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Posts Tagged ‘Soundtrack’

Jack Wall humbly backs departs from Mass Effect 3

Legendary gaming composer, Jack Wall, has left the musical helm of BioWare’s epic RPG series, Mass Effect, leaving English composer Clint Mansell some big sweaty space boots to fill.

The first two soundtracks, which Wall wrote with Sam Hulick, Richard Jaques, and David Kates, were widely praised by fans and critics, all of which were hoping for this team of musical mastery to return for a third and final time.

However in a brief interview with Thirteen1, Wall explained his reasons for departing from BioWare, a developer that he has enjoyed working with over the past decade.

“I have had a long and wonderful relationship with the folks at BioWare,” states Wall reminiscently. “Like anything, sometimes a fresh approach is the best. I’m working with new clients now and it feels very different than I think it would have to be working on a third game.”

“(It’s) not that it wouldn’t be great to finish the trilogy, but it’s sort of complicated. You really have to reinvent how you do things when you’re creating something new and having the same people working together for a long period can compromise that mutual desire and effort between a composer and the team.

“Not that I couldn’t have done it, and wouldn’t have put everything into it, but I feel that it’s probably best to take a break from working together. I hope I’ll be back doing something with the very talented folks at BioWare down the line. In the meantime, I’m working on other projects and I’m very excited with how new it feels. I’m learning new things and new approaches that will only benefit my future clients and relationships. Now, that’s a positive thing!”

Wall’s moving onto bigger things, and to be honest he’s leaving now while he’s still on top. To leave the series incomplete will distress a few fans; however, to leave on a high is certainly a good thing.

Wall’s replacement, Clint Mansell, is a strong movie composer with a wide discography, including Black Swan, Moon, and The Wrestler. His most famous piece of music is the powerful Lux Æterna from the 2000 film Requiem of a Dream, though you may remember the rearranged version more – it was used in the trailer for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Jack Wall is an epic American game composer whose credits include Myst, Jade Empire, and of course, Mass Effect.

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DRAGON AGE II

Composer: Inon Zur

Release: March 2011

Length: 12 Tracks

Label: EA

The success of the first Dragon Age: Origins was a sure thing. BioWare is one of the videogame industries leading developers of RPGs, and Dragon Age proved to be their most challenging one yet. The sequel brings back some of the things we loved about the first videogame, the difficulty, the dark design, and Inon Zur’s musical genius.

Zur’s past titles, Fallout 3, Everquest, and Baulder’s Gate II have all received great praise from fans, and the composer seems to have used these works, including the previous Dragon Age title, as inspiration in his latest score.

The fantasy world wouldn’t be as evocative or as cinematic without Zur’s ability to create graceful compositions. In “Hawke Family Theme”, Zur gives us a loving and soft track made up of melodic guitar pieces and wood sections. However, Dragon Age is a game with a violent context, so combat music plays a role that is just as important as the fantasy element. In “Qunari on the Rise” we hear Zur’s darker side. There’s an element of Feudal Japan hidden in the deep drums, but it’s the bass wind instrument couple with the male choir chants that really captures the violence of the game.

We’re given a sample of Zur’s more romantic side too in “Love Scene”. Pan pipes, soft violins, and rhythm picking guitar come elegantly together to support the silky female vocal that fades in and out intermittently.

The soundtrack is a rather short one, lasting less than thirty minutes. My guess is that EA plan to release more music later on, but at the moment what we’ve got is a mix of Zur’s score. “Tavern Music” gives us a chance to hear some in-game music; it’s as you’d expect from a fantasy tavern; lively and rich with joy.

The last track worth mentioning is “Rogue Heart” a soft song, sung in a language I fail to identify. Its structure is brilliant, beginning very faint, with piano and synths. The vocal just repeats, but more and more instruments are introduced. By the point the bass has had a turn get your foot-tapping, the drums and guitar pick up the rhythm – it’s a shiver giver.

Inon Zur remains a master of the fantasy genre. Though I must admit that the fantasy is a big no-no for me, Zur manages to capture the magic that will tempt new players to the genre. Dragon Age II is set to be one of the most impressive RPGs of the year, and Zur’s soundtrack will certainly help make that experience even greater.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED OST

Composer: Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori

Release: June 2002

Length: 26 tracks

Label: Sumthing Else Music Works

Is Martin O’Donnell’s first attempt out of this world?

Halo: Combat Evolved was the starting point of something spectacular. In 2001, Bungie introduced the new FPS to the gaming world and players around the globe were blown away. The first Halo had everything, explosive gameplay, intelligent enemies and a superb soundtrack by Martin O’Donnell – Marty to his friends – and his talented work partner, Michael Salvatori. For every Halo game, this duo have put everything into their music, and each soundtrack has evolved appropriately with the series.

In the first game, the soundtrack features a variety of musical techniques, including chanting, string orchestras and experimental percussion pieces. Mixing these techniques with electronic compositions gave the game a sci-fi and ‘ancient’ feel, something which the games developers requested from O’Donnell. At a glance, the soundtrack can seem quite intimidating; there are 26 tracks in total, many of which have humorous titles that show Bungie’s and O’Donnell’s sense of fun and pride towards the game. “Rock Anthem for Saving the World” is a fine example of this. This heavy-guitar track is the first sample of O’Donnell’s experimentation with the main theme and a distorted guitar, a favourite with most Halo fans, which became extremely popular after the release of the second game.

A lot of the tracks summon some great memories, for instance, “Brothers in Arms” reminds many of their first encounter with the hunters, while “Under Cover of Night”, with its rhythmic and catchy bass line, sends flashing images of a sniper rifle scope focusing on an Elite’s alien brow. And who can forget the terrifying music that accompanies the Flood. “Devils…Monsters”, with its high-pitched chords backing a dramatic drum composition, invokes fear and panic into those who’ve encounter the parasitic entities.

Pieces that really stand out are the terrific “Walk in the Woods”, a great sound system is needed for this fuzzy track to sound its best, and the “Covenant Dance”, which at first starts out with yet another drum composition that turns into a fantastic alien-like track with a body-popping melody.

After a while, the soundtrack does begin to get repetitive. The non-stop drumming and frequent chanting can drown out other melodies within the tracks. Plus there will be times when you think you’re listening to the same song again, until the track suddenly changes inappropriately.

All this aside though, and you’ve got a fantastically produced soundtrack for a momentous video game. It’s certainly not the best in the series, but it definitely set a great standard for the following soundtracks.

8/10

Recommended Downloads:

Truth and Reconciliation Suite

Perilous Journey

Devils…Monsters

This article was originally published in Issue 20 of Thirteen1

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FABLE II OST

Composers: Russell Shaw & Danny Elfman

Released: October 2008

Length: 12 tracks

Label: Sumthing Else Music Works

Should it be renowned for the right or wrong reasons?

Mystical, epic, joyous: three of the many words that could be used to describe the video game, Fable II. Unsurprisingly, these words also describe the legendary soundtrack that accompanies the critically acclaimed RPG.

In 2004, Xbox and PC owners were introduced to Fable, a game that asked the player to choose between heroism and debauched wickedness. Its fantasy plot and magical aura required visionary direction, miraculous characters and a damn good soundtrack – which it had.

In Fable II, the expectations were higher, and along with the vastly improved gameplay came a sensational score. It comes as no surprise with Oscar-nominated Danny Elfman (The Simpsons, Spider-Man trilogy and most of Tim Burton’s films) returning to compose the main theme. Rearranged for Fable II by Lionhead’s director of music and sound, Russell Shaw (Theme Hospital, Fable, Dungeon Keeper, Black and White), the “Fable Theme” is a musical masterpiece, beginning with the winding of a music box that chimes the first games theme. Suddenly strings and the extremely talented Tiffins Boy Choir enter, and the piece reaches its rather dramatic climax. It’s a mouth watering opening to any soundtrack, and it perfectly complimented the game’s opening cinematic.

The majority of the soundtrack, which is made up of themes for each region of Albion, sounds vaguely similar to that of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Howard Shore, with a great deal of string instruments, but less dramatic drum beats. One string riff, which features in “Westcliff”, brings an evocative feel to the piece. Gradually this track leads to a darker place as erratic strings and an ominous brass section play, accompanied by a soft pulsating drum beat, bringing the piece to a foreboding close. However this is nothing compared to the sinister and terrifying “Wraithmarsh”. An eerie choir backs a combination of high-pitched strings and suspicious cellos. A xylophone enters, hauntingly playing a nursery rhyme. The music box version of the original theme begins – as first-time players realise what the region of Wraithmarsh used to be.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, more social regions of Albion, such as Oakfield and Bowerstone Market, feature much softer and friendlier music. The track “Oakfield” has its tranquil brass harmonies, and “Bowerstone Market” is full of activity, not unlike the market itself.

It’s difficult to find a flaw within this score, because each piece is so skilfully composed. The lighter and gentler pieces are soothing to listen to, whereas the gloomy and dramatic pieces are hard not to admire. Fable II may have had its flaws, but the soundtrack certainly wasn’t one of them. Relive the wondrous journey through the realm of Albion with this work of pure perfection.

10/10

Recommended Downloads:

Bowerstone Market

Westcliff

Bowerlake

This article was originally published in Issue 19 of Thirteen1

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HITMAN 2: SILENT ASSASSIN OST

Composer: Jesper Kyd

Released: May 2005

Length: 20 tracks

Label: Sumthing Else & La-la Land Records

Is Jesper Kyd’s second outing with Agent 47 a hit?

The Hitman series is deep and brooding. Agent 47, the cold and bald protagonist of the games, seems to be an unsung hero within the video game industry; his assassinations are merely small talk for some video game journalists. However, the series’ soundtracks are very popular among fans of the stealth action games. Usually dark and ominous, the soundtracks provide an excellent atmosphere for those tense and exciting hits Agent 47 undertakes.

All soundtracks for the Hitman series have been written and mixed by the awarding winning Danish composer Jesper Kyd (Assassin’s Creed series, Freedom Fighters and Gears of War), and for the second title in the series Kyd had 110 musicians of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Choir perform his compositions. The finishing result is a soundtrack that rivals any Hollywood movie score with a top-budget. His imaginative and elaborate writing style set a precedent for all Hitman games that followed. Never before had a video game soundtrack sounded so grand, and its initial release received significant praise from A-List film scorers

The soundtrack features 18 tracks – all original pieces of music from the game included – along with some incredible unused compositions. It’s a soundtrack that is easily embedded into the mind; its melodies are surprisingly catchy and will stick instantly. Two songs into the album and Kyd’s qualities are revealed – his ability to create music that firmly touches the musical soul causes the best kind of horripilation. Most notably would be the pieces from the St. Petersburg missions, the use of marching beats and dramatic strings enrapture the senses, bringing about images of an impenetrable force. Music from the Malaysia and India levels are extremely evocative; invoking memories of Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed. The music from the final level in Sicily is an outstanding piece of music, it’s such a powerful and remarkable composition that we would go as far to say it tests Disney’s Fantasia in terms of majesty. Kyd mixes electronic samples into some of the orchestra pieces to allow for a more pleasurable listening experience. The soundtrack also features a few tracks from Hitman: Agent 47; which never had a soundtrack commercially released.

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin may have some of the most remarkable pieces of music available, and until Now Loading reviews the rest of the soundtracks in the series, it firmly holds the title of “Best Hitman Soundtrack”.

9/10
Recommended Downloads:

The Penthouse

Trouble in Russia

Arabian Dance

This article was originally published in Issue 21 of Thirteen1

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