The latest release from Inon Zur (Crysis) is this short but superb collection of main material from the Medieval period videogame, with cues performed by a modest but skilled orchestra, plus light electronic elements and some strong vocal passages.
The half-hour album is generally organized into dramatic contrasts – heavy action streams divided by gentle love and character themes – giving the score a lively flow, and showing off Zur’s substantial writing chops.
The action cues aren’t overtly combative: most are designed to underscore the teasing, the hesitation, contemplation and first jabs between fighters before Zur brings in swirling action motifs, but in place of outright orchestral chaos he grounds his cues with strong thematic statements.
Cues such as “Templars” come with a large choral section, whereas “Kirkwall Nights” features guttural male voices and snarling brass. The latter track is actually an assembly of several short cues that collectively form a complete battle, and the edit seams aren’t too overt, although it’s obvious select passages were designed for occasional repetition during play, depending on the progression of one’s battle.
Balancing out the album’s heavier cues are character themes, a love theme with solo female voice and rustic strings, and “Ferris’ Theme,” wherein Zur created a folk melody set to a contemporary bass line, vintage eighties keyboard tones, and a violin jig that spirals in and around gentle female vocals - a crazy amalgam that works beautifully.
As an album, Dragon Age II is brief, but Zur can easily craft a lengthy symphonic suite, adapting themes and motifs into a rich hour-long adventure – a concept worth considering for a follow-up CD.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan