Halo 4 – Original Soundtrack – Review

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It’s not every day that we come across an engaging, genuinely life-altering, experience that has become known as Halo. More than a mere first person shooter, the game and its several sequels (Halo 2 is the best, no question) have spawned a library full of grandiose mythos, nail-biting action, and a generally great time for all, over the last ten plus years. It would then stand to reason that the music (both background and foreground) would elevate such a game from a one dimensional doom-clone to an odyssey of orchestral brilliance and mood-creating set pieces. Soundtracks from past games were tragically hit or miss with ODST & Reach leaving something to be desired, while Halo 2 and Halo 3 both showed up with an abundance of epic instrumentation and creative identity. Halo 4 is the latest in the game’s tenured legacy and since this game and OST are now headed up by completely different in-game houses, 343 Studios and talented composer Neil Davidge (instead of Marty), I was a bit hesitant to jump in fully to accept these unknown producers. But while the people making the music is different, much of the original Halo spirit is still alive and well.

This double CD then has the tremendous honor and responsibility of shouldering the “mantle” of Bungie’s legacy, while also infusing it with their own flavor and making it their own. That being said, Neil has managed to take an established greatness and reform it into something that is just as grandiose and thrilling as the sound tracks before it, while also not incorporating any familiar Halo sounds. You hear that correct, the signature ominous halo chorus and any memorable whisper of previous records has been cut out of “Halo 4 Original Soundtrack.” That may disappoint die-hard fans (this writer included), but when you let songs like the opener track “Awakening” and the tension-building “Faithless” play out fully, you begin to realize that we no longer have to keep with tradition for the sake of comfort — we can open our ears to the beautiful orchestral walls of sound that the album offers up so willingly.

The soundtrack almost takes on the persona of a major motion picture with its well-produced, rousing and tender moments of melody and bold accompaniments. One such beautiful surprise on the album was the short-lived but heavily moving song “Requiem” that I must say has no place in any other video game — showing just how significant and filled with purpose this whole game and its characters have become. The meta inclusion of ancient greek style “300″ vocals on “Legacy” are an ode to the ancient Spartans themselves and the program that is named after it in the game; giving fans more to listen for than flat music with no poise or purpose.

And despite the soundtrack’s range of musical emotion, switching from twitchingly alien (“Ascendancy”), to stunningly finessed (“117″), and finding a soft landing with the bitter-sweet tender outings (“Green And Blue”), the Halo 4 Soundtrack feels as it is one solid, living, breathing, entity. Even with the inclusion of the modern electronica second CD with tons of remixes and re-imaginings of Neil’s songs, there is sense of sincere tact and homage, with none of the cheap clattering and bogus over-produced noise that would come with inexperienced producers and DJ’s ripping and sampling his songs. The extra album helps give the OST a energizing leg to stand on, capable of multiple listens and head-nodding moments that wouldn’t be possible with any ordinary effort. If the first half of this soundtrack is the fine art of Monet and Renoir, then the second half is the outlandish yet captivating artwork of Warhol or Banksy. Both lean to different sides of contemporary art, yet both are movingly beautiful and thought-provoking.

There is always fear of the unknown, but when you have the ambition and drive (plus lots of Microsoft’s money) and a few years to kill, then you can find the most talented people to pull together a legendary project. And even though people have years invested in this game and its previous torch holders (Bungie), 343 Industries and Neil Davidge have seemingly done the impossible and lived up to the highest of hypes from one of video games most monumental franchises, and created a remarkable background and musical heartbeat for the series. [Staff]

Score: 5 (out of 5)

Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
Record Label: The End Records
Genre: Orchestral
RIYL: Halo 3, Halo 2, Halo: CE

Track Listing:
1. Awakening
2. Belly of the Beast
3. Requiem
4. Legacy
5. Faithless
6. Haven
7. Nemesis
8. Ascendancy
9. Solace
10. To Galaxy
11. Immaterial
12. 117
13. Arrival
14. Revival
15. Green and Blue

1. Awakening (Gui Boratto remix)
2. Green and Blue (KOAN Sound remix)
3. Requiem (Bobby Tank remix)
4. Ascendancy (Caspa remix)
5. To Galaxy (Sander Van Doorn & Julian Jordan remix)
6. Haven (Hundred Waters remix)
7. Revival (DJ Skee & THX remix)
8. Ascendancy (Matt Lange remix)
9. Nemesis (Alvin Risk remix)
10. Solace (Maor Levi remix)
11. Arrival (Norin & Rad remix)
12. Green and Blue (Andrew Bayer remix)
13. Foreshadow (James Iha remix)
14. The Beauty of Cortana (Apocalyptica vs. Neil Davidge remix)

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