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Godzilla (2014) and Shin Godzilla (2016) motion picture soundtracks

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In 1954, the Japanese audience in Nagoya, Japan attended the premiere of the original black-and-white movie Godzilla (Gojira) by director Ishiro Honda. Toho Studios produced and distributed the movie and is credited with the invention of the modern-day giant monster movie genre. Godzilla is a giant creature born from the radiation fallout of underwater hydrogen bomb explosions.

With 36 films to its name, the franchise is recognized by Guinness World Records to be the longest running movie franchise. Among them is the 1998 TriStar Pictures production of the reboot, Godzilla, directed by Roland Emmerich (after the 1994 Stargate and the 1996 Independence Day). This is Hollywood’s first production of the franchise. Whereas the original Godzilla is an upright standing horror bent on destruction of civilization, Toho has been turning the monster into an Earth defender against UFOs and sometimes a warring entity, and now TriStar made it into a giant female lizard that just wanted to eat fish and lay eggs in Madison Square Garden, with blatant imitation of the Steven Spielberg Jurassic Park. Nonetheless, it was well-made with a solid backdrop story and Matthew Broderick in the starring role and Jean Reno supporting.

One year later in 1999, Toho released Godzilla 2000, its own 1.65 billion yen (13 million USD) reboot of the franchise after the TriStar production. This time, the protagonist is fighting a UFO and the alien offspring with cleverly conceptualized twists. This is arguably the more watchable take of the tale for its more Hollywood-styled, believable storytelling technique.

Then in 2014, a member of a new generation of Hollywood directors in the person of Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Rogue One) released the reboot of the franchise simply named Godzilla, made at a cost of 160 million USD, and this time Hollywood stayed truer to the original form of the cat-faced creature along with its stature and persona. Distributed by Warner Brothers, the now-upright standing creature earned the studio 529 million USD at the box office, and is part of an ambitious three-movie trilogy that would eventually involve our favorite monster in this part of the world, King Kong.

Japan, on the other hand, also released its version of the recent reboot, the 2016 Shin Godzilla, or New Godzilla.

The soundtracks to both movies are remarkable in specific mediums. Warner Brothers and Edwards hired silver screen veteran Alexandre Desplat (The Queen, The King’s Speech, Argo, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Shape of Water, etc.) to create a soundtrack of “non-stop fortissimo for Godzilla, with lots of brass, Japanese drums, and electric violin.” (Source: Wikipedia.) Creating the music was a 164-member Hollywood Studio Symphony, backed by a choir 91 members strong, all local Los Angeles musicians. The result was an adrenaline-pumping soundscape that depicts the monstrosity and urgency of the moments, available on limited edition, double LP set from Acoustic Sounds.

A supposedly 16 bit 44.1K Hz FLAC file is offered by HDtracks but the dynamics are severely compressed, the soundstage flattened and the tonality ill-defined. I had suspicion of an MP3 culprit. Josh of HDtracks Support Team: “We independently verify the resolution before any content is uploaded to the site. We have never received MP3 files from the labels and our downloader is not capable of providing MP3 files. It is Redbook 44/16 quality.” Responding to my continued inquiries, he offered an observation by his Digital Content Manager, “[He] tested the Godzilla soundtrack along with another 44.1 album and there is a large drop in bitrate and file size for both of the FLAC 44.1/16 albums. There seems to be more than a normal amount of compression being applied to the FLAC downloads. This is one of the great things about the FLAC format, that it is lossless yet able to be compressed to conserve file size.  Most if not all FLAC files have a certain level of compression, and are decoded in lossless form upon playback.”

Closing the email, Josh added, “Even if our tech team is using a compression level of 8, the file is still going to play back as lossless. I think we are possibly using a higher compression level than 5, which we were using on the old site. That’s something we’re looking into. In any case, it wouldn’t affect sound quality.”

I obtained a Redbook CD of the soundtrack on eBay, and its sound quality is much superior to the FLAC file from HDtracks. Retrospectively, I have bought many audio files from HDtracks and others, and this is the only instance where the sound is markedly decrepit. A friend supplied another FLAC file of the soundtrack obtained from a different source, and it was of the same inferiority. I can only surmise that somehow a highly compressed version of the soundtrack was upsampled into the 16 bit 44.1K Hz format and provided to various online retailers. Such files would read as a normal CD sans the requisite sound quality.

The Godzilla CD soundtrack mentioned earlier sounded massive and focused, its percussion and brass prowled the Sound Lab panels. One can only imagine the sonic delights of hi-res versions were they available. But it is hard to imagine a sound superior to the double vinyl set.

Before acquiring the Top Wing Suzaku coreless straight-flux cartridge, I wouldn’t hold high hopes of faithful reproduction of the vinyl, but the little red sparrow hit it out of the park. There are few records that compete against this soundtrack for sheer volume and force, if your turntable system, phono stage, and of course, the cartridge, are capable of it. The clarity of instrument groups as cut into the records is astounding, it renders the set a favorite on repeat play. And it is on warp-resistant, 180 gram vinyl, negating the need for record flattening rims.

Also from HDtracks is the soundtrack to Shin Godzilla, notwithstanding in 24 bit 48KHz resolution WAV or FLAC file. HDtracks is the only online music retailer I know of that continues to offer a choice of formats, and I, of course, chose the WAV format. My review will now take a slight turn.

Godzilla is destruction and desolation reincarnate in its most original form, and the movie is a return to form for director Hideaki Anno. He set a somber tone right from the start with the investigation of the disappearance of a celebrated scientist, who left behind a suicide note seemingly. Audiences going into the theater arguably are already fans of Anno or cognizant of his mega-disaster bent at the least, thus a sense of wonder is meticulously injected into intervening scenes, so as to counter any premature sense of foreboding by the audience, and composer Shiro Sagisu obliged him most unswervingly.

The crux of the movie lies in the scene where the monster and the Japanese military collide, and  only Anno in today’s cinema could depict Tokyo in its direst straits the way he did. Having collaborated with him previously on numerous very high-profile anime projects, Sagisu this time among other tracks contributed to the project with a gut-wrenching track 13, “Who Will Know,” a choral piece accompanied by an orchestra. From the depth of this fertile mind came a three-minute requiem, played in place of bombastic sound effects when the carnage was taking place. This is Shiro Sagisu at his most sublime and evocative in depicting the savage destruction of Tokyo per the direction’s concept. Only the dead that went through such type of horror would know.

The sound through the Esoteric K-01XD was spacious with an irresistible tonal definition that speaks volumes to the care of the recording from the composer to the mastering engineer. Now if only Acoustic Sounds would release a “limited edition” vinyl set as well!

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

 

Review system:

PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20 AC regenerator

Acoustic Sciences Corporation TubeTraps
Audio Reference Technology Analysts EVO interconnects, power cable
Audio Reference Technology Analysts SE interconnects, power cables
Audio Reference Technology Super SE interconnects, power cables
Stealth Audio Cables Helios phono cable

Clearaudio Master Innovation turntable
Top Wing Suzaku coreless straight-flux cartridge
AMG 12J2 tonearm

Aurender N100SC caching music server and streamer
Esoteric K-01XD SACD player/USB DAC
Bricasti Design M21 dual-mono DAC

Pass Laboratories Xs Phono
Pass Laboratories Xs Preamp
Pass Laboratories XA200.8 pure class A monoblocks
Bricasti Design M28 class AB monoblocks
Margules Audio u-280SC Black ultralinear tube monoblocks
Sound Lab Majestic 645 electrostatic panels

 

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One Response to Godzilla (2014) and Shin Godzilla (2016) motion picture soundtracks


  1. Bob Dog says:

    No, Toho is not ‘credited with the creation of the giant monster’ genre. That would be ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, made a year or two before ‘Godzilla’. ‘Godzilla’ was basically a copy of ‘Beast’. Toho wanted to use stop-motion animation (as ‘Beast’ was done) but they did not have the expertise and thought it would be too expensive. PS: Great article.

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