May’s back, introducing the other key guitar theme, the fighting heroic theme. This will make up a big chunk of the finale, but right now, it’s more of Brian shouting, and the pitched battle on board the war rocket.
It’s covered in lasers and dialogue snippets, but otherwise, it’s mostly just Brian May playing guitars at himself. He settles into a groove, then he finds different ways to burst out and back into it, and it’s all layered over and over again with synth horns and bursting sound effects and a cackling Brian Blessed. Eventually there’s some ‘Flash’ shouts, but it’s mostly just this meandering blast of guitar after guitar after guitar.
And then a big bomb.
If you took away the set dressing, we’d just have Brian jamming, but of course, the way Brian jams is pretty convoluted. Here we have different guitars duelling each other. The core riff stays fairly consistent throughout, but different elements push and pull at it, and different fills and breaks, of increasing elaboration, break it apart.
It’s the classic guitar squadrons approach, given a looser form by the need to just maintain that particular tone. There’s no need for the piece to break up into sections and evolve and shift into choruses and vocals, you can almost hear Brian’s hand being freed by the soundtrack structure, allowing him to just let rip.
But he doesn’t really. It never hits solo territory (though there is some clear lead work at points), it just shows up a groove and toys with it a little.
It’s very, very Brian.
And it fits perfectly, feels like an evolution of the Flash theme into something less tense and more explosive. This is the action, this is the heroism itself, this isn’t the need for a hero. This is the hero.
This battle is actually the climax of the theme. The simultaneous struggles in and out of Mingo city pitch together, as Dale faces her fate tearfully. Here we are mostly on the War Rocket, climbing and crawling and fighting across wobbly cardboard sets filled with smoke.
It’s lent weight by the music, and it’s necessary, because it’s a weird fight, and it happens oddly apart from the actual villain of the piece. It’s not the final heroism, but it is the last proper fight.
So we have a battle theme, and Brian rocks along in a fairly straightforward way. And of course, it’s the first time we’ve really had a traditional rocker here. I guess the guitar is supposed to save the day. Again, the restraint and holding back has made the dramatic reveal more so.
Apparently they did play it live, although I suspect it was really just an extension of the Hero, with which it shares it’s core riff. I don’t know if they actually added in all the bleeps and whirrs and giggles on stage. I wouldn’t entirely put it past them.
It fits the record. It fits the scene. I find it more boring than the soundscape work, even though it’s arguably more accomplished, and it does a better job than some of it.
Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.
Illustration by Emma.