Total Annihilation Redbook Audio
Total Annihilation Redbook Audio
September 30, 1997
Buy Used Copy
It’s really interesting looking back at the Total Annihilation soundtrack now as it is one of Jeremy Soule’s first game soundtracks. Since this game, which came out in 1997, he has gone on to do mostly fantasy RPG’s such as Icewind Dale, Guild Wars, Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, and Oblivion. It’s also one of the first full orchestral scores for a video game — certainly the one that had the most impact upon its release. Soule persuaded Cavedog Entertainment to allow him to use an orchestra for Total Annihilation because at the time, other RTS soundtracks, such as Starcraft, had very upbeat, techno based soundtracks. Soule felt that to stand out from the crowd they should take the plunge and use an orchestra (he said he was even willing to bet one years worth of pay that it would work, which it did).
Compared to a lot of video game soundtracks, certainly these days, the amount of music listeners receive is very limited, with only 16 tracks lasting just over 30 minutes. The soundtrack itself is actually CD audio from the game disc, so you can insert the game disc into your CD player and even rip the music onto iTunes.
Unlike other Jeremy Soule soundtracks, there is no main theme in Total Annihilation. Instead what we get is a series of tracks which can be divided into two distinct categories, ‘peace’ tracks and ‘battle’ tracks. The first seven tracks are all battle tracks that play when you engage the enemy, while the rest of the tracks are peace tracks that play when there’s no fighting going on and you’re building your base.
The performance of the music is brilliant. The 96 piece Northwest Sinfonia really bring out all the appropriate phrasing and character of the music and give a very dynamic performance. The choir gives some tracks an extra subtle layer of atmosphere, which works really well, especially in some of the peace tracks such as “Charred Dreams” and “Desolation”.
The battle tracks have a nice variety to them with many different ideas explored. All of these tracks sound like they were very influenced by Stravinsky and Shostakovich, which is unusual for Jeremy Soule when you consider that his favourite classical composer is Brahms. In “Brutal Battle” you’ve got a rousing melody line from the fanfare-like trumpets in 5/4 time (which, for once, isn’t used in a similar way to Mars from The Planet’s suite), while in “The March Unto Death” you have an interesting use of a circle of fifths.
“Ambush in the Passage” meanwhile starts off almost like a fantasy score before it picks up. Perhaps the most interesting of these battle themes is “Forest Green”, which is somehow both calm yet action orientated at the same time. If there’s one criticism I have of these tracks, it’s that most of them don’t really have endings — they just end very abruptly, which just feels weird, and makes you want more, though I guess that’s a testament to how good the music is.
The peace tracks feature very slow, moody, tension building music, and also give a good depiction of a war torn desolate wasteland. Again, there’s a good variety in these tracks too, from shimmering strings in “Death and Decay” to sombre solos from the cello in “Licking Wounds”, from the cor anglais in “Where am I?” to a low droning bass in “Futile Attempt”. “Stealth” is very clever, as underneath the tuned instruments there are some percussion lines that almost sound like they could be electronic (in a good way). On their own, as stand-alone tracks the peace tracks aren’t quite as interesting to listen to as the battle tracks as they’re more about atmosphere but they’re still well worth a listen. My two favourites are “Death and Decay” and “Where am I?”
All in all, the Total Annihilation soundtrack is one of the best overall videogame soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Every track is memorable as a standalone track and they all really contribute to the game’s atmosphere. As I mentioned earlier, the soundtrack is actually CD audio from the game disc itself, so the thing to do is to find and buy the game — I highly recommend it. It’s well worth playing this game, but it’s also well worth putting the disc into your CD player or ripping the music onto iTunes.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on August 1, 2012.