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CD: Crysis II (2011)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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April 26, 2011

Tracks / Album Length:

CD1: 21 tracks / (49:29)
CD2: 25 tracks / (49:15)


Composer: Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Borislav Slavov, Tilman Sillescu

Special Notes:

12-page colour booklet with a Q&A with composer Hans Zimmer, and liner notes by co-composers Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu

Comments :    

It probably makes sense that if Hans Zimmer is at the helm of a videogame score, the results will be big sound, and an epic scope dealing with dread, desire, and over-the-top heroism, and with the aid of three additional composers – regular collaborator Lorne Balfe (Megamind), and newcomers Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu – Crysis 2 is a giant work that brings Zimmer’s massive sound visions from blockbuster films to the home screen. (The first Crysis game was scored by Inon Zur.)

The good news is little of C2 sounds like the generic Media Ventures material which tends to pepper the films Zimmer or his protégés touch. Although he penned the main theme for C2 – a beautiful blast of heroism & brutality with percussion, heavy orchestra, and a deadly synth drone – most of the score builds on Zimmer’s concept, and La-La Land’s 2-disc set feels like the soundtrack to a 3 hour doomsday extravaganza.

“Insertion” is governed by a thick set of electric tones harkening back to John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981), with Zimmer’s titular theme canted towards a more ironic tone, and barely perceptible bass pulses under the theme statement. “SOS New York” offers a lighter shade of orchestral colours interwoven with a thickening rhythmic pattern, and the addition of brass gives the cue an overtly James Bondian veneer – heroic, majestic, with order governing chaos.

Most of the cues are geared towards intense action, but other cuts reflect an increase in human desperation, such as “Rising Spear,” with grand sweeping gestures from strings and brass in spite of running just over a minute. The following “Dead Man Walking” makes use of the Bondian theme without any graceful ornamentation; here the emphasis is on low tones, an immutable ostinato on strings, and gradual addition of percussion textures – all staying with a lower sonic realm.

Low, snarling brass dominate “Sinister Breed,” as well as slowly drawn-out chords – offering a welcome break between the album’s otherwise heavy dramatic content. Shades of Howard Shore appear in “Semper Fi,” the last cue on Disc 1, where the composers maintain unresolved chords and set up the grimmer tone in Disc 2. (It also ends the first disc with a cliffhanger, mandating a need to listen to the score’s second half.)

“Shadowzone” is a rare lament, and features a great interplay between a mournful violin solo and distant brass – some muted, others quietly snarling, insinuating this brief rest point has no chance of lasting (which is clearly the case when the full might of the snarling orchestra returns in lumbering, off-kilter march “Alien Suite”).

Most of the cues are a fine blend of orchestra, electronics, and digital samples, but there are some cuts with a heavier electronic base. “Burning Night” has electric guitar and pulsing keyboards wafting up from the ether of hesitant strings; and “Eye of the Storm” is dominated by synth wooden hits and a watery bass pulse over which the composers build a frenetic string motif with an aleatoric drift.

Shades of the deep chords that permeated Zimmer’s Inception (2010) are also evident in C2, such as the beautiful “Resolution (repirse),” bookended by solo piano statements, and the composer’s final cue, “Under Siege,” is an inventive hybrid of his knack for weighted chords and an unsubtle nod to Brad Fiedel’s Terminator theme (performed with electric guitar and percussion).

La-La Land’s 2-disc set features a meticulously engineered score that’s been arranged to flow through intense mood shifts. Zimmer’s only credited with writing a handful of cues, making this set a nice sampler of the talent that more than met the challenge to write the game’s most robust action set-pieces.

Highly recommended for action fans.


© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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