Monday, May 22, 2006

Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume Two

Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume Two

Composers: Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori

So Master Chief, Cortana and Sergeant Johnson walk into a bar…

If you don’t know about Halo, then odds are you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the last few years as Microsoft has been hyping this Xbox game so much you’d think it was the second coming. I, being of the techno-geek persuasion, would tend to lean towards the second coming side of things myself, but that’s another story.

Halo was the flagship, the killer app if you will, of the original Xbox launch several years ago and has since spawned a sequel, three novels, a plethora of action figures, an upcoming big budget Hollywood movie and a soon to be released third game, which will be the reason I buy Xbox 360…like I said, I’m a techno-geek.

The second game in the series, Halo 2, told the continuing story of Master Chief, Spartan-117 or just John to his friends (uh, wait...he has no friends, they were all killed during the fall of Reach...oh, forget it), and humankind’s ongoing battle for survival against the forces of the Covenant, a theocratic alien civilization bent on eradicating all traces humanity from the annals of galactic history. (Apologies to all of my English teachers for the run-on sentence.)

With the release of Halo 2 in 2004 came the Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume 1. The album contained songs from and inspired by the game and featured artists such as Breaking Benjamin, Incubus and Steve Vai. There were portions of the score included on Volume 1, but the majority of music was supplied by guest artists. Now, two years after the initial release of the game, Sumthing Else Music Works has decided to release Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume 2. Written by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, Volume 2 is made up of the original game score from Halo 2.

I can hear you saying to yourself, why do we need a soundtrack album, much less an original score album from a video game? Ok, I can see your point...but if you’ve played Halo or any other video game in recent years, you will have already realized that game music is not what it used to be when you were pumping quarters into Ms. Packman back in the day. Technology has allowed game developers to include full, rich, dramatic and best of all, real music in video games. In Halo 2, the music is as much a part of the game as the visual effects are.

Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori have created some serious music here. Its music that could be, and would be, right at home with any film score. A full half of the album is presented in Suite form, giving you a lengthy view into the themes that made up a specific section of Halo 2. The remaining six tracks are individual, shorter, thematic slices of the game.

Volume 2, as a whole, contains an interesting mix of acoustic and electronic elements that give the soundtrack its own voice. From start to finish, you can find orchestral movements, choral movements, percussion pieces, electric guitars, tribal drums and several other unique elements. A stellar example of this is the Mombasa Suite. It begins with an orchestral piece that morphs into a modern drum and bass piece. From there you’re given a sampling of vocals, synth, electric guitars and drums which lead you into the percussion finale of the piece.

One of the more interesting facts about the album is that it was produced by Nile Rogers. Yes, that Nile Rogers…of the 70’s band Chic and producer for artists such as Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, The B-52’s, the Vaughn Brothers and David Lee Roth to name a few. Sumthing Else Music Works is actually Nile Rogers' own company.

With all that having been said, would I recommend you listen? Well, soundtracks aren’t for everybody and I would have to imagine that original score albums probably appeal to an even narrower group of people, but this album is a great example of what music for new media can be. It’s very lush and eclectic and intense. If you like soundtracks and scores, or if you’re looking for something a little different, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

Personally, I hope that both Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori are tapped to write the score for Halo 3.

...and the film while we're at it.

You can purchase Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume Two @


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