Command & Conquer -Red Alert 3- Original Videogame Score
Command & Conquer -Red Alert 3- Original Videogame Score
August 4, 2009
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Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 revived the enormously popular Red Alert franchise after a seven year absence. Electronic Arts went all-out with the music for the game, bringing back cult icon Frank Klepacki to the series, while letting Tim Wynn and James Hannigan handle the more serious material. The resultant soundtrack was probably the most diverse of the series, blending the series’ characteristic hard rock focus with modern cinematic orchestration, dramatic gothic choruses, traditional Japanese influences, occasional electronic beats, and even some exceptional novelties. A one disc soundtrack was released with the Premier Edition of the game while a two disc commercial release was intended for 2009. The resulting Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 Original Videogame Score was only actually released digitally, but offers the definitive full-length versions of most of the tracks from the original score.
One of the big draws of Red Alert 3 was the return of Frank Klepacki to the series. While he only contributes a few tracks, they’re each very memorable and entertaining. “Hell March 3” is the most over-the-top rendition of the series’ iconic theme, blending orchestral, choral, and electronic elements with Klepacki’s own hard rock guitar work. The result is so strange and addictive, though note that the live interpretation at Games in Concert 3 was even better. “Grinder 2” is a complete transformation of the Red Alert 2 original with its epic orchestral and Russian chorus elements. They work wonderfully with the remaining rhythm guitar riffs and electronic elements to create a more vicious theme than ever. For the expansion Uprising, Klepacki also contributed the original composition “The Red Menace”. It’s essentially a hard-edged electric guitar solo punctuated by a few choir chants. It’s made interesting by the virtuosic guitar performance, particularly how Klepacki rapidly repeats several bass notes. The original “Hell March” also receives a punk-influenced cover by the American band From First to Last. It doesn’t quite have Klepacki’s individuality, but is still a solid take.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the soundtrack is how it contrasts the combat music for the three factions. The representations are all ridiculously stereotypical, but this has always been part of Red Alert’s humorous charm. Wynn’s “Red Rock for Mother Russia” an “Battleground of the Bear” are certain brutal depictions of the Soviet Faction; they’re dominated by hard-edged rhythm guitar riffs, though also feature dark gothic interludes featuring orchestral and choral elements. The allied combat themes, on the other hand, take an American-punk approach. “Rock and Awe” instantly creates an upbeat feel with its choice of power chords whereas “Bring It!” features an especially melodic development section. For the Empire Faction, Hannigan’s “The Empire Strikes” and “Mecha Storm” use guitar riffs more inspired by modern J-Rock. The distinction from the other themes is initially quite subtle, but the tracks become increasingly hybridised with big beat elements to spectacular effect in the game. There are naturally plenty of other rocking action cues on the score too and each is carefully individualised to match the on-screen context while being quite entertaining on their own too.
The more emotional moments of the score feature full-orchestral performances by the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and Choir. While the orchestra could have detracted from Red Alert 3’s originality, Tim Wynn proves a creative writer. One of the earliest orchestrations, “Time Machine”, creates a sense of the period with its heartrending falling string melody before fading into industrial noise. Meanwhile “A Hell of a Threat” brings so much cinematic weight to the game and flawlessly sets the tone for impending action. There are also a number of orchestral action themes, such as “Red Tide”, “Take ‘Em Out, Tanya”, and “Red Storm…”, that adhere quite closely to cinematic convention in terms of instrumentation; however, they always seem to boast anthemic melodies, curious rhythmical features, and unexpected dramatic turns that separate them from the banal game music out music. Since Hannigan focuses on the Empire of the Rising Sun faction, he mainly hybridises his orchestral music with oriental features. Most notably, a Japanese folk singer brings warmth and distinction to the otherwise rasping “Enter the Shogun Executioner” cue. In addition, the shakuhachi infusions really enhance the edgy feel of “Removing the Empire” and “The Threat from the East” while the percussion use in “Let Sleeping Dragons Lie” is exquisitely done.
Amidst all the serious and aggressive cues, there are fortunately some more lighter tunes to break the soundtrack up. James Hannigan’s “Soviet March” couldn’t be more of a contrast with “Hell March 3”. It’s a nationalistic march featuring a Russian choir performance against bright and colourful orchestration. It sounds very much like a parody of the Soviet national anthem, particularly with the folk dance rhythms, though is surprisingly elaborate too. “The Big Apple” is a surprise among the otherwise edgy exploration themes. It’s very modern and soothing with its blend of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic features, but exquisitely put together by Wynn regardless. Other novelties include the country jam “American Cowboys”, the traditional Japanese instrumentation of “Radio Sunrise”, and the accordion introduction of “European Mirage”. Mikael Sandgren’s sole contribution is the end credits theme. It’s written very much in the style of Frank Klepacki with epic chorus chants and grungy guitar riffs. However, there is plenty of variety during the 2:28 playtime with sections inspired by each faction. The album ends with a bonus folk version of “Soviet March”.
Despite its digital exclusivity, the Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 Original Videogame Score is a very captivating two hour listen. The four-way collaboration clearly worked out as each composer brought high quality and individualistic contributions to the score. Frank Klepacki produces the most vibrant versions of two of his classic themes at the start of the soundtrack. James Hannigan stunning blends oriental instrumentation with conventional orchestral and rock influences. Even Mikael Sandgren offers a definitive highlight during the staff roll. Yet it is certainly sound director Tim Wynn that stands out as the brightest talent with his refreshing orchestrations and surprising fusions. When all the contributions are combined, listeners are guaranteed an especially diverse yet somehow cohesive listen that easily stands up among the best of the Command & Conquer series. While the commercial release won’t offer that much for those who received the soundtrack with the Premier Edition of the game, it has since become the definitive version of the game’s music for those who do not mind digital purchases. Either way, the Red Alert 3 soundtrack should offer something to entertain pretty much anyone out there so comes highly recommended.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.