Game Music, Reviews

The Shortest Path To Ga’Hoole! Legend of the Guardians Game OST (Review)

November 24, 2010 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook The Shortest Path To Ga’Hoole! Legend of the Guardians Game OST (Review)on Twitter

Winifred Phillips is no slouch as a game music composer. Not only did we give her high marks for her score to Spore Hero (an offshoot of the Spore franchise), but Music Connection Magazine named Ms. Phillips among a host of other well-known musicians in the November 2010 cover article “Superstars of Videogame Music.” Martin O’Donnell, Jesper Kyd, and Jason Graves are all counted as her peers.

Her most recent project is the score for the videogame adaptation of the film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. The game is available on all current console platforms (as well as a modified handheld version on the DS). With the help of producer Winnie Waldron (handy that they have the same name, but one goes formal and the other a nickname), this game-based-on-movie comes to life with a rich, textured orchestral score.

Our full review of the soundtrack comes after the jump. Be ready for owls, magic, and magic owls.

Because you wanted it: the tracklist!

01 Into the Blackness
02 With Hearts Sublime
03 Eyes in the Night
04 The Gathering
05 Take Flight
06 Attack At Dawn
07 Deadly Plan
08 Nightmare
09 The Shape of the Wind
10 Wild Fire
11 Legends
12 Devil’s Triangle
13 The Seekers
14 To Right All Wrongs
15 The Fallen
16 The Siege
17 The Guardians

This digital-only release didn’t hit me with the sort of surprise that Spore Hero did. I was once unacquainted with Winifred’s talent; I am no longer ignorant. So I came to this album with expectations. And expectations were met: not exceeded, not let down either.

The opening track is a strong, dark track that sets a mood of tension and adventure. Like so many fantasy adventure films (and their associated games), I’m attempted to give the “LotR-like” (and/or “LotR-lite”) designation. In this case, however, I’m not sure such a designation is appropriate. Yes, there are similarities, but this musical work is simply too playful, even if its darkest moments, to be compared to the Howard Shore scores.

With that almost-mandatory comparison out of the way, let’s move forward. “With Hearts Sublime” is another strong track; in terms of sustainment in the listener’s memory, it may be the strongest. It is helped by the foreign-language female vocal part, to be sure. The on-and-off string swells, with harp either filling the gap or joining the strings and participating in the moments of silence (depending on which measure you’re on) helps create a feeling of building. Vocal performances like these are a hallmark of modern Western media (film/TV/game) score, but Ms. Phillips uses the vocals sparingly. They are found elsewhere in tracks such as “The Fallen,” “The Seekers,” and, in more choir-like form, “Nightmare.” But they do not overpower the score.

One thing I like about the ordering of the tracklist is the up-and-down swinging motion of the tonal structure. That is, happy song sad song scary song happy song mad song etc. The keys change, the tempos change, and the moods change enough from song to song to hold interest for an entire listen. In the context of the game, you’re nearly assured a good experience. But had the track ordering come about poorly, you may be turned off before you ever experience anything different.

The recording quality and orchestral performance are top-notch. Not that we’d expect anything less in this day and age. Perhaps the most important thing in studio session recordings like these is that there is a good dynamic balance. When one instrument appears as a “solo” about the rest of the orchestra, it has to be loud enough to stand out, but not so loud as to drown out the rest. The flute in “Take Flight” shows this perfect balance.

Winifred Phillips proves she can do both long-form melodies and short, punch-like orchestral cues without flinching. There are some composers who are clearly better at one than the other. But Phillips strikes a balance throughout this score. Again, my expectations are met. And for a guy who’s not entirely interested in magic owls (yet), that’s pretty impressive.

You want? Get your Internet browser of choice headed over to iTunes. “Give a hoot” for the ladies who brought great music to this IP!

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