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Radio Pandora – Borderlands 2 OST (Review)

October 15, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Radio Pandora – Borderlands 2 OST (Review)on Twitter

Like sci-fi? Like westerns? (No, this won’t become a discussion about Cowboys vs. Aliens – lower your torches) If you said yes to any of that, then chances are you played Borderlands. If you didn’t, get off your duff, go buy it, and play through. Go on, I’ll wait.

No I won’t.

Created in 2009, Borderlands was most commonly known as “Futuristic Spaghetti Western meets first-person shooter meets Diablo” for its aforementioned setting, game style and leveling system. Its soundtrack was placed in the responsible hands of Cris Velasco (Clive Barker’s Jericho, Prototype) along with his recently-established partner in melodic mischief Sascha Dikiciyan, along with the established Danish composer Jesper Kyd (Assassin’s Creed, Unreal Tournament 3) and sound designer Raison Varner. This rag-tag team created an atmospheric musical accompaniment to the underground hit that helped shape the soul of the game.

So yeah, guess who’s back for another romp on Pandora?

The 23-track OST does a good job of distributing its weight between the tag-team of Velasco / Dikiciyan and Kyd.  To put it in straight terms, the former focused on the more action-oriented background music while Kyd was in charge of the subtle and atmospheric melodies. This is a wise idea, in my opinion, as it plays to each ones strengths and modern techniques. I could actually tell the first time listening through, which tracks were composed by which men.

Velasco / Dikiciyan (I’m just going to refer to them as V/D from now one for my own sake – don’t take that the wrong way!) start things off strong with “Ascent,” and just continue from there. They are meant to bring the energy and get you revved for massive fire-fights and battling bandits across the various landscapes of Pandora. It’s delivered with more subtle incarnations, such as “Crater Lake” and “Dam Interior” early in the game, with the music being just charged enough with strong percussion and guitar work to make your bandit hunting intense, but not distracted by overwhelming excitement just yet. This changes when you move onto “Hyperion,” where V/D bring out their heavy synthetic instrumentation, and stray further from the wild-west themes and more towards the heavier sci-fi ones instead. Considering the purpose of the track’s namesake, it makes sense and really helps you remember this is actually meant to be futuristic, in underlying tone if nothing else.

Granted, they still manage to represent the cowboy themes just as well, with “Lynchwood.” With the singular twang of a distorted guitar and rhythmic strum of acoustics, you’ll be hard pressed to not think you’re walking into a town meant to string you up by your neck courtesy of an angry mob. However, the duel-nature of V/D’s style comes right back to the heavier futuristic action with “Jack Final Boss.” (Which, by the way, comes up as “Finel” on my car’s CD player. Comment if that happened to you too!) This is probably my favorite track from the duo, as it really brings together some fantastic violin work with synthetic booming and distortions worthy of a showdown with the crass villain everyone loves to hate with a passion.

On the flip-side of this ensemble, we have the ever-talented Kyd who provides more of the atmospheric side of the soundtrack. “Ash” opens up his track repertoire  with a good amount of power with various percussion that builds up to subtle synth and string melody that unfortunately ends rather briefly. “Caverns,” however, really brings out some great almost middle-eastern violin/cello work that I loved when going through Kyd’s work on Darksiders II. As I said in that review, Kyd can really make you believe you’re riding across a stretch of desolate wastelands with the music he uses, whether it be the plains of death or the frozen wastes of Pandora.

I will say that I found a few of his tracks to be a little weaker towards the middle of the album. “Dam Top” and “Fyrestone” in particular didn’t get me nearly as into the music as I wished I could have, with more of a lack of melodic distinction that I was getting from his other tracks and V / D’s works. Perhaps this is due to my aforementioned review of Darksiders II, in which such downplayed tunes were appropriate for much the environment of the game. However, maybe not so much for situations where at any given moment you could be ambushed by frantic Goliaths or Nomads with shield-chained midgets. Perhaps that’s just me, however. Thankfully, it’s only these few tracks where I thought he faltered at all, as he brings the power back with tracks such as “Interlude Combat”.

On the flip-side of that, however, Kyd still manages to bring a great amount of simple chords and subtle power to “Ice”, which I’ll go so far to say is my favorite track of the album. To me, it really does exemplify the themes of the whole of  Borderlands together with straight-forward guitar riffs and powerful drums, and makes for a really iconic piece on the whole of the soundtrack.

And then you have “Bandit Slaughter” – the singular piece from sound designer Raison Varner. To say that V/D and Kyd’s styles could be told apart on most of the soundtrack holds nothing to this track from Varner, which sounds like you entered a techno bandit dance party. Perhaps it’s not the most appropriate style of tune for the game as a whole, but damn if it’s not for the situation, making it easily forgivable. Lets just say heavy techno wub wubs and bandit annihilation go oddly and surprisingly well together.

Just as with the soundtrack of the first Borderlands, the combined team on the Borderlands 2 soundtrack manage to blend their varying styles together quite well and produce a good blend of action and atmosphere that provides significant support to the game itself without over-powering it. The CD itself also features an insert showcasing the other fabulous talent credits to the album, making it worthwhile to pick up the physical copy of the OST for yourself.

Available as the audio CD or digital album on Amazon, this album is something any fan of the Borderlands series is going to probably want to pick up for themselves in one iteration or another. I’ll be curious to find out if any additional tracks come out for the various downloadable content that will be coming out in the next few months. It should prove to be a good time either way.

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