Lets, head back to 2015 and to the score that Inon Zur penned for the video game FALLOUT 4, I think that most attractive thing about this score is that although it is dark and fearfully foreboding, it also is wonderfully thematic. This is evident right from the off in the Main Titles, or Main Theme, listen to Zur’s ominously apprehensive piano that ushers in the fragments of a theme which he builds upon to develop an affecting piece, which is realised via the piano, and is then joined by strings and subtle percussive elements. It evokes for me sounds and shades of a musical style and colour that Hans Zimmer also put into action for the score INCEPTION, within the TIME theme, but Zur, seems to make it even more thematic and even more melodic, but at the same time maintaining a level of menace and a smouldering aura of apprehensive atmospherics. Zur is sadly not that well known to film music fans, but saying that many probably do know his music, without realising who composed it. FALLOUT 4, is in my opinion a terrifically powerful score, even without seeing the game footage I just get a feeling that the music is so well suited to the subject matter, game scores have as we all know come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and it is composers such as Zur, that have made these soundtracks so alluring and popular. He scores each of these projects as a grand epic motion picture, or at least this is the impression I get whilst listening to many of his scores.
There is also so many levels of emotion within his works, at points one becomes overwhelmed with subtlety and the melancholy of the music and then in the next instant we are blown away by the thematic and driving action cues. FALLOUT 4, is just one example of his amazing talent, as the composer has written scores for numerous other games, I for one think that video game scores should be brought onto the same level as film scores, and not treated any differently, we had this film music fan snobbery before with TV scores, which have also in recent years come into their own and attained a high level of respect and recognition from film score collectors, so I see no reason why game scores also cannot be treated in same way. Things are starting to take shape in this direction with radio stations such as Scala Radio, Classic FM and BBC Radio three dedicating bespoke shows to this genre and its scores. Zur.s score for FALLOUT 4 is an entertaining one, the composer employing an array of instrumentation and sounds that purvey a freshness and an inventiveness throughout. The soundtrack is also a staggering three hours and thirty-eight minutes in duration, but within this time there are no fillers, no repeats or even any uninteresting pieces, it’s all worth a listen, from electronically created soundscapes to beautifully written tone poems with real instruments taking centre stage, and I think that is why this is such an appealing work, atmospheric, affecting and enjoyable.
Staying with Inon Zur and to something more recent, again a game score, but in my opinion a score that is more mature and certainly more melodious than FALLOUT 4. BATTLE THROUGH THE HEAVEN vol 1, is a hauntingly beautiful work, in which the composer employs an even greater range of sounds and instrumentation, too which he adds solo vocal performances and the rich and fullness of sounds as generated by the string section which are embellished by the sound of faraway horns, which later return in a more impassioned and proud guise that are underlined by rumbles of percussion, in the opening cue he also brings into the equation, guitar, woods and ethnic sounds. This is an accomplished score and one that I can honestly say I listened to from start to finish without even being tempted to move it along. It’s a little shorter in duration than FALLOUT 4, coming in at just thirty-eight minutes, but is a hell of a half an hour or so of romantic, commanding and delightfully emotive sounds. The percussive elements within the score are particularly interesting, and at times are the foundation for many of the compositions, as in LURKING, which has a foreboding persona. THE BEAUTY track number five is probably one of the scores more emotive highlights, I say probably because it is difficult to pick anything as a highlight, because everything is just so good. Again, highly recommended, for its action and powerful themes, but also because of its poignancy and ability to mesmerise and enthral.
I could not mention composer Inon Zur without at least a fleeting reference to his magnificent score for DRAGON AGE 1 and ll. Which for me are as epic and riveting as Poledouris’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN, again a highly thematic and expressive work, filled with daunting musical passages, and overflowing with melodious superbness. I particularly am attracted to the composers use of cello in a handful of cues such as THE HAWKE FAMILY THEME in DRAGON AGE ll, but these are works of great quality and have to them an inventiveness and originality. But this is something that can be said of the music of Inon Zur, vibrant and innovative, supportive and also highly listenable away from the games it was written for, others to check out include FALLOUT 76, INTO THE STORM (which features Tina Guo), THE ELDER SCROLLS BLADES, SYBERIA 2 and 3, and SWORD COAST LEGENDS.
Enjoy seeking these out on digital platforms, once you start to listen you will not want to stop.
The same can be said of Jesper Kyd who has been involved with a number of the most popular video games around over the past decade or so, ASSASSINS CREED for example, many of which contained wonderfully atmospheric scores, Kyd has also scored movies, and remains busy in recent months completing ASSASSINS CREED VALHALLA.
I always find that music for games is so entertaining to just sit and listen too as music, it has the ability to conjure up scenarios within the listeners mind, and in 99 point 9 cases these scores are not only beautifully written and performed but are also wildly varied and totally absorbing. Kyd’s other credits include for games HITMAN, BORDERLANDS, DARKSIDERS ll, STATE OF DECAY and WARHAMMER and movie scores such as LEGACY and TUMBBAD. His style is attractive in an apprehensive way, most of his music being action led or deeply atmospheric, but these are works worth checking out.
Jason Graves is also a composer who has worked in both film and video game scoring, he like both Zur and Kyd has produced some outstanding musical scores and combines both symphonic and synthetic mediums to great effect. One of the composers more recent works is for the sci fi horror game THE DARK PICTURES ANTHOLOGY: MAN OF MEDAN, which he provides with a initially subtle score, that is filled with rich textures and colours, that are in effect melodic but at the same time ooze an uneasy atmosphere.
Again, inventiveness is the key factor here, the score never becoming predictable but always remaining interesting and containing a driving and powerful undercurrent, at times evoking the early horror scores as penned by Marco Beltrami, in the SCREAM trilogy or THE FACULTY, which at times verges on the operatic. Check out the works of Zur, Kyd and Graves on Spotify.