Game Music, Reviews

Jeremy Soule Mounts A Sneak Attack On Your Ears: Order of War (Review)

September 18, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Jeremy Soule Mounts A Sneak Attack On Your Ears: Order of War (Review)on Twitter

Well, here we are with Jeremy Soule’s triumphant return to Square Enix. I suppose it’s not in the way that any of us would have expected, but hey, we’ll take what we can get. For those who are totally out of the loop (and I don’t blame you), Order of War is Square Enix’s upcoming World War II RTS title for the PC. With that in mind, you’re not going to hear your typical Jeremy Soule RPG score here.

What you are going to hear is tense World War II action from start to finish. Jeremy Soule plays the part perfectly, which is surprising in that we haven’t heard this sound from him before, but unsurprising because he is an amazingly talented composer who has seemingly been type-casted for scoring RPG scores despite his versatility. Bombastic orchestral volleys and tense instrumental interludes will provide no safe haven this time around, as you’re in for some of Jeremy Soule’s most intense work to date.

Read our advance review of Jeremy Soule’s soundtrack for Order of War after the jump.

The album opens with the militaristic “A Call to Arms,” which features sweeping strings, defiant brass, and the steady patter of snare rolls. It’s just as epic as you’d expect from one of Soule’s title themes, and it’s even more forceful given the World War II theme of the game. It’s a great opener that hints at things to come.

Next up is a transitional piece titled, “Seeing the Elephant.” I guess this is some sort of ambiguous military term, but I still don’t quite understand what it means. It’s a nice ambient track with some quieted string stabs and a snare drum, and makes a nice lead in to “Dreadful Skies,” which sounds more melancholy than dreadful. Rich strings linger at the bottom of the night, while lone brass notes escape and skim over the top of the gloom. It’s a really nice track, and one of the few that doesn’t get in your face with the snare drums and high-energy orchestra.

“Lightning War” initially tricks you into thinking it’s a quieter piece, which had me cranking up the volume, but it quickly blew up in my face with string and brass stabs and a very foreboding melody. “A Summons to Madness” is a great track title for this strange melody that seemingly skips along into madness. It’s very tense and chaotic. “March of the King Tigers” pairs angelic string embellishments that seemingly float above the chaos to militaristic percussion and a grand brass melody that sounds serious yet hopeful.

There are a few longer tracks on the album, and I take it that these are the ones you hear throughout extended campaigns. The first is “High Ground,” a tense piece with thunderous percussion and a triumphant melody that you may recognize from trailers for the game. “Outflanking the Enemy,” on the other hand, is an appropriate title to describe the creeping strings and covert bass that plod along mischievously. I kept waiting for this one to jump out and scare me, but fortunately it stayed pretty low-key. “Cadence of Steel” is the longest track on the album at 6:08, and it’s an epic one complete with choir and clattering cymbals. It sounds like a desperate struggle from start to finish, making it really hard for me to write about while simultaneously listening to it! Finally, “The Most Dangerous Game” is a foreboding track with nothing but a bassy string section and scattered snare rolls off in the distance, really putting you on edge. Other elements join in as the piece progresses, but it stays pretty dark and minimalistic.

“A Soldier’s Lot” sounds like something out of a survival horror game with its bassy string and brass swells, rattling percussion, and intense moments of silence. I definitely found myself worried about what was ahead. Surprisingly, it was “Deployed!,” a somewhat upbeat tune to accompany troops into battle. The regal brass melody is encouraging, which definitely provides a much needed vacation from the doom and gloom of the previous tracks. “Bombardment” is another surprisingly buoyant track, hinting that perhaps you’re on your way to victory. The bass moves along at a walking pace, acting as a counterbalance to the long, drawn out brass notes. It definitely sounds like you’re in the middle of kicking some ass. “Farewell to Arms” is the last track, and is a sweet celebratory piece that ends things on a positive note. At least, it should have.

There are two bonus tracks here from the game’s online multiplayer deathmatch mode. The first is “Abwehrkampfe (Bonus),” which is in line with the dark “A Soldier’s Lot” that I described above. Try saying that track title three times fast! “Panzerjäger (Bonus),” on the other hand, is a name that I can say, and it’s a pretty damn cool word. It’s a tense track that feels like maybe it’s a bit too lazy to really get you going, as the tempo is too slow to really accompany any serious action. I think in terms of flow of the album, they should have interspersed these two between other tracks on the album, and ended with “Farewell to Arms” for purposes of closure, but it’s always nice to have “bonus” tracks.

Well, there you have it. Jeremy Soule’s back with Square, but he certainly has matured a lot. After his playful approach to zOMG!!, he strikes back with his most intense score to date. I wouldn’t say it’s his best in terms of picking out melodies that you’re going to remember (I’m still a huge fan of his fantasy RPG scores), but it certainly drives home the terrible truths of war and destruction, and it provides a wonderful opportunity to see what Jeremy Soule is capable of. I recommend heading over to DirectSong for samples in the coming weeks, and picking it up if the sound catches your fancy.

What are your thoughts regarding Jeremy Soule’s return to the world of Square Enix? Are you surprised that he’s working on their first PC RTS title?

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