Killzone -Shadow Fall- Official Soundtrack
Killzone -Shadow Fall- Official Soundtrack
Sony Computer Entertainment
September 16, 2014
Download at iTunes
The PlayStation 4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall shook things up in several ways, from setting to gameplay to soundtrack. Composer Joris De Man helped make the Killzone series popular with the use of acoustic instruments and a cinematic feel reminiscent of John Williams’s Star Wars. The music of Shadow Fall is reminiscent of the earlier Killzone soundtracks, but offers more electronic sounds and techno influences. The big sound of the earlier soundtracks is prominent, but does step away from the military style marches of previous titles. For this instalment, Tyler Bates and Lorn pull away from the previous three scores by adding distorted electronics to create an even darker atmosphere. Pulsing percussion rhythms give the music forward motion and a sense of urgency while the synth sounds provide harmony that is unique to the game. While this soundtrack certainly sounds less militaristic than previous titles, there is plenty of action mixed in with the tense sounds like in the previous games. But does the integrity and sound of the Killzone series transfer well from Joris De Man’s soundtracks to the new look and feel of Shadow Fall?
For fans of music and the series, the Killzone: Shadow Fall Soundtrack offers inspiring sounds and heavy riffs that will carry you through some rough work and ugly missions. What particularly stands out for me is that Shadow Fall soundtrack maintains an orchestral vibe using synthetic sounding instruments. The melodies are sometimes comprised solely of electronic sounds, which can be quite odd to listen to out of context, but adds to the futuristic electro-orchestral sound. The game’s main theme is an excellent example of this approach with its eerie melody and hybridised sound. The whole track is a rich fusion of elements: electronic and acoustic sounds, modern and retro sci-fi elements,heroic and aggressive segments. The sounds and unique textures coincide with the game’s new look and slightly different style of gameplay. Indeed, the futuristic look of Shadow Fall’s gameplay certainly calls for an update in the soundtrack: the enemies look quicker, smarter and more dangerous than before.
While listening to the soundtrack in the game, I constantly second guessed myself as to who composed what track and which track symbolized which faction. It seems like Lorn composed the ‘Helghast side’ of the soundtrack while Bates composed the ‘Vektan side’. But I believe that is debateable as there are key points in the game where it is hard to discern just exactly who is justified in their claims of war and society and which side the characters truly believe in. That said, while Bates and Lorn worked to create a cohesive soundtrack that flowed from track-to-track, there were some differences between their music. Consistent with his background as an electronic music, Lorn’s side of the soundtrack has a heavier tone with deeper sounds and more distortion, as heard in “Down In It”. Meanwhile cinematic composer Bates composes using more ostinatos and quicker percussion rhythms. “The Armory”, composed by Bates, is more triumphant and has brighter tones than Lorn’s music.
Both composers use dynamics to keep the music alive and exciting much like a traditional orchestral composer would. “Sympathy For Red” (Lorn) sounds like modern glitch-hop music while maintaining the dark futuristic Shadow Fall feel heard throughout the rest of the soundtrack. The orchestral string sounds heard in this track sound very real compared with the synth bass and warped electronic drum set. The distorted textures are a great foundation for the intense pounding rhythms heard in tracks like “Under Attack” (Parts 1 & 2) composed by Tyler Bates.”Hanging by a Thread” (Bates) and “Ghost in the Grid” (Lorn) are more examples of the intriguing and futuristic sounds that make this installment to the series stand out from the rest. The updated music does not let up in intensity even when it decrescendos. At a low volume, tracks like “Sewers” (Bates) and “The Gap” (Lorn) tend to simmer with a dark ominous tone. The weird sounds and ambient moments heard in “Shadow Marshal Academy” (Bates) and “Broken Oath” (Lorn) for example sync up well with the stealthy aspects of the game when time seems to come to a halt. The quieter moments in the soundtrack make impacts like in “Vektan Treachery” (Bates) more meaningful and deliberate.
Some of the timbres that Lorn created for Shadow Fall are particularly innovative. The last couple of minutes of “True Law” features prepared techniques, sounding like someone is bowing a very loose and low pitched double bass string. It sounds like the string is about to fall off the bridge and the sound seems to be further manipulated electronically. I really enjoyed this sound as it is unlike anything I have heard in a video game soundtrack before. In contrast, “Colors Run” is a little on the angry side and full of suspense. The track contains what sounds like cello and bass. However, there is something different about the sounds and I wonder if it is a synthetic sound, or acoustic instrument run through a wall of effects. The drums have the same natural quality to them, with an added effect that I can’t quite wrap my head around. The artist further reflects his background in electronic music on “Down in It”, manipulating all sorts of melodic and harmonic fragments with strange electronic effects.
Overall, this soundtrack is a great model for how to create unique sounds and effects to make melodies and almost a synthetic type of orchestra. The mix is loud, but crisp and clear as glass. The music also goes great with the futuristic and haunting familiarity of the game. If you aren’t careful those build-ups from silence might spook you just a bit. The intense rhythms heard in tracks like “The Armory” (Bates) and “Resist” (Lorn) mixed with more laid back beats in “Hanging By A Thread” (Bates) help break up the tempo and keep the soundtrack dynamic. That said, I would have enjoyed a piano interlude, free of effects and percussion. The electronic sounds were cool, but did get grindy after time. I feel like the music could have done just a little more to reflect the beautiful and vibrant graphics as well as the dazzling lighting effects. However, there are no twinkles or sparkles heard on this soundtrack, not even a moment to take a breath before the impacts sneak up on you. Nevertheless, the repetition of sounds and timbres makes the soundtrack feel like a complete work. An unsuspecting listener would never guess there are two different composers. In my opinion, this music holds true to the big and intimidating tone Killzone has, while adding new effects and heavier grooves.
The notion of getting the soundtrack to the game you are going to buy is exciting and to me and adds to the hype of a release. I love how the icon for the Shadow Fall soundtrack comes up on my crossbar when I turn my PlayStation 4 on. I enjoy being able to jump from a game, to my trophy collection, to the soundtrack with just a few button pushes. I am hoping more developers, like Bungie and Konami, follow suit and offer a downloadable soundtrack to customers as a pre-order bonus. I guess Killzone: Shadow Fall really is futuristic in more ways than one. That said, until recently, this soundtrack was exclusive for those who purchased the game, meaning those who don’t own a PS4 or who only wanted the music missed out. Sony finally took care of this by releasing the soundtrack on iTunes a few weeks ago. I recommend putting this music on at night with a visualizer on if you aren’t listening from the special PS4 Killzone Shadow Fall Soundtrack application. This music is a futuristic trip with an industrial edge that is a unique addition to any shooter connoisseur’s collection.
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Posted on October 16, 2014 by Marc Chait. Last modified on October 16, 2014.