Red Steel Original Soundtrack
Red Steel Original Soundtrack
May 29, 2007
Buy at iTunes
Tom Salta has long fascinated me as a game music composer for several reasons. One is that he often develops his music in such a persistent and intense way. Another is that he is capable of so much stylistic diversity. Both of these features are fully evident in his score for Ubisoft’s sword-wielding action title Red Steel score. Salta hybridised elements of traditional Japanese music and contemporary western music to represent the scenario of the game — showing the journey of the main character from Los Angeles to Tokyo in order to confront the Japan Underworld and rescue his girlfriend. The result is a fascinating fusion score with numerous surprises, both good and bad.
The opener “Tokai San” powerfully sets the hybridised scene for the game. The composition opens with the evocative bowing of a koto and the intimidating chanting of a Japanese choir. However, gradually more contemporary elements enter such as electronic beats and electric guitars to demonstrate the modern influence. As the soundtrack progresses, plenty of other tracks portray Japanese settings, ranging from the soothing and traditional “Dojo” to the vibrant and multifaceted “Welcome to Japan” to the dusky and urbanised “Tokyo Night”. In each piece, Salta shows considerable understanding of Japanese timbres and tonalities, helping to achieve an authentic sound. Also integral are the various instrumental performances from various instrumentalists, such as the shakuhachi and koto. Yet this is not a score of imitations, but one full of surprises and novelties. Salta doesn’t hesitate to insert his own personality and influences into each of these themes and this makes them all the more interesting.
I’m a big fan of fully immersing myself into different styles of music, so for me this was incredible fun. I’ve worked on so many styles of music in my career and for me, I love the challenge and adventure. – Tom Salta
Salta’s action themes for the title certainly feature some of his most intense fusions. He reflects the epic orchestral style he developed on the Tom Clancy franchise with tracks such as “Escape” and “Shiba Financial Group” — uncompassionately layering all sorts of brassy and percussive forces to epic effect — yet even these have their Eastern infusions. “Extreme Wheels Garage” meanwhile features dynamic blends of electronic, hip-hop, and orchestral elements, perhaps reflecting Salta’s history on the Need For Speed series. Yet others such as “Aerodrome Chase” and “Ryushi San” are vibrant rockfests featuring all sorts of distorted instruments from East and West. Tracks like these demonstrate exactly why Salta’s music is so much more meaty and brutal than most game composers out there.
There are even a series of vocal themes dispersed throughout the soundtrack. Some are deliberately clichéd, such as “Patchinko”, “Club Dance”, and “Thankful Miyu”, as Japanese twists on rock, rap, and R’n’B respectively. Like a number of other themes on the soundtrack, they’re also considerably limited by their brevity. They are still somewhat endearing, though, for those who enjoy a little quirkiness in their soundtracks. Far more impressive are “Katana Giri Theme” and “Angel’s Heaven Lobby”. The former opens with a soft rendition of the memorable melody on ethnic vocals before picking up pace and wildness. In fact, it could be described as a Westernised take on Yuki Kajiura’s style. “Angel’s Heaven Lobby” meanwhile is a distinctive song reminiscent of those one might here on an old samurai movie. However, perhaps its immediate inspiration was the soundtrack to Kill Bill Vol. 1, a film with a similar hybridised setting and plenty of katanaplay.
Overall, the Red Steel score is an impressive work. In context, it perfectly complements the hybridised setting and action-packed gameplay. Outside it, it offers a great deal of diversity and novelty, while still having the recurring theme of being an ‘East meets West’ experience. There are times when the score sometimes sounds too superficial — as in the aforementioned vocal parodies or the overly simplistic jazz piece “Restaurant Lounge” — though Salta generally does a good job of incorporating emotional and interesting elements into his music. The Red Steel comes highly recommended for most listeners.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.