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ORDER OF WAR
Fine game score full of big ideas, nicely-executed
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Square Enix; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Video game music has come a long way since the bleeps and plinks I enjoyed in my youth. At some point in the 1990s, as the games grew up, the music grew up with them. People more well-versed in these things than myself (and it is worth saying, such people are not hard to find) may disagree, but it seems to me that it was Michael Giacchino and Medal of Honour which blazed this particular trail. That was the first time that music written for a game took on a real life of its own away from the game, with the album proving very popular and starting the ball rolling for that composer's huge rise to fame.
Most of the game music I've heard seems to have come from war-themed games; and I wonder if much of the appeal lies in the fact that these scores, with such unashamedly grand gestures and big themes, just don't get written for films any more. Jeremy Soule has been writing music for games for a long time and Order of War is his latest - and grand gestures don't come much grander than they do here. The game is based in World War II and Soule's score continues the tradition established by Giacchino ten years ago (though without the overt John Williams references).
This is fantastic music. The level of detail is amazing. Soule wasn't afforded the budget to hire an orchestra so has used high-quality samples instead; and while of course a real orchestra would always be preferable, the composer has got everything it's possible to get out of his electronic set-up. The music is orchestrated as if it's for orchestra and the samples are of very high quality (they've come on so far in the last few years) - the skill of the orchestration makes various individual lines have remarkable clarity.
Some of the pieces are constructed really well too. "Cadence of Steel" is a real highlight - maintaining a high level of intensity throughout its six minutes, it's a breathless piece of action music which sets the pulse racing. While it's true that the majority of the album is big and bold, there are just about enough spots left which provide a little breathing space, and there's always something interesting going on anyway (I just love the little choral moment in "Outflanking the Enemy").
This is first-rate music which makes for a hugely-enjoyable album. It's got a good, memorable theme, it's got thrilling action music, it's beautifully-detailed. The album will shortly be available for download from DirectSong. This is my first exposure to the music of Jeremy Soule and I'm really looking forward to hearing more. Anyone who loves those big, exciting WWII game scores is sure to love this one.