Skylanders -Trap Team- Official Orchestral Score
Skylanders -Trap Team- Official Orchestral Score
September 23, 2014
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Skylanders: Swap Force featured Lorne Balfe’s most impressive game score to date. Could he possibly top it with his soundtrack for the follow-up Skylanders: Trap Team? Perhaps in quantity, but definitely not in quality… The score keeps things fresh on the stylistic front, but it isn’t always as accessible and also takes a major step backwards on the length front.
It doesn’t seem like the annualised nature of the Skylanders series has significantly affected the creativity of Lorne Balfe’s music for the series. More than just a well-oiled machine like many of his contemporaries, he makes clear efforts to keep this entry into the series fresh, albeit not necessarily exciting. This should be evident from the theme for the first level, “Soda Springs”, which shifts away from the bold scoring approaches of earlier instalments of the series in favour of a tranquil, exotic soundscape. By blending irregular glockenspiel rhythms, resonant clarinet parts, and ethereal vocals combine with more typical Skylanders orchestration, Balfe captures the feel of a whole new world within an already-established universe. This track may be too subdued for some to enjoy on a stand-alone basis, especially the game’s younger audience, and lacks the marvel and exuberance of other additions to the series. However, it is atmospheric and creative enough that it will still appeal to many soundtrack listeners.
As the score progresses, listeners get to further taste of Balfe’s fresh but familiar sound of the series. Don’t expect the grand orchestrations of Giants or lively electronics of Swap Force on the likes of “Know-it-All Island”, “Sunscraper Towers”, and “Chef Zeppelin”. Instead, expect very serene orchestrations kept interesting through irregular Celtic rhythms and unusual forces (piano and harpsichord included). These tracks aren’t as accessible as those of its predecessors, but they bring something new to a series that was at risk of becoming stale. Balfe also gets the tone just right with “Skylanders Academy” to capture a laidback training area. The orchestration is kept soft and peaceful throughout — and as usual sounds top-notch thanks to Remote Control Productions’ cutting-edge samplers — there’s enough variation in the phrasing and orchestration to capture the day-to-day activity of the academy. It’s another timbral and rhythmical delight on a stand-alone basis.
That all said, Balfe still often returns to the approaches that made the series’ music popular in the first place. Trap Team‘s “Main Theme” recalls the scoring approaches of Skylanders: Giants, with its gigantic Pirates-esque orchestration and huge brass melodies. But rather than be a tired retread, it still sounds quite fresh thanks to its likeable melody and strong Celtic influences. “Rainfish Riviera” brings some excitement to the sometimes sleepy score with its thick textures, fast pace, and no shortage of scotch snap rhythms. “Chompy Mountain”, much like the pieces from Skylanders: Swap Force, takes some surprisingly deep, dark turns during its relatively lengthy 3:06 development section. Sadly, not too many other tracks in the soundtrack undergo such radical developments in line with Balfe’s mostly understated approach in the score.
While dark themes are few and far between in the Skylanders series, the end of the soundtrack features several in succession. “Monster Marsh” and “Lair of the Golden Queen” are major shifts from the rest of the series, both dark, moody compositions with few melodies to speak of. Though they still have Skylanders undertones, they also share resemblance with Balfe’s work on Beyond: Two Souls. “Dreamcatcher Theme” is an effective if clichéd boss theme, shifting between orgel solos into semi-operatic orchestral segments, each of which are haunting for different reasons. Finally, the soundtrack concludes with “The Nightmare Express”, another ambient theme peppered with exotic woodwinds and percussion. But as this track closes the soundtrack after just 28 minutes of playtime, it also feels incredibly anticlimactic and disappointing in contrast to the epic finish of Swap Force.
The Skylanders: Trap Team soundtrack is a fresh addition to the series, shifting away from the bold approaches of earlier scores in favour of exotic atmospheric scoring of both light and dark. This approach won’t appeal to all fans of the series due to its more subdued approach, but should still appeal to many soundtrack listeners, especially those with a leaning towards Balfe’s other scores. But unfortunately, this soundtrack worsens rather than remedies the playtime problem of the series’ soundtrack releases. Available for purchase for some 10 USD through digital music scores, it feels quite overpriced for such a small amount of music.
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Posted on November 21, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on November 18, 2015.