Video Game Soundtrack Review
Music By John Debney
Additional Music By Kevin Kaska
La-La Land Records
Disc 1 – 21 Tracks/Disc Time: 60:11
Disc 2 – 18 Tracks/Disc Time: 55:16
Total Set Time: 115:27
Grade: A+ (BEST OF 2014)
Video game scores have really developed to become a great medium for composers to write some wonderful and exciting that they wouldn’t ordinarily write get to for film in this day in ages. Where film used to rely on the big orchestrial sound for their films, video games now too have really relied on orchestrial scores and some have even surpassed film soundtracks as memorable works of their own. Such as the case with 2007’s “Lair” which was developed by Phase 5 and distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment which was making a splash with their Playstation 3 system that had been released in Christmas ’06. The game is an action, flight, and combat game in which players control the reins of a dragon to fight both in air and land. The player controls a knight in a secret society known as “The Burners”, all of whom fly dragons in combat. While it is unknown whether or not you are able to dismount your dragon and fight as just the knight, Factor 5 said that they hope for you to get off the dragon in certain areas and be able to get back on. It is known, however, that you are controlling the dragon through him.
Despite the mixed reviews on the game, one major aspect that makes the game a worthwhile endevour is solid work of John Debney, one of Hollywood’s most verstile and talented composers in the business with an Oscar nomination under his belt for The Passion Of The Christ and major hit scores for films such as Cats & Dogs, Cutthroat Island, Sudden Death, Little Giants, Jimmy Neutron, Elf, and Iron Man 2 to name a few. Debney’s gift of melodies and big orchestration made him the perfect choice to score this game and utilizing the full power of The London Symphony Orchestra, (which recorded all the Star Wars scores, Superman The Movie, Lifeforce and Raiders Of The Lost Ark), Debney’s music was in more than capable hands of being a memorable score. The end result is definitely one of the best video game scores I’ve personally ever heard and in fact, it really sounds more like one of Debney’s passionate film scores in its orchestration.
Aided by orchestrator Kevin Kaska who also provides additional music, Lair is a grand and epic score that full of big orchestrial colors. Opening in grand dramatic style with “Lair Main Title”, Debney’s score is epic with wonderful chorus and exhilarating colors that really channel his epic work on “Cutthroat Island”. The score is divided among several memorable themes including “Love Theme” which is full of dramatic sweep and is very romantic, “Darkness Theme” which is brooding and dark showcasing Lisbeth Scott’s lovely voice as in “Moki’s Theme”, “Diviner’s Theme” which is militaristic and hopeful march that has a touch of John Williams’, and “Rohn’s Theme” which is very light and optimistic in its tone but has the sweep of both the “Love Theme” and the positive aspects of “Darkness Theme” again showcasing the lovely Lisbeth Scott.
The score is very action oriented and without question the most dynamic aspect of this score that has made it a fan favorite as well as Debney’s best works. Showcasing some bombastic and exceptional material in the tracks “Diviner Battle” (which he co-wrote with Kevin Kaska), “Bridge Battle”, “Bridge Of The Ancients/The Ice”, “Mokai Camp Attack/Reach Mokai City” which features a wailing battle cry, “The Holy City Of Moki”, “Defenses Overrun”, “Final Attack” (which was written by Kevin Kaska) a Goldsmith styled cue that is propulsive and exciting in everyway, and “Battle for Asylia”, which is grandiose much like the rest of the score’s action material which is fun. Debney also manages to balance the action material with some nicely balanced dramatic writing that makes the score nearly perfect on every level. Tracks such as “Epilogue” showcasing Scott’s voice again along with a Chinese erhu instrumental solo, “Elegy”, “Desert/The Guardians Decide/Prophet Battle”, “The Search for Food/Campfire Discussion”, “Funeral Pyre” and “Ruins Of Mokai” which features some nice string work and brooding brass matching the tone of the rest of the score.
The album is padded by wonderful live performance of the Lair score which is a lengthy eleven minute suite that a great bonus for fans of the score that is performed beautifully for both orchestra and choir and reprises most of the score’s material in a tight, condensed setting. The games’ “Trailer Music” is also on hand here as a nice little bonus to complete this terrific package.
This is the first complete release of the score by the renowned La-La Land Records who continues to release the best of the best and Lair is definitely a diamond in their catalog amongst the countless other diamonds they’ve already accumulated over the years. A grand epic score for a game that most feel is a very lackluster effort despite some wonderful visuals, this is the true testament of how some film or game scores truly transcend the project they were written for and Lair is definitely an outstanding achievement in the career of John Debney. If you want epic, this is epic! Major thumbs up!!!