Sumthing Else Music Works, Inc. (SE-2021-2)
Release Date: 2005
Conducted by Nic Raine
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Kings Choir
Best of 2005: Best Computer Game Soundtrack
|2.||Enter The Shadow Realm||0:17|
|14.||A Lament For Solon||2:14|
|15.||Into The Light||1:47|
|18.||The Snow Tribe||3:23|
|23.||Ice Mountain Onslaught||3:24|
|26.||Danger In The Sky||3:08|
|Total Album Time:||58:03|
|by Jonathan Jarry
January 22, 2006
Game soundtracks used to be so much quainter.
For me, gaming music still recalls quirky synths and catchy melodies. If I concentrate just a bit, I can flawlessly recall the "Castle Theme" from the Super Mario Bros. series. In fact, the pre-orchestral game scores of my early teenage years are so deeply ingrained in North American culture, you can find the entire soundtrack to Super Mario World reinterpreted as a half-rock, half-punk series of cues for garage band if your Googling skills are up to snuff.
I've heard of xBoxes and Playstation 2s, but I'm afraid I have no idea what's hot on the market right now. Still, listening to the opening bars of Steve Burke's "Kameo's Quest", I do know this: we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
In SoundtrackNet's feature, "The Best of 2005", Dan Goldwasser wrote that the score to Kameo: Elements of Power could have been written for a feature film and I could not agree more. The use of a real orchestra and choir over sometimes awkward samples and the fact that looping, unavoidable it would seem with interactive games, is absent from the album convinced me of this: there is a movie in there and Steve Burke is scoring it. His heroic themes, such as "Hero's Theme", are rousing and chivalrous, appropriately enough since the game follows the tribulations of Elf Kameo as she tries to defend her people against Thorn and his army of Trolls. Most of the cues follow the distinctly European idioms of the fantasy genre, but an erhu and dreamy, distant vocals make their way into "Serenity", while "Enter the Shadow Realm" calls upon Middle Eastern modes and orchestrations to represent the bad guys.
The album is made up of roughly one half consonant and enchanted cues and one half battle marches. "Enchanted Kingdom" glitters with crystalline percussion over which a female vocalist performs a restrained melody recalling Brahm's "Lullaby". "A Lament for Solon" creates a choral requiem at times quiet, at times warm that would not seem out of place in Shore's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The action pieces, while sometimes sounding like something we've heard before in a few fantasy films, show rhythmic solidity and addictive dynamics, with the snare drums never too far away, the brass performing repetitive melodic fragments, the choir amplifying the drama from time to time. "The Badlands" showcases a great ascending theme to drive the suspense. Burke uses operatic choir harmonies and snare marches to give the theme more weight and help flesh out the proceedings. But the action spotlight must fall on "Thorn's Pass", an amazing heroic march for brass over staccato celli and snare drums punctuated by a recurring dissonant vocal motif. The percussion is heavy, every measure is accentuated by a hit, and the rhythm never lets go, creating a nearly three-minute cue that reminds one of a hero trekking forward through fire and snow, his anger carrying him towards his ultimate goal, dashing and hacking through hordes of enemy henchmen.
Steve Burke has done a spectacular job both for the game itself and for the album, which is listenable and entirely free of annoying loop cut-offs. The brass section is in deep fantasy mode, the string ensemble keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the snare drum rarely lets go. We are miles away from Super Mario land and, at this point, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with writing "game soundtrack" on one's resumé.
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