Assassin’s Creed IV -Freedom Cry- Original Game Soundtrack
Assassin’s Creed IV -Freedom Cry- Original Game Soundtrack
May 12, 2014
Download at iTunes
Olivier Deriviere, although not as prolific as some composers in the video game music industry, has risen to prominence in recent years by scoring several artistically-driven scores. Composing the scores to the Obscure series, Alone in the Dark, Remember Me, Of Orcs and Men, and Bound By Flame. His style of music is unique as he tends to enjoy writing music that includes focus on exotic and vibrant vocals, though many of his works utilize an orchestra too. One of his latest projects is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry, a piece of downloadable content set in Haiti. Despite being written for DLC, Freedom Cry is a fully-fledged score that uses both orchestra and indigenous vocal styles. Did Deriviere’s efforts surpass Brian Tyler’s swashbuckling score for the main game? Let’s find out.
“The Root” is the first track that will seem familiar to Deriviere’s listeners. It features a strong and stylistically appropriate vocal lead with the orchestra as accompaniment. This sets the tone for the whole feel of the score which features Haitian styles to depict oppression and the desire for freedom. The composition just takes you to another world and is all the more emotional than what Tyler offered in the main game. This is due to the fact that Deriviere took a traditional Haitian song and composed music around it. Most compositions that are short like this always leave something to be desired, perhaps because it felt unfinished or was so great to listen to that you just craved more music; however, the composition feels like it completes the music thought and satisfies. It is as short as it needs to be. A perfect introduction where Mr. Deriviere gains my undivided attention.
“False Paradise” has such a rich structure and captures the exotic location but also more oppressive side of the game’s story. The world is a world full of slavery and this composition is sorrowful to be sure. The string chords are so spellbindingly succulent and the writing fresh. The light usage of guitar is appreciated also. From a compositional standpoint, this flows so well and is powerful even though it is subdued. “On to Freedom” is similarly interesting. It features another Haitian soundscape and the sound of the guitar with the flourishes in the upper strings along with the lower strings playing the melody as the percussion drives us forward. I think the score shines when we get pieces like these to remind us of the locale as it also provides us a fresher experience than the original Black Flag had done.
Exploring the diversity of the score, “The Hideout” is a nice blend of acoustic and synthetic instrumentation. It might not have a strong melody, but it certainly carries enough atmosphere to keep it interesting. The pan flute all the way to the distorted vocal sounds, this composition brings out the science fiction style that Assassin’s Creed has been known to have. This is one that fans of Jesper Kyd’s music would enjoy as it harkens back to the previous music styles of the franchise. “A Boat to Freedom” sounds whimsically hopeful with arpeggios in the strings, light percussion, guitar, and a gorgeous lower string melody. This is later played by the upper strings and sounds more cinematic than anything heard in the franchise so far. “High Seas” also does a great job at keeping one’s interest with a strong melody, guitar features, and soaring strings. This definitely gives off a very cinematic sound of heroism and adventure. I would go as far as to say this is the best exploration theme presented on this album
Among the action tracks, “Fight the Tyranny” offers a much more tense experience, unlike “The Storm” before it, this offers a good variety of build-up between orchestra and ethnic percussion. The strings play furiously while the percussion writing is solid which at times has that improvised sound of being played by a Haitian native in the midst of all the aggression offered by the orchestra. One can even hear a pan flute screeching in and out giving this jungle sound. “The Fight for All” focuses more on the string ensemble offering us a more classical sound with its furious passages. Then we have an electric guitar plugging away as things take a turn into more frantic territory which leads into a wonderful male chorus line as well as decent string melody. This piece just raises the tension continuously to the very end. Deriviere certainly nailed that here.
Not all the soundtrack is so stellar. “Governor” has two parts: the first is string driven with percussion and male vocals, and the second part is more ambient with tribal percussion. It isn’t as memorable as other piece on this score as this goes into the filler category. “Fight the Oppressors” has the opening reminiscent of Richard Jacques work on Headhunter, then other parts sound like John Powell’s Bourne music. There isn’t a lot of melodic material here, it is mostly driven by string ostinati and booming percussion to keep it moving. “Attack at Sea” starts like filler with average string writing and decent percussion; however, the second half starting at 1:11 is really memorable. the guitar entrance is a complete switch in terms of emotion and drive. The Haitian inspired vocals return and the melody in the strings as it sweeps you off to the high seas is just beautiful. The piece made a complete turn around and I am glad I stuck through the entirety of it! “Brothers and Sisters” is another composition that doesn’t feature a strong melody, but I really like the progression of the ostinati in the strings. It is very tribal in the chord structure.
“Never Again” returns to the mixture that I think is where this score shines. Pan flute, percussion, and strings open this piece up with gusto as the tension gradually leads into the acoustic guitar strumming along. This goes on for a little while until the strings play a Brian Tyler styled string passage to usher in the Haitian male choir. I really like the sound they bring to this style of music. I just felt the build up to that point felt lackluster. However, the piece “The Last Chance” is similar but it keeps it interesting. It is about a minute shorter, the ostinati change things up as things progress, choir is excellent, and the melody is more memorable. “United”starts off with a powerful male soloist singing in Haitian. The strings play a simple passage with the guitar layering over beautifully. The piece picks up gradually as this section sounds quite ominous with the quiet strings and the focus on a more ambient sound in the percussion. Discordant string flutters give us a sense of mystery which leads back to the male vocalist. Deriviere is so adept at working with vocals and I believe his best compositions are ones that utilize those elements. The group comes in together united with the strings driving the passage forward with some interesting chords that remind me of Yuzo Koshiro for some reason. The choir sounds genuine and by that I mean they sound like members of a tribe in places. It is fitting to the title of this composition as they sing as one united ensemble.
Finally, the titular “Freedom Cry” is a highly emotive piece and gave me chills just listening to it. The male soloist heard before offers a more sorrowful performance along with the acoustic guitar playing silently and gently. The strings add a very dark tone to this as they sound sad and depressing. They swell like tears from one’s eyes as the emotion builds to the very end. I believe this is my favorite on the entire score. The last seven tracks are Haitian traditional songs performed by La Troupe Makandal. Even if you are not into traditional folk songs, they are quite worth giving them a listen. They feature the same vocalists you hear throughout the album and they open your ears up to another culture that I believe really isn’t given much light in scores or music in general. The ensemble manages to give that sound that they are villagers simply singing and dancing around their village fire. These pieces take you to another land and bring an authenticity to this score.
Although I thought Brian Tyler did a decent job on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I believe Olivier Deriviere succeeded in not only surpassing Tyler’s efforts but also brought something more indigenous and authentic to the music, as well as providing some really refreshing modern sounds utilizing the Brussels Philharmonic. Some pieces were filler and were simply uninspired ostinati; however, the number of tracks that do grasp one’s attention really get you emotionally. Those that use La Troupe Makandal, whether as an ensemble or soloists, are especially impressive. If you are looking for more music by Mr. Deriviere, check out Remember Me or his most recent work Bound By Flame. The album is now available through iTunes.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on July 21, 2014 by Josh Barron. Last modified on July 19, 2014.