Mafia III Original Soundtrack
Mafia III Expanded Game Score
October 7, 2016
Purchase on Amazon
The past scores of Mafia have had a strong Hollywood influence, filled with high-quality, dark orchestral music. Mafia III, which brings in composers Jesse Harlin and Jim Bonney, takes a new approach with their score. While the soundtrack is still filled with the rich instrumentation of previous soundtracks, Harlin and Bonney bring a strong blues vibe to this installation in the series, giving Mafia III a separate identity from the first two games.
The very first track, “New Bordeaux,” is saturated with a bluesy sound that features a swung guitar pattern and a beautiful, dark cello. The unlikely combination of instruments, especially on this particular track, immediately gives a distinctly rich and warm sound. The track’s uniqueness makes it a strong opener for the soundtrack, bringing a distinct personality and instrumentation to the music.
The tracks on the album alternate composers on a pretty regular basis; for every avant-garde blues track that cobbles together a new set of instruments, an equally traditional blues track follows it up. “11th Hour Blues” is one of these more traditional tracks, with that swinging rhythm and those carefree guitar riffs. It’s followed by “From Darkness a Voice,” which opens with a slow rendition of what I’m calling the main theme of the game (“New Bordeaux”), and flips through that mournful cello, a pensive, melancholy guitar, and an oddly upbeat rhythmic section.
As a result, it’s not too difficult to tell who composed which track; Jesse Harlin takes a more somber, orchestral approach to the score, while Bonney inserts much more traditional blues pieces. Surprisingly, they work together quite well, with Bonney piercing the dark mood of Harlin’s tracks for some more upbeat – albeit still thematic – tracks.
On Bonney’s side, “Boy Becomes a Man” opens with a rhythm that heavily punctuates the melody, to the point where there are audible moments of silence between many of the downbeats. One guitar confidently riffs its way through the piece, landing on extend trills at the end to allow for another guitar to come in with the melody.
Two of these more traditionally blues songs also bring a swing band sound into the mix. “Crash n Shuffle” uses a big swing band for a Beale Street-style lounge sound. While the guitar is still front and center, it’s now backed by ubiquitous sax and cymbal, so prominently that I’m almost left wondering where the singer went in this bluesy club. Later on, “Shudder n Moan” brings less brass to the approach, and a much lower guitar gives the piece a sultrier mood.
Other blues tracks slim down the band, having a lighter effect on the listener. “J Bar Blues” is catchy once the melody picks up (which takes a good 40 seconds). The punctuation of the notes facilitates how much this piece gets stuck in my head well after listening to it (hint: it’s a lot). However, I can’t help but enjoy the heartfelt but breezy track. “Straight Razor Blues” is much more packed with sound – there are no pauses in the music, filled with fuller guitar sounds and drums.
The darker tracks of Harlin are enjoyable, but in a different way. Several of his tracks open with some type of moody guitar – “From The Darkness A Voice” opens with a few dissonant riffs and a rendition of the cello melody from that first track, “New Bordeaux,” this time broken by light, driving percussion. “No One is Untouchable” is one of my favorite tracks, with a guitar spiraling all over the place tonally, sliding from note to note. Because each section of the piece fades into the next, the changes of instrument happen almost imperceptibly – the cello resurfaces in this track, but the point where the guitar gives way to it is difficult to pinpoint.
“That’s the Plan, Padre” features an acoustic guitar that gives the piece a very mild Spanish flair. While it quickly fades into the background after the first few notes, the piece soon speeds up with flurries of percussion that don’t quite last long enough to pick up the whole track. “Splintered Past” feels very raw and Western, with a slow, moseying gait, while “Chance of a Goddamned Lifetime” is split into two parts, opening with a deftly pattering cymbal and a few different guitar melodies. The second half features the cello again, bringing the percussion to a halt as it plays through the main theme.
My favorite rendition of the main theme is in the very last track, “Only Thing We’re Good At,” which opens with some sort of dulcimer accompanying a guitar slowly waltzing its way through the piece. The melody is again played on cello, but the new instrumental setting gives it a very different feel. The piece does trail off in the middle to allow for some ambiance and a few drifting guitar notes before ending with a darker playthrough of “New Bordeaux” in a lower octave.
The score to Mafia III takes what is almost a traditionally orchestral approach except for the New Orleans-style spin. Bonney’s blues tracks complement Harlin’s more somber tracks very well, peppering what would be an otherwise morbid score with pockets of brightness and energy. Mafia III Expanded Game Score is available here on Amazon for digital download.
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Posted on December 10, 2016 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on January 5, 2017.