Dark Void Original Videogame Score
Dark Void Original Videogame Score
Sumthing Else Music Works
February 9, 2010
Buy at Amazon
Bear McCreary is renowned for his skill as a composer in the television industry, most notably for his work on the Battlestar Galactica series. Perhaps his youth inspired him to try his hand at game scores, but do not mistake his young age for inexperience! His music on the Dark Void soundtrack, like many of his other works, shows a patience and wisdom that few composers possess. The music across the score seems so well-paced, well-phrased, and well-implemented that it is certainly one of the best orchestral game soundtracks to date!
There is nothing half-baked or cheesy in McCreary’s orchestrations or thematic material, even though some of it clearly references familiar material. The soaring melody of the “Dark Void Main Theme” is brooding yet playful as it is carried first by the brass, then picked up by strings, and interchanged across as series of interesting solo instruments. This main theme is recurred throughout the score ala John Williams Star Wars (or Wagner’s Ring Cycle, depending on who you want to credit), each time in slightly different ways, blending eloquently through each piece.
McCreary is able to blend touches of classical composers with modern elements almost seamlessly, as heard in “A Mysterious Jungle”, where a gentle sustaining of strings reminds one of Howard Shore’s work on Lord of the Rings. McCreary expands from there as he brings back the main theme with a wonderful sort of primeval flute — the phrases rising and falling — building to a beautiful arc that quotes even a bit of Debussy (listen closely for Claire DeLune around 3:10!) as it dissipates into darkness.
McCreary’s use of instrumentation is masterful. His pieces rely on percussion to create intensity, while he the strings plenty of room to breathe, brood, and bellow out the atmospheric soundscape required for a game like Dark Void. But he is not afraid to add some disturbing and genuinely powerful bits of experimentation. Take, for instance, the climax of “Defending the Ark” where a heavily processed guitar comes in amidst a wake of distorting and shrill overtones, playing an almost atonal melody overtop an Nine-Inch-Nails-esque portrait of intensity.
McCreary is able to incorporate a number of styles and moods into his compositions all the while using the same pallet and a recurring theme. This ability to keep the score fresh in the listener’s ears yet still patient and deliberate in its role as a backing soundtrack give this the maturity of a film score with the innovation of a game soundtrack. “Survivor Camp Combat” is yet another example of encompassing a beautiful, flowing melody, here carried by percussion that serves as a bed with which Bear incorporates a host of ethnic instruments and grinding solo passages. They culminate into a continuously morphing entity that, despite being a background piece, is never boring and always fascinates attentive ears.
If the score has one fault, it is that it relies almost too much on the main theme to portray melody across the entire brooding landscape that he presents. Perhaps other character themes could have been fleshed out, or other melodies introduced and recurred as the score progresses. A further potential flaw is that the score is only a sampler of music from the game, but nevertheless a well-selected one that still spans nearly 80 minutes. To finish, if it weren’t enough to have the Battlestar Galactica composer signed onto a Capcom game, McCreary actually released a bonus track featuring the main theme in the style of old 8-bit Mega Man music. Any Capcom fanboy is going to have to give him major props for that. Even the old percussion and drum fills are spot on.
Some listeners may not find the music as easily accessible as a Uematsu score that relies much more on melody, or as intense as the bolder military scores you hear on franchises like Call of Duty. However, what McCreary is able to accomplish in this soundtrack is something to which many modern game scores should aspire. While the classic 8-bit arrangement makes me yearn for the yesteryear of gaming, it is exciting to look forward to the work other talented young composers will someday bring to video games. Let us hope that McCreary is there to help continue along that path.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jay Semerad. Last modified on August 1, 2012.