Wednesday, 17 October 2012

19 Days - Are You Ready For Halo 4? The Soundtrack

Part 1: The Game
Part 2: The Console
Part 4: The Art Book
Part 5: The Controller
Part 6: The Thursday War
Part 7: The Map Pass
Part 8: The Headset

For Part 3 of our Halo 4 launch preparations let's take a look at the Halo 4 Original Soundtrack.

Until now Halo music has been under the evergreen stewardship of Bungie Composer and Audio Director, Marty O'Donnell. There are few games with as iconic and emotive music as the Halo series, so the community has had an understandable level of unease with the transition to a new composer, Massive Attack’s Neil Davidge.

I've had a good amount of time with the Halo 4 OST and can confirm that whilst it is a departure from O'Donnell's soundtracks, it is an excellent album in its own right. In some ways this departure was necessary, giving Halo 4 a sound too similar to the past games could draw uncomfortable comparisons with O'Donnell's work. A new game, a new trilogy (or saga), a new developer, it's only right that Davidge was given the freedom to give Halo a new sound. I really didn't want to use this most cliché of adjectives to describe the album, but there isn't really a worthy synonym to the word "epic". Because that's what defines Davidge's Halo score, it is full to the brim of the epic sweeping drama we've come to expect from modern Hollywood blockbusters. 

“Is there an overriding theme to the album like there was before?”

It's a question I've been asked by nearly everyone I've mentioned the album to. The answer is no, there isn't really a regularly recurring theme, there are chains of notes that appear throughout the album, but nothing I'd quantify as a theme in the same way as John Williams' Harry Potter or Superman themes. The question prompted me to relisten to the Halo: Combat Evolved OST and ask the question “What is the overriding theme?” Is it the chanting monks? Is it the guitar riffs of Rock Anthem for Saving the World? Is it the drum march of Brothers in Arms? Is it the mysterious percussion of A Walk In The Woods? Halo actually had many iconic themes, and if you asked different people to hum you the Halo theme you'd probably get a variety of responses. In that regard it is more like Star Wars, where there actually several themes, there is the Overture (or Luke's theme), the Imperial March, the Rebel Fanfare and several others all of which could easily be called a main theme.  

In 2001 Halo: CE had a wealth of iconic and memorable music, but did it really have an overriding theme? Or was that something that developed over time? The first time you hear the monks on the main menu, storming the Silent Cartographer beach, doing the Pillar of Autumn Warthog run, the music becomes iconic and memorable when it is tied to these iconic moments. I don't think we can really know the overriding theme of the Halo 4 OST until we hear it in the context of the game.

One thing I can confirm about the OST is that it is a fantastic album. From start to finish there is the pace and flow you'd expect from a top tier musician; there is a journey, a progression, it feels like it's telling a story in and of itself. There are highlights along the way: 117, To Galaxy and Green & Blue are some of the best pieces of music in any game. There is an unfortunate lull in the middle, I didn't really enjoy Nemesis and Ascendancy, but it quickly pulls back with the warm strings of Solace, building to the explosive bombast of To Galaxy.

There are two versions of the OST being released, the standard edition releases next Monday on October 22nd, it is available on Amazon UK for £9 or Amazon US for $10.

There is also the Special Edition Halo 4 Soundtrack which includes:
  • The Special Edition soundtrack packaged in exclusively numbered premium case
  • Original Soundtrack CD includes 15 Tracks
  • Bonus remix CD of remixes by top electronica artists including: DJ Skee & THX, Gui Boratto, Sander Van Doorn & Julian Jordan, Apocalyptica, Caspa and more.
  • 180 Gram, 12" Master Chief picture disk vinyl of remixes.
  • Making of Halo 4 Music DVD and book that feature behind the scenes photos and, footage from the Abbey Road sessions, and Neil Davidge's production and composition notes.
  • 12"X12" Halo 4 Art Print.
  • PLUS for the first 5000 special edition box sales only, a Halo 4 Avatar download code.
(It used to advertise that it would be signed by Neil Davidge, the fact that it's changes might mean that the signed copies have run out or it might just be a mistake on the site)

The Special Edition OST releases alongside the game on November 6th. It had originally been scheduled for release next Monday on the 22nd, but had to be delayed "due to exclusive spoiler information that cannot be leaked". Presumably this relates to something in the Special Edition bonus content. People who order the Special Edition will receive a code to download a digital version of the OST on Monday the 22nd October so they don't lose out on anything compared to those who buy the standard edition.

The Special Edition is only available to order direct from 343industries at, it is £50 (+£8 p&p) for people in the UK and $75 for people in the US. It's a fantastic set and sure to be worth more than that on eBay in years to come.

The Halo 4 OST is right up there with the very best Halo soundtracks, I'd even go as far as to say that as an album, it is better than any of the other Halo OSTs. With any OST, much of the lasting appeal will be in how the events of the game tie in to the music, in a few weeks the tracks will cease to be just great pieces of music and will instead be triggers for all of our memories playing Halo 4. So despite all the heavy praise I've heaped upon Davidge's album so far, dare I say that it only stands to get better?

- Cowboy Out.

1 comment:

  1. Hey men i have a question for you, as you know there's 3 editions of the soundtrack, 1: Standar Edition whit 15 tracks, 2: Digital Edition whit 15 tracks + 6 remix tracks, and 3: Special Edition whit evereything you show above right?? correct me if im wrong ok, well here's my question, in the official anounce in waypoint they said this: "Those who purchase a physical copy of the Original Soundtrack will receive a free download voucher for three exclusive remix tracks and three additional Davidge tracks not included on the soundtrack but featured in the Halo 4 game. These game pieces will not be available on any other platform other than through the physical CD purchase. " Which are the freaking names of those 6 pieces, because accordig to my research the hole material of the ost is 15 standar tracks + 14 remix tracks and this 6 pieces right?? also they give you the voucher whit the special edition??, please help me!! hope isnt to much to ask, thanks from mexico!!