Of Orcs and Men Original Soundtrack
Of Orcs and Men Original Soundtrack
August 17, 2012 (Digital Edition); September 5, 2012 (Physical Edition)
Buy at Official Site
Olivier Deriviere is known to make interesting and refreshing ensemble combinations. From the ambiguous electro-orchestral sound in Remember Me, to the choral focus of Obscure, to the minimalist textures of Bound by Flame, he opts for a more immersive approach in each project while keeping a level of musicality that is both refined and specific. This continued with Of Orcs and Men. When I think of a game involving orcs fighting humans, I instantly think of an orchestral score very similar to Lord of the Rings. However, once again Deriviere proves he can go against the grain and tosses the cliché of orchestral bombast aside to focus on a much more primitive sound dominated by cello and percussion. The entire soundtrack features performances from a cello ensemble known as the Boston Cello Quartet accompanied by Deriviere himself on percussion. Was this experiment a successful one?
For the most part, Of Orcs and Men is a minimalistic score focusing on just a few instruments. A good example of this is “Fight Like an Orc”, which is a percussive composition capturing the primitive nature of the orcs. What I find interesting is that, even though this features mainly percussion, it manages to hold my interest thanks to inspired rhythms and texturing. It could have been a longer composition, but it’s still a worthwhile one. “Weak Humans” is basically more of the same, aside from a little more intensity on the mallet instruments and the inclusion of a pan flute. Meanwhile “Closer to the Wall” manages to sound ponderous and menacing with its guttural cello sound, while “I Hate This Place” is a dark, ominous offering that features just the Boston Cello Quartet. Compositions like these won’t be for everyone, but they’re impressive in composition and performance alike.
That said, not all of the tracks here are unmelodic. “A Knight to Kill Me” from the very first note evokes that sense of adventure and heroics. Opening with poignant melody and majestic chords, it turns into a more threatening and menacing sound later on. This captures a lot of emotion in a little over two minutes time. Likewise the main theme, titled “My Quest Begins”, is very adventurous, giving the soundtrack a heroic start which is surprising given this game is about orcs. The cello melody is nicely done, but it’s the countermelody and harmony that catches my interest. This does not mean that the main theme is not important, but I like pieces that have these intricacies because not only does this provide a unique listening experience all around, but also shows Deriviere can make each part shine rather than make an ostinati here and there to drive the song forward. With each time the Boston Cello Quartet is used in this score, I am proven that going this route, musically, was a great choice.
Among the most action-packed tracks here, “The Wall” starts percussively with booming drums and fast-paced conga. It provides ample setup for some excellent cello work that is controlled ferocity. The chords are sublime and the part at 1:32 is a great section and is an excellent highlight for the ensemble giving this piece a chamber styled passage that surprisingly fits. Did I mention that I love the chords in this composition? “Amazons” adds some new instruments and manages to reintroduce that great theme from “The Wall” again. The worst thing about this composition is that is too short! I needed more! “Human Ambush” starts off with a very driving ostinato with a visceral intensity. Although a little undeveloped, this is a fun composition and one of my favorites on the album.
There are unfortunately quite a few tracks here that work well with the scenery, but don’t do much to entertain listeners on the soundtrack album. “The Slums” features some slight tension giving one the idea that the slums aren’t a safe place. Some light percussion is sprinkled throughout to give this a tribal feel very similar to Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, but there isn’t that much to keep one interested on a stand-alone level. “Twisted Humans” contains some great cello rhythms and build, but achieves little else and goes easily into the filler category. Another track that perhaps the stretches the concept too far is “The Sewers”; it is just four minutes of percussion, without any theme whatsoever, making it skip worthy on the soundtrack album. “Fight for Me” is more filler percussion, and doesn’t feature a shred of a theme.
“Back to the Slums” is a vast improvement on its parent track, “The Slums”. This time we get more meat with the celli added into the mix, as well as some tense percussive elements along with pan flute. I love how this shows a musical progression to indicate that the game world changes and so does the music evolve with that change. In terms of the soundtrack release, however, I feel this should have been combined with its previous incarnation making it one evolving piece as “The Slums” just wasn’t as interesting as the second theme. Moving on, “Fight Me” is a more controlled, structured composition. It has a great ostinato and progression in addition to great orchestration with the pitch bending and tremelo. “Fear Me” is an interesting variation of the previous track and offers a different look at the theme, but one again I find myself thinking that this should have simply been combined with the previous composition to make one wholesome piece.
“Slave Like Dad” takes on a somber tone musically than any other composition on the soundtrack and, after a few tracks of aggressive percussion and cello textures, I find this a welcome change. It builds perfectly and manages to not get too repetitive keeping that oppressive feeling throughout, while still keeping the listening believe that orcs are menacing creatures. Talking of welcome changes, “Back to the Forest” creates a perfect atmosphere and features… vocals! Again, Deriviere achieves a beautiful atmosphere with minimal instrumentation. I love the reprise of the theme from “The Wall”, and there is that beautiful build featuring some interesting ostinati in the cello as well as some ethereal vocal lines. A superb composition that uses very little, but achieves so much both musically and emotionally.
Moving towards the climax, “I Am the Resistance” starts off quietly but builds into a nice, moving piece that features the cello ensemble. Again the harmony here shines and although the instrumentation here is rather spacious and sparse it has airy way about it. It is important musically to let compositions have this space so that the composition doesn’t get too cluttered. “Follow My Lead” continues the melody from “I Am the Resistance” moving it forward. I like the symbolical meaning as the melody follows the lead of this new composition. “The Knight Will Die” starts with a sinister sound featuring the cello quartet and male choir suggesting, the end is near for the knight and the triumph of the orcs is close. I was rather surprised I didn’t hear a climactic battle theme before getting to the last piece. It would have been nice to hear that from the cello ensemble, but I digress… “Finally Home” returns us to the beginning with a more subdued and homely version of the main theme heard in “My Quest Begins”. This approach certainly is appropriate to signify the end of a long journey. The peaceful sounds resonating with the cello quartet allow them one last time to shine as the music comes full circle.
Despite being a fan of cliched fantasy orchestra scores, I can most definitely say that Olivier Deriviere achieved a unique sound that is appropriate for the genre. Despite the great strides this score has made with some strong themes, it slightly falters by having a few filler tracks that are entirely skip-worthy. However, that shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying the overall sound of the score. The Boston Cello Quartet also did an amazing job performing the music and helped define the unique sound for Of Orcs and Men. I would most certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys cello music in the vein of Apocalyptica and 2Cellos.
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Posted on March 21, 2015 by Josh Barron. Last modified on March 21, 2015.