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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • Ubisoft Music / 2013 / 102m

The latest instalment in the popular video game franchise, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag sees the player travel back on the high seas to the time of the pirates (Caribbean, not Somali).  Despite its title, it’s actually the tenth game in the franchise (different games having been released for different consoles).  The first three games in the mainstream series were scored by Jesper Kyd and he was joined on the fourth by Lorne Balfe; this time round, the ever-busy Brian Tyler provides the music (does the guy ever sleep!?)  Perhaps not surprisingly, its high seas musical inspiration comes not from Erich Wolfgang Korngold but from Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer.  As often seems to be the case with his music these days, Tyler’s score is essentially a brilliantly-orchestrated, expensive-sounding version of the Remote Control sound.  The jaunty main theme isn’t that far away from the lively jig in the first Pirates of the Caribbean score; another theme (introduced in “In This World or the One Below”) has a bass pattern not unlike that in the second Pirates score’s “The Kraken”.

The entertaining music is largely action-based, only occasionally pausing for breath, and it’s very enjoyable stuff.  Even when it does take a breather there’s still quality: I love the raw emotion of the pared-down “Fare Thee Well”.  The problem is there’s so much of it – there are animals that have gestation periods shorter than this album.  Everyone always moans when I mention anything like that, but seriously, it hampers this.  There’s a solid core of material, but the tone is never-changing, and it doesn’t take long before it all just starts sounding the same (and there’s some material that’s probably absolutely fine in the game but really isn’t very interesting away from it).  Chop an hour off and you could have a good album here: not one of Tyler’s best perhaps, but there’s some excellent action/adventure material and some stylish contemporary music for the sequences set in the modern day which could almost certainly be turned into a solid 3.5-star album.  It could have widespread appeal, both to the Remote Control fans and to those who like music with more orchestral chops.  But how many people will ever make it to the end of the album?  It just gets boring.  Such a shame.

Rating: ** 1/2 | |

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  1. Jens (Reply) on Saturday 4 January, 2014 at 23:49

    Having just finished this game, I thought the score was effective in context, and also a lot more intricate and interesting than, say, the Pirates of the Caribbean scores (save the surprisingly great At World’s End, of course). That said, I’m generally not a fan of the direction “pirate music” has taken since PotC. Why the hell did THAT score of all things have to be a trend-setter?

    At the very least Bear McCreary is taking this style in an interesting direction with his music to Black Sails. I like his pared down, demented jig for that show very much. Inspired use of the hurdy-gurdy.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 5 January, 2014 at 00:09

      I’m looking forward to hearing what McCreary does with that. He’s good.

  2. Andre (Reply) on Wednesday 7 January, 2015 at 13:08

    “But how many people will ever make it to the end of the album?”
    According to my iTunes, I have reached the end of the album 14 times.

    I understand where your coming from where some parts seem repetitive and the tone is never-changing but this is for a game that needs a theme/tone and I think Brian played it well. There are 34 songs on the album and to make every song unique seems a bit much.