zOMG! The Original Soundtrack
zOMG! The Original Soundtrack
June 28, 2009
Download at Direct Song
zOMG! is a dubiously titled browser-based epic adventure game for the Gaia Online community. Few would expect such a title to yield a great orchestral score, but fortunately the community had sufficient money to hire Jeremy Soule and his brother to handle the project. Given it was a casual game project, Soule used the freedom available to him to really express himself and even revisit his Secret of Evermore days after so many big budget epic scores. However, he nevertheless ensured Hollywood production values with his characteristic use of orchestral music production libraries and solo instrumental performances. Proud of the results, Soule recently released the hour long soundtrack through his long-running DirectSong digital download service for just four dollars.
Soule expresses so much humanity throughout the soundtrack while channeling numerous classical influences. Fitting in context and engrossing on its own, “Welcome to Barton Town” is a chamber music work blending the stately tones of Handel with the modern orchestration of Soule. “Concerning the Citizens” maintains the regal atmosphere of the town while breaking the hearts of its listeners with a sonorous solo violin performance. In contrast, “The Village Greens” exquisitely uses a piano quintet to create a laidback organic feel and “Sewer Frollick” takes listeners on a frivolous piano-led ride. Much of the soundtrack is also gushing with romanticism, such as “Cows and Chickens” with its heartrending trumpet lead, “Bass’Ken Lake” with its pastiche folk influences, or “A Time to Train” with rich piano and woodwind interplay against dense, fantastical string motifs. It’s certainly a very personal and emotional journey from start to finish.
There is plenty of diversity and surprises elsewhere within the soundtrack. “Bill’s Ranch”, for instance, seems directly inspired by Leonard Bernstein with its bright Americana orchestration and lyrical jazz interludes. In contrast, “Zen Garden” and “Exploring the Otami Ruins” offer rare insight into the gorgeous timbres Soule can create when he uses Asian instrumentation, the latter also impressive for its tribal percussion use. If that wasn’t enough, the composer offers some of the lighter moments of the soundtrack with a tropical steelpan focus on “Bonfire Nights” and even an experiment with surf rock on “Surf’s Up ~ The Beach”. It’s pretty clear from all these efforts that, while Soule has a well-established personal style, he is more than capable of assimilating other styles into his repertoire. Perhaps he surprised even himself by just how much he can creatively incorporate into his music.
Soule also manages to turn some of his own trademarks on their head. Haunting themes such as “Dead Man’s Pass” and “The Old Aqueduct” feature relatively typical — albeit highly engaging — cinematic orchestration from Soule; however, their soundscapes sound all the more unusual with the beautifully implemented use of theremin. Prepared piano is also used in a convincing way to supplement the eerie ambient soundscapes on “Narrowing Cliffs” and “Lurkers in the Dark”. While brief, the main theme featured at the end of the soundtrack exemplifies the great hybridised approach. The reverb-laden soundscapes and driving bass lines are very typical of Soule, but the modernist piano use and potent melodies raise the bar creatively and thematically. Other artistic variations on the epic orchestral sound include “Off to a Great Start”, “Return to the Village Greens”, and “Buccaneer Boardwalk”, each with their own intricacies and eccentricities.
Even the action themes for the title are massively different from the norm. “A Time to Fight!” features Soule’s most impressive piano use since Secret of Evermore‘s “Variations of Castle Theme”. Written in a piano concertino format, it initially gets blood rushing with the composer’s dissonant brass chords before introducing a playful piano lead. It eventually mesmerises listeners with virtuosic romantic piano runs from Soule’s Steinway of the calibre one would never expect from most RPG projects. Going deeper into the score, “Bugs from Another World” demonstrates how minimalistic elements can be used to create expansive alien sounds while the more familiar “The Great Stone Giant” creates so much energy with its blend of rasping brass discords and tribal percussion. However, the final battle theme “Leviathan’s Wrath” is easily the most striking addition to the soundtrack; an epic blend of chorus and orchestra, it nevertheless retains the melodic strength of the soundtrack within the secondary sections.
Simply put, zOMG! The Original Soundtrack is a sublime soundtrack from a most unlikely source. Jeremy Soule wisely maintained his individual orchestral style that has distinguished him over the years. However, he also offered incredible stylistic diversity, from romantic piano concertinos to classical chamber music homages to novel ambient soundscapes to worldly fusions. It’s fantastic to see him so liberated from the usual demands of huge games. What’s more, the production values of this project are very high and Soule’s use of instrumental soloists adds much humanity to the score. Overall, this score is a must-have for fans of Soule and will even appeal to many of his doubters. Available for four dollars from Direct Song, it’s a bargain for the hour of fantastic music you’ll receive. Let’s hope to see more scores like this in the future.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.