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Supernova Vol. 1: Through the Portal
  • Composed by Olivier Derivière
  • Primal Games / 2015 / 25m

A MOBA (“multiplayer online battle arena” in case you didn’t know – but I’m sure you did), Supernova is a game that sees players battling wits against each other, controlling waves of humans or aliens and battling to ensure their race isn’t wiped out.  Publisher Bandai Namco has been pushing the game as a return to the roots of the genre (which is only just over a decade old, so I don’t know how far it can have strayed) and it has certainly garnered positive early notices from the press, and will be fully released to the public shortly.

Olivier Derivière is one of the best game composers around; 2013’s Remember Me is about as good a game score as you will ever hear and he followed it up shortly afterwards with another stellar effort for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry.  The thought of him bringing his action style into a space environment, with all the possibilities that brings, was an absolutely enticing one and Supernova does not disappoint, reprising much of what made those other two great scores so good (after all, if it ain’t broke…) – a twist or two is added but by and large this is more of the same and if you loved the others as much as I did then you will love this too.


Olivier Derivière

Olivier Derivière

The brief album gets going with “Birth of a Star”, half a minute of contemplative strings before familiar beats see the music kick into gear.  It remains somewhat reflective but the strings grow in sweep as the piece progresses, and there’s a nice “awe and wonder” feel to it.  “Cosmic Mist” is a bit darker, with more of a retro science fiction feel to the electronic textures which are more dominant in this track; it’s mellow and chilled and perhaps won’t set anyone’s pulse racing but it’s nice enough.  The brief “Hostile Planet” has a great hint of James Horner to it (the little figures which echo away to nothing, the Avatar pomp, even a bit of Aliens) – it’s vintage outer-space music, a bit creepy and unsettling and very satisfying.

The action begins (and then never really ever ends) in the grand “Exploring a New World”, layers of suspense gradually peeled away and distinctive Derivière action clusters starting to build on top of each other; the gas pedal is then pushed closer to the floor in “Disturbance” and then “Battle of the Braves”, really first rate action music which is the very model of how to do orchestra-with-electronics and do it well.  The composer seems to have his own take on the John Powell sound which has become one of the defining styles of modern action music in cinema and he does it as well as anyone (including John Powell – who does it brilliantly).

“Under Pressure” has a harsher sound, before “The Heroes” introduces a kind of industrial quality to the mix, gritty and pulsating before the expected heroic flourishes emerge later in the piece, the score’s most powerful thematic statements.  “Burning Star” is broad and expansive but no less exciting, heartbeat still racing.  Even the closing “Supernova” doesn’t see the pace let up even slightly, the brassy statement of the theme by the Philharmonia Orchestra alternating with an electronic one deliciously reminiscent of Remember Me.

Tantalisingly billed as “volume 1”, let’s hope that there is plenty more of this to come.  I could listen to Derivière’s music all day – smart, modern and exciting, he’d be great at doing big action blockbusters in Hollywood so long as his creativity weren’t stifled.  It’s only 25 minutes long and after a slightly slow start it absolutely flies by, meaning I just want to listen to it again.  And again.  I love this guy’s music and Supernova is another big hit.

Rating: ****

See also:
Remember Me Olivier Derivière
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry Olivier Derivière | |

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  1. Mike (Reply) on Tuesday 26 May, 2015 at 00:14

    Just got done listening to it all on bandcamp. It’s pretty good! I loved Remember Me- one of the best recent scores in any medium. (found out about it thanks to your site!).

    It’s not quite as awesome as remember me, mostly because it doesn’t have a strong theme.

  2. Mike (Reply) on Thursday 28 May, 2015 at 02:38

    Liking this more and more- Under Pressure has a Goldsmith circa Leviathan feel to it in spots. The last 3 tracks are the best part of the album.

    I look forward to Vol 2.