring countries, covering more than 3,500 kilometres over 3 weeks during the summer. Jason Berry’s documentary, Chasing Legends, follows the progress of professional cycling team Columbia-HTC through their successful participation in the 2009 race. Comprising of race footage, live race TV commentary, interviews from competing cyclists, etc., it is a film aimed more at the non-cyclist and focusing on the personal dramas within the race rather than being a retelling of the race itself. Watching the theatrical trailer, the film is full of soaring helicopter shots, beautiful scenery, speed (cyclists can average speeds of 25-30 mph during a race) and crashes, all the elements that shouts out for an over-the-top score.

American-born newcomer composer Haik Naltchayan seems to be director Jason Berry’s go-to composer for cycling documentaries, having scored his previous films Off Road To Athens (2005) and 24 Solo (2007). For this 2010 film, Naltchayan delivers the required over-the-top score, so much so that the music sounds like a collection pieces you would expect to hear in film trailers. Although it’s inclusion of the music does heighten the excitement of the film, some reviews of the film have complained that it is a bit overbearing. But listening to the music away from the images, it’s a very enjoyable experience. Although there are quieter tracks such as “Malloit Vert” (featuring a delicate piano line that still manages to retain the sense of movement contained in the other, more powerful tracks) and “A Darker Day” (again with piano but this time the rhythm is maintained by bass guitar), Chasing Legends is a score that is track after track filled with meaty percussion rhythms, bold synth ostinatos and strong piano chords. A listen to any of the clips that are available online will lay out exactly what to expect in the score as a whole – if you like these clips then you’ll love the album. 

This is an album that contains very little in the way of subtle themes, though the strings do tend to be used in a similar way throughout the score and becoming a sort of thematic motif. Of the many adrenaline-fuelled tracks several stand out for particular comment. The early track “Monaco” uses the combination of staccato strings and drum percussion to great effect, with some of the motifs used reminding me of some of John Powell’s more appealing action scoring. The John Powell feel continues with “Key To Success” with Naltchayan’s use of those staccato strings again together with some strong rhythms from both drums and bass guitar. And “The Mountains” gathers all the various techniques of the score and brings them together into a 6-minute track that would stand up well with any Hans Zimmer effort. “Daredevil Descent”, a particular highlight, starts off with an almost religious tone, using a tolling bell and wordless male chorus (the latter throughout the track) to highlight the respect of the cyclists for the hill before the score then kicks off with the now characteristic tone as (presumably) the cyclists set off down the mountain.

Anyone who enjoys the musical universe of the likes of Steve Jablonsky’s recent Transformers scores or numerous Hans Zimmer efforts will, I think, take to Naltchayan’s score very easily. The composer’s grasp of this musical style is evident and he delivers a score that is immensely enjoyable. He manages to convey in his music the drive and resolve of the cyclists as well as the spectacle of the race itself. A score and a composer that is well worth looking into. I have already downloaded both Off Road To Athens and 24 Solo on the strength of Chasing Legends. You may find yourself doing the same.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: ****

  1. First Impression (1:58)
  2. Monaco (1:35)
  3. Start House (1:49)
  4. Le Tour de France (7:33)
  5. The Missile Is Launched (4:26)
  6. Maillot Vert (1:09)
  7. A Hole In The Road (3:20)
  8. Pierre (3:22)
  9. Key To Success (1:24)
  10. The Will of A Man (1:31)
  11. Big George (1:56)
  12. A Darker Day (6:51)
  13. The Mountains (6:29)
  14. Daredevil Descent (3:59)
  15. Ignoring Pain (2:46)
  16. Maillot Jaune (2:45)
  17. Champs Elysses (4:26)
  18. Last Impression (2:02)

Running Time: 59:29

Haik Naltchayan (2010)


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