…And we are back with another Top 3 for the Month of March!! Last month we featured my Top 3 for the month of February. As mentioned previously I will do my best to release a Top 3 every month for the previous month and this month we have some crazy good soundtracks featured.
I had to consider a couple things this past month because I had played a number of games recently and was a bit conflicted on how to make my choices. You know that I listen to a lot of music while I’m working, but when I’m at home I’m streaming and/or playing the video games themselves! Well, all of the soundtracks featured this month include music from the games I played over the last month. Crazy, I know, considering I listened to a heap of other video game music through Spotify and not to mention a few interesting track releases in the realm of video game music. The reason I went with music from games I played this month resulted from being emotionally invested in the games themselves and the fact that they just had phenomenal scores that I had to sit back and listen to more when I set the game aside.
Looking to the future, or more specifically next month, I will feature remixed soundtracks. It should be interesting to see where that journey takes me. That is, if I can get around God of War’s soundtrack that was released today (as of the date of writing this article anyway) by Bear McCreary! Just for reference, Bear McCreary is known most notably for The Walking Dead and Battlestar: Galactica. Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Let’s get to the music!!
The Top 3!!
Horizon Zero Dawn
Composer: Joris De Man, The Flight, Niels van der Leest and Jonathan Williams
Man! Where do I even begin with this one!! There is so much to talk about but don’t want to spill all the beans in fear of absolutely ruining the game for you. I’m usually a pretty good judge of character when it comes to games that start off with great music. I mean, come on, even the menu music is good. Ok, Ok, let’s break this down a little. When you start the game the music and tones are very subtle and hesitant, yet, as you progress through the game the music begins to take form and accurately depict the trials and obstacles faced by the main character Aloy. There is something about the slow movement and delicate use of the instruments that create the perfect atmosphere at times along your journey that draw you right in. At times, I felt like I was actually in the story. I was so emotionally invested in the game that I could barely put the controller down. The music is a breath of fresh air. The open world was meticulously crafted to fit the music, or vice versa, I can’t recall what came first. I distinctly remember hearing about a point which the developers approached each musical collaborator individually to get their input on how they see the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. The composers wanted the music to be different. As a result of the setting, the music was to depict a blend of hi-tech, primitive and nature filled sounds. I mean, the world has come to an end and all that’s left are machines and people re-learning their humanity. Music is wholly part of the design for this world and the composer played a wonderful role combining and scoring different musical instruments in such a fashion that which doesn’t sound similar or modern. There’s so much more I could write about including the contributions of Julie Elven but I can’t say anymore! Especially for those of you who still haven’t played the game… Geez, I might need to write a whole article on this soundtrack one day!!
Composer: Kristofer Maddigan
So this one hits a little close to home. You see, Kristofer Maddigan is a Toronto based composer. Where is Toronto you ask?? Well, if you pop open a map and take a quick gander to the north of the United States you’ll find Canada. Nestled close to the heart of Canada, in Ontario, you will find Toronto. Home of the Make-Me-Laughs –er—I mean Maple Leafs (man, my friends would kill me if they read this article since Toronto made the playoffs this year – at the time of writing this article they lost their first game last night against Boston). Anyway, the only reason I first played CupHead was largely due to the game’s roots. You see, the game itself was developed by a Canadian indie game development studio called StudioMDHR and its composer… You guessed it – Canadian! In addition, CupHead and Kristofer Maddigan received a nod at the Juno’s (Canada’s biggest entertainment award ceremony) by taking home the ‘2018 Instrumental Album of the Year’. Without a doubt, the music and the soundtrack itself certainly deserved the honor! The almost 3-hour long soundtrack contains some of the best original big band, ragtime and jazz-inspired music I have listened to in the modern era of video game music making magic! So many of the tunes in this game keep the pace of the game flowing and often times had me up and dancing while shooting enemies in my little plane. The music expertly sets the tone for what you need to do in the game and certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat. I don’t think any other music would have sufficed. Come on! The game is heavily inspired by 1930’s cartoons and animation so it only makes sense to have music of the same era. I think what also makes this music so influential for a game like CupHead is the approach that was taken for the production of the music. Just listening to the opening title it is immediately apparent that the composer wanted the music to stand on its own. Most music nowadays is done live but old-school music like this is very different and I’m diggin’ it!! I’m hoping that with the Juno award they now have in their pockets, the world of video game music may open up to others who have not been exposed to this wave of musicians. Here’s hoping anyway…my parents still don’t know what Final Fantasy is… for shame.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Composer: Sarah Schachner
The first thing that struck my ears was the percussive sound of beating drums. At first, I thought the music was taking on a Middle Eastern vibe but as I listened to the music a little more, something more unique began to take form. I find it can be very difficult to be truly unique anymore but many musicians and composers alike continue to surprise me. The music must define the setting for us to truly feel the wonder and excitement of traveling through the desert of Ancient Egypt. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Sarah Schachner to have been able to come up with the score for Assassin’s Creed Origins. I mean, we are talking about Ancient Egypt here! The only resources she could reference were those based on scholarly work. I’ll be the first one to admit that I haven’t played through an entire Assassin’s Creed game but I have always enjoyed the music. Origins, however, was the first that I thoroughly enjoyed and played to the near end! Immediately after I was done playing and had to return the game to the video store I started really listening to the music. You know, how when you’re at home making dinner and a catchy tune comes to mind but you can’t remember where you heard it? That happened to me. I must have rifled through 20 soundtracks before I realized it was the track titled ‘Bayek of Siwa’! I think the reason it stuck was that it reminded of the opening track to The Walking Dead. I dunno, if you give it a listen you’ll see what I’m talking about. There’s a section in the opening of the track that repeats throughout the song and it works. That part of the song just gives me chills. You know that sense of foreboding, mysteriousness, almost epic feel? Just all these emotions in one piece are why I decided to put this whole soundtrack on my list of top 3 for the month of March.
That’s all we have for now. Each soundtrack has a unique flavor and captures the emotion and feel of the game they were made for. As with every Top 3 article I make I like to follow up everything with a bit of a recommendation! Of these three soundtracks listed, I would recommend listening to the soundtrack for CupHead first. Even if you don’t like big band, ragtime, jazzy inspired music, the music for CupHead is fantastic. I’m not sure what I would listen to next. Assassin’s Creed Origins is textured to an Egyptian context but is unique in design whereas Horizon Zero Dawn truly capitalizes on the use of the talented Julie Elven. I’ll even link you to the main theme to which she contributed her amazing voice for Horizon: Zero Dawn! Anyway, whichever you choose to listen to first I can assure you that you will not be disappointed so enjoy… 2P OUT!!