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ALONE IN THE DARK
Fine action score for video game shows how far they've come
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Atari Interactive, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
When I was a lad, music for computer games consisted mostly of digital bleeps and generally-excruciating little tunes that would repeat ad nauseum. How things have moved on. Here's Alone in the Dark, released by a film music speciality record label, featuring music performed by a Bulgarian choir. As computer games have become more cinematic, so blockbuster films have become more like computer games, and the same is pretty much true of the music. I have complained on numerous occasions that music for blockbuster action films has tended to become almost entirely generic (you could easily transplant the music in between the films and nobody would notice anything was amiss), and I have also commented on the rare occasions that I've reviewed music from games that it is also often rather generic - and if truth be told, there's no great quality gap any more between the best game scores and the typical score for an action blockbuster - and indeed the former may soon eclipse the latter if the Transformers / Iron Man template continues to be followed at the cinema.
The music for Alone in the Dark is composed by Olivier Deriviere and is really rather impressive. Its most obvious feature is that choral music - chanting (not just oohs and aahs), with a vaguely religious feel - it's top-notch stuff. Most of the computer game music I've heard has come from World War II action games so it's nice to hear music from something else, which doesn't follow the very specific pattern of basing the whole score around John Williams's "Desert Chase" from Raiders of the Lost Ark - there's action music here, but it has a far more modern feel.
Unfortunately an orchestra isn't present (I think there are some live instruments in addition to the choir - the album booklet doesn't make it clear - but not many of them), instead high-quality samples are used. These are decent enough that it's not a huge problem (it doesn't remove the enjoyment from the music), but it is a shame that music with a scope as large as this couldn't be performed by an ensemble which would do it justice. There's a real sweep to the music which is most impressive - and some really impressive, complex compositions (the brass clusters in "The Humanz" for instance). Brassy, composed in little cells built up in a really fine, musical way, and with much more dramatic impetus than is usually evident in game scores, this one's very impressive and comes recommended from me - with the great big caveat about the sampled orchestra. It's so good to hear good, solid music composed for a video game which is not set in WWII - and this is pretty much as good as anything you would hear in a $200m horror movie these days.