Composer John Powell's score to "How to Train Your Dragon 2" musically achieves what we hope from all sequels: incorporating established themes while expanding them with new elements that are just as strong. It's a delicate line to tread, but it's one that Powell faces with aplomb. The now-familiar melodies from his Academy Award-nominated score for the first "How to Train Your Dragon" are augmented through new orchestrations, lending a sense of grandeur. But there is also a deepened, more serious tone to this outing.
Jumping from marching band rhythms to minuet-esque buoyancy — and backed by a choir whose direction was clearly to be as epic as possible — the music varies its influences, while still consistently highlighting Celtic tones, with bagpipes, penny whistles, and a bodhran (an Irish drum). Primarily, though, the music is Classical with a capital "C," giving it that strong sense of timelessness (it's great that in 2014, a score can still sound more "Star Wars" than Skrillex).
The fantastic opening track "Dragon Racing" acts as an overture of sorts, flying through every major theme from the first film's score in high-energy summary. Powell also introduces several new themes, the best being for Hiccup's mother, which gets a grand rendition in "Flying with Mother," featuring sparkling percussion and female choir. Also noteworthy are "Should I Know You?" for the orchestra's virtuosic performance, and "Toothless Found" which features tense, vibrating strings reminiscent of Steve Reich.
The album's final track, "Where No One Goes," a song collaboration between Powell and Icelandic artist Jónsi, mixes ethereal vocals, driving percussion, and several themes from the score woven in for a finale that's equal parts awe and excitement.