Best of 2006: Best Computer Game Soundtrack
|3.||Dark Harvet Begins||1:22|
|5.||"Where in the hell am I??"||1:01|
|6.||The Land of the Ancients||2:55|
|7.||"As if appearing from no where..."||2:07|
|8.||Cries in the Darkness||2:26|
|9.||Back to the Ancient Land||1:34|
|10.||Finding the Warrior Within||1:29|
|11.||Breaching the Surface||1:31|
|12.||Smoke and Mirrors||5:25|
|14.||Battle at the Superportal||5:09|
|17.||"Hundreds of your miles tall..."||4:55|
|Total Album Time:||51:15|
|by Mike Brennan
October 1, 2006
Award-winning composer Jeremy Soule's most recent project (co-composed with younger brother Julian Soule) is said by some to "redefine the world of video game scoring". While this is partly true, Soule has, technically, been redefining it for the past few years, and Prey is only the recent culmination of that work (see the discussion of his sample library in the review for Dungeon Siege II). A recent article on SoundtrackNet compared the style and technique of Prey to that of John Williams' War of the Worlds. I am normally very hesitant to make comparisons to the likes of Williams (though I did recently in reviews for Soule's Harry Potter video game scores), but upon listening to the two-disc score, I realized that the comparison is dead on, and that Prey is up there with some of the best orchestral science fiction scoring like War of the Worlds and even parts of Star Wars. It has also been compared to Goldsmith's Capricorn One mixed with the electronic elements of Callery's "24".
It is not fair to other composers to say that Soule's work is the only music in the industry that elevates the standard of music in video games, other examples being the Medal of Honor and SOCOM franchises. However, Soule's technique and methods of composition do show game producers a new way of achieving this caliber of score. There is over three hours of music for Prey, which is the first FPS (first-person shooter) game score to achieve the musical breadth of a large-budget film.
A large amount of Soule's past work has been in the fantasy genre. The tone for Prey, as mentioned above, follows in the footsteps of classic science fiction. The "Prey Overture" is one of the most awe-inspiring main title cues I have heard in a long time. Using powerful brass to project the soaring theme, Soule lays a foundation with electronic rhythms, something that rarely appears in his fantasy-theme efforts. My one reservation with the score from Prey is that aforementioned awe-inspired "feeling" one gets during the overture, does not return throughout the rest of the score. Versions of the Prey theme permeate the two-volume soundtrack, but only once does it approach the level found during the outstanding overture.
The main theme is used in a number of variations, the first being a slow piano statement heard in the beginning of "Aniwyah Calling" and "The Land of the Ancients". There are also very subtle hints of the 4-note chord progression in the general, electronic ambient game play, as heard in "Cries in the Darkness". The prime use of this theme, however, is in the low brass, though again, never reaches the power of the overture. "Breaching the Surface" begins with a trombone statement with low strings laying a rhythmic background with low piano. "Battle at the Superportal" uses a slowed version of the theme in the brass as well over militaristic percussion.
"Splitting the Arrow" is the other standout cue in the score, opening with a piano statement of the main theme. Pounding action music kicks in, then explodes into a fast, but lengthier version of the love theme with strings and brass, edging toward the triumphant sound of the overture. The second volume of the score follows with a dark action music trend, which is heavy on the percussion and the bass end of most instrument sections. "Immortality or Oblivion" adds a gothic choir and contains a number of different thematic variations, all performed by the trombones.
A triplet motif, introduced by the cellos in "Dark Harvest Begins" is also used often throughout the score, most notably in "Battle at the Superportal" and finally in "Raiding the Keeper's Fortress". While the tone of the score is consistent, and uses generally the same low brass, low string orchestration, Soule does throw in other elements, like a choir, periodically ("You're becoming a nuisance"). "The Power of the Keepers" moves from whispering electronics to a high-tempo electronic beat rhythm and brief statements of the theme in the trombone. The second volume ends with a bonus track from the game's trailer, which opens with an ethnic flute statement of the main theme, then moves into a nice summary of the score, featuring both the trombone theme statements and the triplet motif. The Soules' work for Prey is impressive, even more in its production than in the audible end product. It will be interesting to see where video game scores go from here.
Editor's note: Prey Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are currently only available exclusively as high quality 320kbit digital downloads from DirectSong: http://www.directsong.com/
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