Written by: David Brook
More famous as a TV soundtrack composer, Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica) brings us the music from the new free-to-play space shooter Moon Breakers. It only consists of 4 tracks – 19 minutes in total, so it’s an EP rather than an album, but because of this you can pick it up very cheaply and it’s easily worth the money.
To match the old-school feel of the game, McCreary’s score is classic sci-fi but with a modern sheen. It’s triumphantly rousing and energetic, as demonstrated from the offset with the opening ‘Theme from Moon Breakers’. This is a catchy, memorable track that for me had a bit of a Mass Effect feel, although that obviously got its music from other sources of classic sci-fi and action movies. Moon Breakers is much bigger and more bombastic than the Mass Effect soundtrack I guess (at least the first one – the second was a bit ‘beefier’), but has a synthy pulse to it that reminded me of that score as well as the general retro sci-fi feel.
This is followed by ‘Clans of the Space Pirates’, which has a Middle-Eastern tinge to it, or “jangly ethnic oddities” as McCreary puts it in the press release. Under this remains a driving rhythm, keeping the energy up throughout. The next track, ‘Government Armada’ has more of a military feel and a hint of danger. It’s definitely ‘in the midst of battle’ sort of music that gets you pumped for action. The final track is an extended version of the main theme.
The Moon Breakers soundtrack is compulsive listening but is rather short at only 4 tracks (2 of which are pretty much the same) so there isn’t a lot to chew on. I guess it’s to its credit that I wanted more though. Recommended to all retro sci-fi fans out there.
The soundtrack to Moon Breakers is out now on digital download.
To find out more head over to Bear McCreary’s website.
Trailer for the game (featuring Bear McCreary’s score):
Soul of the Ultimate Nation Collectors Edition Vol. 2
As part of Howe Records’ collection of rare Howard Shore material, the label has uncovered his 2004 soundtrack to an epic online fantasy game with their new release, Soul of the Ultimate Nation Collectors Edition Vol. 2 (confusingly it’s the 2nd volume of the Howard Shore collection, not the 2nd volume of the game’s soundtrack). The game itself was a bigger success in East Asia than in the West, so despite the pedigree of the score, it never got a US or European release until now.
Well fans of Shore’s music, especially his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, are in for a treat. I’ve been really into my video game music recently and I must say this is possibly one of the best scores I’ve heard so far. It’s certainly the most beautifully recorded and well produced (in terms of scope and scale). It does sound very close to the LOTR scores, so some may scoff and say it’s a rehash, but for those longing for a fourth addition to Howard’s work on the saga will be in heaven.
The album begins quite softly with ‘Sanctuary of Ether’ which features flute and beautifully realised choral elements. Of course, with a title like that it’s got an ethereal quality to it and sounds very much like some of the Elven segments of the LOTR soundtracks.
‘Prelude to Revolt’ wakes you up soon after though with a horn-led call to arms. The darker edge and epic sound of the score begins here and takes hold for much of the album. The next track, ‘Tides of Hope’ brings things back a bit, taking its name to heart by giving a more warm yet heroic theme to latch onto after the ethereal opening and dark follow-up. Fifth track, ‘The Triumph’, kicks into full on LOTR style chorals over massive orchestration to create the first truly epic cue.
‘The Valley of Dragons’ is the first track to introduce world renowned Russian thereminist (I didn’t know that word existed either) Lydia Kavina. The use of the theremin gives this track and the later tracks that also make use of it a bit of an edge. I’ve always loved the sound of the instrument and although it seems an odd mix for such a grand orchestral score, it works very well and gives those tracks a supernatural feel. ‘The Valley of Dragons’ also has extremely powerful bursts of music that crash in throughout the cue making for one of the most memorable offerings.
Later in the album, ‘Empire Geist’ with its blaring tremulous brass announces a powerfully evil sounding track, but is followed by ‘The Epitaph’ which provides a lighter more reflective moment after all of the bombast and terror preceding it.
The album carries on in the vein of these tracks, mixing big action cues with fearsomely villainous themes, heroic moments and the occasional more ethereal flourishes. In general, as the album goes on it tends to get bigger and bigger though, with the thrum of battle drums building to an insanely dramatic finale with ‘Menace of the Army Wings’.
The soundtrack is rich and varied, largely melodic, extremely dramatic and at times moody and frightening. It’s truly a top notch fantasy epic score and goes to show that video game soundtracks can compete with the best that the film industry has to offer. It could easily replace the LOTR score for instance without reducing the quality.
My only complaint might be that it’s mixed quite low (on my MP3 copy at least) – I had to have my iPod volume on full blast. That is often the case with soundtracks, but this seemed more noticeable than usual. The last couple of tracks, when it goes up to 11, I did have to drop it down a touch though, so maybe it’s just down to the extreme dynamics of the music.
Anyway, that’s not worth complaining about really. This is a fantastic score. Not very subtle or original maybe, but for those with a penchant for big, epic fantasy soundtracks, you can’t do much better than pick up Soul of the Ultimate Nation Collectors Edition Vol. 2.
Soul of the Ultimate Nation Collectors Edition Vol. 2 is out now on digital download and CD.
To find out more, listen to samples and buy the soundtrack head over to Howe Records.