Once upon a time, long long ago, there lived a student who was a bit of a geek. He loved everything science fiction and, even though he is older, wiser and no longer buys for himself toys of giant transforming robots, he is still that geek.
At university he bought an Xbox with a game. That game was Halo: Combat Evolved. He played it, and he loved it. He would spend the early hours of a Sunday morning playing this game after he had finished at the pub he worked, conscious not to wake his housemates with the sounds of gunfire, laser fire, and the death of the Covenant.
When Halo 2 was released, this pattern continued. Unfortunately, he never really played Halo 3 nor any of the following releases in the franchise.
Halo 4, the beginning of a new trilogy for the Master Chief was released last year, as was Volume 1 of the soundtrack. Now, Volume 2 has been released, and the university student geek wishes he had an Xbox 360, the game, and Volume 1 to immerse himself into.
Jointly composed by Neil Davidge (record producer for Massive Attack) and Kazuma Jinnouchi (the in-house producer for 343 Industries, the brains behind Halo 4), Volume 2 of the Original Soundtrack is a wonderful collection of classical, electronic and industrial tracks that transport you into the helmet of Master Chief.
The first thing to note is that the soundtrack bears no resemblance to the Covenant Trilogy soundtrack that accompanied the first three Halo games. Halo 4 was conceived as a continuation of the adventures of Master Chief, and so the familiar music is no longer appropriate.
The Volume is collected in chronological order, so that as you listen to the album it is presented in the same way as it would be during the game. In this way, the score is used as a way of storytelling.
The soundtrack is very cinematic in its feel and scope. Take Atonement, the very first track. It is epic, it sets the stall out, but most importantly it is a beautiful track. A single vocal opens up in what could be an alien language, or Latin. The two could be the same in all honesty. Then a chorus of voices and strings join in with the sole voice, and you can imagine an alien landscape being looked over by Master Chief. Electronic effects then take over, with a military style trumpet that, with the use of minor notes, gives rise to a feeling of a great victory at a great cost.
The wide variety of genres is a hallmark of this soundtrack, and credit here goes to Davidge. In his time, he has been one of the main collaborators with Massive Attack, and this background comes to the fore with tracks such as Kentele Bow, which is the first real industrial sounding track. Full of electronic beats and effects, it really puts in your minds eye alien landscapes, fear and danger. You can feel your heart begin to race.
With the rise of soundtrack albums such as those by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch for films such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you can understand why games makers want to produce soundtracks that serve the same function – cinema these days is no longer just about sitting down at the cinema to watch the film; it’s about the experience, and so is this second volume.
The titles of the tracks presented here may not be the most imaginative, but that is no problem. In fact, it is probably designed that way so that avid players of the game can understand where the tracks fit in with the game. It also gives people who have no idea what the game is about a feel for the game. Escape is one such example. As it progresses you can imagine a hoard a alien enemies in front and behind you attempting to block your egress.
I wish I had an Xbox 360 and a copy of Halo 4, so I’d be able to enjoy the soundtrack all the more. It is my firm belief that you could give someone a copy of this as a white label, and ask them to listen to it and see what they think if it. They would come back to you saying they enjoyed it, and ask you what film it is from. You could then enjoy their face dropping as they listened to the answer that it’s a game soundtrack. It’s that good.
Halo 4 Original Soundtrack Volume 2 was released on the 8th April on 7hz Records, and can be bought here.