Winifred Phillips’ latest score is for the XBOX 360 game Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, based on the series of books by Kathryn Lasky, and tied to Zack Snyder’s animated film version released this fall.
Unlike Phillips’ prior scores for Spore Hero and SimAnimals, Guardians is a much more cohesive work that follows a steady narrative in which a world is established, characters are introduced, and conflicts are rooted for the final battle between two rival owl clans.
The orchestral palette is much broader, but Phillips also makes use of a few exotic instruments, such as a rapping Celtic drum and wooden clacking for more overt action cues (such as “Into the Darkness” and “Attack at Dawn”). A particularly punchy cue is “Deadly Plan,” with the rapping on heavy drums ping-ponging across the stereo image, and harp and strings providing a bit of mysticism during the cue’s solid pacing.
“Wild Fire” is primarily percussion and agitated strings, and various flutes capture the frenzy of winged creatures avoiding the deadly trappings of heat and smoke.
Chorals are integral to the grim mood of “Nightmare,” and the orchestrations emphasize tight twists and rapidly falling harmonies. The album’s middle cue, “The Shape of the Wind,” provides a short respite between action sets with its gentle pacing and slowly unfolding harmonies. The eerie “Legends” has some interesting colours from marimba, and a thematic line that rises and descends like one of Ennio Morricone’s moody harmonic clouds.
“Devil’s Triangle” continues with the eeriness from “Legends,” drenched in haunting voices, and warped string tones recalling vintage Hammer horror films. Female voices beckon the listener before Phillips switches to a lighter instrumentation that emphasizes hasty flight, but with an urgency to reach an endpoint, although before we reach the album’s choral finale (“The Guardians”) there’s a few battle cues, and a lament.
Phillips’ integration of acoustic and electronic instruments and samples is flawless, and the album’s beautifully engineered with a deep range for bass. Sharp orchestrations ensure every nuance is clearly heard.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan