Game Music, Reviews

Is Inon Zur’s Latest His Greatest? LotR: War in the North (Review)

December 7, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Is Inon Zur’s Latest His Greatest? LotR: War in the North (Review)on Twitter

Editor’s note: Within hours of this post, multiple sources reminded us that the album published by WaterTower music was incomplete; specifically, many of the softer/slower themes for Rivendell were not included on the CD. The below text is a review of the WaterTower album, *not* the full score by Inon Zur. Several key tracks missing from the album are featured on Inon Zur’s website > Music. Other tracks missing from the soundtrack album are also now available here for free download. Additionally, there are three tracks available exclusively with the Collector’s Edition.

Can anyone write about The Lord of the Rings media without mentioning the film score by Howard Shore? It’s tough. But, with the exception of this very introductory sentence, I’m going to try.

So let’s restart this article by talking about Inon Zur. This guy is a powerhouse of composition, usually writing full orchestral scores for two, three, sometimes four high-profile games (often RPGs) each year. This year, he penned the music for Dragon Age II and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, among others.

WaterTower (Warner Bros) published the soundtrack for War in the North this past November. After the jump, you’ll find out whether or not Inon Zur can trump his past successes.

The soundtrack for Snowblind Studios’ action RPG takes Tolkien lore to a place that is in no way unfamiliar to fans of LotR media; but, to Mr. Zur’s credit, he writes almost exactly in conjunction with the game’s scenarios. That is to say, while a turn-based RPG with towns and heavy exploration would require more pensive music, Snowblind’s game would require a heavy dose of tense, heavy, and epic orchestration. Inon Zur delivers.

There is one problem with that, at least from the perspective of the outside listener: a heavy dose of samey orchestral hits for the better part of an hour can lead to a headache. Taken in small chunks, as I’m sure it was heard in its initial planning and recording sessions, it’s great. And in context of the game, which I’ve had the opportunity to play for a few hours with some friends, there’s no denying that Zur hits it out of the park.

But it’s not what I know Inon Zur for, or necessarily what I want from him. For me, his best works are the emotionally evocative character themes of Dragon Age and its sequel. In recent memory, these songs are what best showcase Zur’s talent. For an example, click the link.

While this 19-track album (available in physical CD and digital formats) offers nearly zero tracks that aren’t loud, booming, and terrifying, there are three bonus tracks that come on a collector’s edition DVD alongside the game itself. On that DVD, the bonus tracks include a few soft melodies, as well as a lengthy studio session / interview with Inon Zur. Here we see that Mr. Zur is quite proud of what he’s done, and he especially enjoys the grandeur of recording at Abbey Road.

Nonetheless, I have to say, the latest is not his greatest. Certainly, Dragon Age II marked a new high (for me, at least) when it comes to this Western composer’s repertoire. And he’s had plenty of great bits of work alongside the required vanilla background for so many games in the last decade. The War in the North soundtrack is more like a shot of liquor than a vanilla ice cream cone, but I think it’s one shot too many for this listener. Again, though, I cannot fault Zur for writing music that fits the project. It gets the job done, and if you’re into collecting the kind of music that provides all strength and no comfort, have at it!

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