Skylanders -Swap Force- Official Orchestral Score
Skylanders -Swap Force- Official Orchestral Score
September 24, 2013
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The Skylanders franchise has become yet another annualised franchise thanks to the big brains of Activision HQ, but that hasn’t stopped composer Lorne Balfe from continuing to do interesting things with the series’ scores. After his timid first score for the Skylanders series, Balfe found his feet with the delightful second instalment Skylanders: Giants and proved himself to be a suitable voice for the franchise. He went a step further with the third entry into the annualised series, Skylanders: Swap Force, meshing all sorts of elements to create a well-balanced and satisfying soundtrack. Swap Force is the series’ longest and greatest score to date…
Balfe’s soundtrack is jam-packed with memorable melodies, whimsical moments, and dramatic peaks throughout its playtime. The opening theme, for instance, hooks listeners right from the start with its ultra-catchy Celtic hooks that are progressively build on until the unveiling of the breathtaking main melody at the 1:04 mark. The orchestration becomes progressively richer, building from its mystical choral introduction into a swashbuckling overture filled with bold brass and sweeping arpeggiations. While it boasts the lofty production values of Hollywood scores, it deviates from the Zimmer influence of earlier instalments in favour of a youthful sound reflective of the game and a Celtic influence owing to Balfe’s Scottish heritage. Tracks like this are likely to entertain the young target audience just as much as it will seasoned soundtrack listeners with a taste for the light-hearted.
As with previous instalments of the series, Balfe uses a wide range of approaches to capture adventures of Swap Force. Among Balfe’s experiments this time include “A New Chieftess”, a full-blown orchestrated Irish jig, and “Ride of Evil Glumshanks”, among several tracks to incorporate electronic elements. There’s even an amusing homage to Morricone in the form of “Iron Jaw Gulch” complete with jaw harp and whistling. “Braving Mount Cloudbreak” is another example of how Balfe offers Hollywood production values while paying tributes to the classics: the majority of the track is a bold orchestral anthem, complete with an ultra-whistleable melody, but it’s peppered throughout with some very charming 8-bit synth sounds. The production is generally on par with other AAA game soundtracks. While sampled forces are generally used in preference to live performances, the diverse orchestral, choral, folk, and electronic elements are blended excellently.
Swap Force is an outwardly emotional soundtrack that steers away from the typical moody soundscapes of Balfe’s other works. Players should expect everything from the tranquil impressionistic orchestrations of “Canopy Climb”, to the all-out adventurous rumblings of “Serpent’s Trench”. But what makes the soundtrack so masterful is the way most tracks on the soundtrack develops into something much deeper. The tone of “Braving Mount Cloudbreak” shifts in its second minute into something a little darker, leading to the introduction of a short-lived but very effective secondary melody. Even happy-go-lucky tracks such as “Surviving Motley” and “Iron Jaw Gulch” have their introspective turns. But best of all, “Welcome to Woodburrow” transforms from a dainty waltz into a cinematic climax at 1:28. Reminiscent of Avatar‘s “The Bioluminescence of the Night”, this section will take listeners to surprise with its gushing timbres. It features some of the most beautiful woodwind writing I’ve heard in a game score.
Despite its strengths, the soundtrack does have a major weakness: length. While the tracks do an incredible amount during their playtimes, it is disappointing that most fail to exceed the 2:30 mark. The incredible interludes of the aforementioned pieces, in particular, are often too brief to satisfy. That masterful section of “Welcome to Woodburrow” lasts just 40 seconds before it transitions back into a pretty waltz. The similarly-gorgeous interlude “Dangerous Coils” is also over almost as soon as it begun. It feels a bit like Balfe was conflicted between his own desires to create bold, sweeping experiments with his brief to presumably create short adventurous pieces. Nevertheless, the soundtrack ends on a high note with “Motherly Mayhem”, a dark orchestral and choral track filled with plenty of daring chord choices, and “Hidden Adventures”, a slower tempo piece that bridges together many of the stylistic and thematic ideas featured elsewhere on the score.
If anyone had any doubts about Lorne Balfe, the soundtrack for Skylanders: Swap Force should settle them. He proves himself as an astonishingly talented composer here, simultaneously engaging young players into a colourful world while bringing Hollywood production values to a game soundtrack… and all the while engrossing soundtrack listeners with emotional interludes, bold stylistic fusions, and more a few Celtic touches. The soundtrack is available as a no-frills digital-only release for 10 USD on common digital stores such as Amazon MP3 and iTunes. This 45 minute soundtrack has significantly more content than other additions to the series and there are plenty of tracks here that consumers are likely to revisit for years to come.
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Posted on November 20, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on November 18, 2015.