HALO 4 – Neil Davidge
Guest Review by Joe Bat
It is strange to think today that video games are billion-dollar franchises. The gamer of today definitely knows of the Halo series of games. It was with Halo 2 & Halo 3 we saw arguably for the first time how games could be marketed as a blockbuster event like a big budget Hollywood film. Having early beginnings on Mac and PC, Halo made its debut on Microsoft’s at the time new video game console XBOX. And it has been home to it ever since. The original trilogy as it will be known now, created by developer Bungie Studios, brought a huge community together. It would spawn fan fiction, several novels, short films, and even catching the eye of Hollywood to develop a feature film. It isn’t often a hugely successful series like Halo changes creative hands, but that is exactly what Halo 4 is.
To say Halo 4 represents a huge risk for publisher Microsoft is putting it lightly. It is probably their most important release of the year and forward. The reigns have been given to 343 Industries, who just so happen to contain some of the minds behind the original trilogy of games. But they are still new as a company and team. A lot of work has been put into the early marketing of the game by both Microsoft and 343 to assure fans the game is in good hands. Part of that was releasing an enhanced version of the original Halo. It’s a smart move and as a fan myself, it helps knowing the people are passionate and devoted to their fan base.
The music for the original Halo series was composed and produced by Marty O’Donnell. He created music that was evocative and dynamic. It was also music that mixed a little bit of the old and new together. The memorable Halo Theme would become as popular as famous video game themes that came before it. The theme, like the music in general would continue to grow throughout the series. It had the ability to be dynamic in that it could be everything from mysterious, fun, and bold. Just when you would think the music had reached its peak, Marty would surprise everyone with something new.
Even though it was a shock to see Bungie Studios leave, I was willing from the start to give 343 a chance. However, being also a huge fan of Marty’s Halo music it was a shock to think he wouldn’t be back to continue the Halo series. This time around the music is being guided by British composer Neil Davidge. I am going to admit I had no idea who Neil Davidge was when it was announced he would be the composer of Halo 4. As one would, I did some checking and saw no past projects with video games and limited amount of film projects. Who is this guy I kept saying? I continued to look until I saw a familiar name: Massive Attack. The team behind the music said they wanted to approach Halo 4 by creating a cinematic approach to the music.
The original Halo series always had a diverse mix of musical styles and this continues with Halo 4. There are both epic set pieces with full orchestra and chorus, but then there is also an interesting mix of electronic and synthesized effects. This was true with past Halo games. Like on previous Halo soundtracks, the music is presented as a collection of carefully edited suites mixed together. What can be heard that is new and no doubt from Davidge’s experience with Massive Attack is the presence of more traditional electronic beats, heard right away in the opener “Awakening”, a constant driving piece that never takes a break. The piano is featured here heavily along with electronic beats and strings that sound very much like past Halo music, which is a great start to the album. Things get a lot more experimental and electronic in “Requiem” and “Legacy”, which also features ethereal female vocals. The driving action returns in “Faithless” with again some alien-like electronics mixed in with heavy percussive elements. The first truly thematic piece comes with “Haven”, a great dramatic theme featuring lush swirling lush strings. Even though the decision was made not to feature the original Halo Theme, I was pleasantly surprised to hear musical nods in “Nemesis” to what you could call the Ring Theme from the original games. Low electronic and mysterious strings alluding to something sinister approaching as the music constantly rises and peaking with the first use of chanting chorus. Another standout piece that makes use of the chorus is “Revival”, constantly building and rising until coming to a full out electronic pulsing beats and chanting chorus. No doubt this being Halo 4’s signature thematic motive. If there is one problem I have with the music is that it feels like many ideas mixed together and no one musical direction. But it is hard to not enjoy listening to the music as it just has many standout moments, such as “To Galaxy”, the prominent action set piece “117”, and the lighter “Green and Blue” closer.
I was pleasantly surprised to find my reservations on the music of Halo 4 would be laid to rest. It is somewhat of a déjà vu moment, as it was the same experience I had when listening to Halo for the first time ahead of the game’s release. I am now even more excited to experience Halo 4 come November. The attention of detail that has been put into the music by Davidge and the rest of the music team can easily be heard and appreciated. Yes, I do miss the original Halo theme and feel it could have been quoted somewhere, the heart of the original Halo sound is still there. And if this is to be a revitalization of the series to stand alone from the original trilogy than the music should also reflect this. The future of Halo’s music is in good hands. Highly recommended. Along with the Neil Davidge tracks, featured is also several remix tracks done by other artists. Some of these are interesting, and as a bonus they are included with many copies of the soundtrack. For more information, visit www.halo4soundtrack.com.
Buy the Halo 4 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Belly of the Beast
- To Galaxy
- Green and Blue
- Awakening – Gui Boratto Remix
- Green and Blue – KOAN Sound Remix
- Requiem – Bobby Tank Remix
- Ascendancy – Caspa Remix
- 5 to Galaxy – Sander Van Doorn & Julian Jordan Remix
- Haven – Hundred Waters Remix
- Revival – DJ Skee & THX Remix
- Ascendancy – Matt Lange Remix
- Nemesis – Alvin Risk Remix
- Solace – Maor Levi Remix
- Arrival – Norin & Rad Remix
- Green and Blue – Andrew Bayer Remix
- Foreshadow – James Iha Remix
- The Beauty of Cortana – Apocalyptica vs. Neil Davidge Remix
Running Time: xx minutes xx seconds
7HZ Productions (2012)
Music composed and produced by Neil Davidge.