Game Music

FABLE III: A Fable in and of Itself

FABLE III: A Fable in and of Itself

November 15, 2010 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook FABLE III: A Fable in and of Itselfon Twitter

With the exception of some rehashed film music, Danny Elfman’s only real foray into the world of video game music is 2005’s Fable. Even still, he only provided the main theme of the game which – compared to Danny Elfman’s usual work – was fairly pedestrian. The rest of the score was composed by Lionhead’s head of sound and music, Russell Shaw. Much like the game, the score for Fable had a lot of promise but never quite hit that resonant spot it should have.

Fable II‘s score expanded on a lot of the thematic ideas and presentation of the original but began tinkering with more music box aesthetics as well as some more interesting rhythmic concepts. The opening theme, in particular, presents a charming and memorable waltz. However, for some reason, many still pined for Elfman.

So, now we have Russell Shaw’s Fable III soundtrack in hand. Without a doubt, this is easily the best score of the series.

Beginning with “Fable III Theme”, we are introduced to and even more charming and adorable waltz. This waltz is more pronounced and even a bit sinister. This theme certainly has an Elfman-like feel to it, but I don’t want to take anything away from Russell Shaw. This is a great theme – one of the best this year – that suits the charm, mystery, and adventure of the game and series perfectly. Unlike the original Fable, we are fortunate enough to experience the main theme again. At one point early on in the adventure, the hero stumbles upon a music box. The track, simply entitled “Music Box,” is one of the most enchanting moments as the main theme is simplified into music box tones. Forty seconds are over all too quickly!

“Reaver Mansion” is an eleven-minute montage of sorts. Acoustic guitar, harpsichord, and piano do their best baroque imitation and succeed mightily. Just the type of music one would imagine hearing in a fairy tale castle. Shaw’s baroque piano pieces are nothing to sneeze at, either. If one told me it was an M. Clementi piece I would believe it entirely!

Unfortunately, this soundtrack does indulge in one of my biggest pet peeves: the spoiler track title. Yes, my friends, “Death of ______” is a track that I will not be reviewing out of protest! Again, I will stubbornly refer all producers of soundtrack albums to Scott Morton’s Darksiders soundtrack where he named his track simply “Epic Moment.” We are grateful, Scott!

“Brightwall” is another fine waltz in a lovely minor key. A few voices can be heard humming the melody to add some ambience. Mr. Shaw has used voices in the past, especially in Fable II. On the whole, his use of voices here is more tasteful in that it has a feeling of being supported more by his orchestra. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the vocal music in Fable III is simply stronger musically and dramatically.

I enjoyed the previous Fable scores in their respective contexts, but I never found myself as taken by the soundtracks once I was removed from the game. The score to Fable III is far superior to the previous outings and is a joy to experience in and out of its original context. We have seen a few composers tackle their own sequels this year (read: Bioshock 2, Halo: Reach). All of them brought something new and interesting to the table. In the case of Fable III, Russell Shaw brought a new energy and range to the score all while introducing new and more exciting themes.

Any fan of the previous Fable scores or some of the better fairy tale-like themes of Danny Elfman will feel right at home with this score. Like the game, Russell Shaw has delivered a truly enchanting fable of a soundtrack.

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