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Dead Space 2 by Jason Graves

Dead Space 2

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Dead Space 2 (Soundtrack)  by Jason Graves
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Space 2 (Soundtrack) by Jason Graves

Dead Space 2
Composed by Jason Graves
Lakeshore Records (2010)

Rating: 7/10

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“Where the first DEAD SPACE made use of its surprise factor to bludgeon its audience with frequent “boo” moments and a constant state of high tension, the sequel plucks some pages from the Amnesia and BioShock books of fear and delivers a far more sophisticated and evenly paced experience that ends up being more rewarding as a result. The music reflects this paradigm shift,... ”

The Art of Darkness
Review by Marius Masalar

Depending on your preferences for horror, EA and Visceral Games’ 2008 sci-fi title DEAD SPACE will have struck you as either ideally terrifying or blatantly gruesome. I don’t think the developers would mind either interpretation. The game’s critical acclaim was easy encouragement for a sequel, so it’s little surprise that 4 years later we’re ready to jump back into the creepy world of protagonist Isaac’s nightmarish career.

Where the first DEAD SPACE made use of its surprise factor to bludgeon its audience with frequent “boo” moments and a constant state of high tension, the sequel plucks some pages from the Amnesia and BioShock books of fear and delivers a far more sophisticated and evenly paced experience that ends up being more rewarding as a result. The music reflects this paradigm shift, and if you’re a fan of JASON GRAVES’ innovative and evil approach to scoring the first title, you’ll be in for some more surprises with his sequel score.

“Welcome to the Sprawl” (1) pulls us back into the mood and introduces GRAVES’ fresh instrumental direction: a string quartet. Though it seems, at first, like a strange move to advance the music by making the ensemble smaller, GRAVES’ choice is very deliberate and very well reasoned. As the musicians cry out the game’s plaintive theme, we are drawn by the intimacy of the ensemble; we feel small, alone, and unprotected. As the cue progresses, we also meet some bells — the significance of which will soon become apparent — and, of course, the growling monster of an orchestra that we remember from the first game. You didn’t think it was gone, did you?

I sure hope not, because there’s plenty more where that came from in DEAD SPACE 2. “Much Ado About Necromorphs” (2) shows a sense of humour in its title. And only the title. The music here is visceral, primal, and extremely tense. For those of us whose ears have been refined by hours of listening to the first score and this one, there’s been a subtle change in these aggressive sections. While still positively evil, they feel less scattered and imprecise. Now they are still terrifying, still propulsive, but somehow more organized and determined — as is Isaac himself, to whom the Necromorphs are no longer a surprise. The more delicate second half of the piece leads innocently into “Nice R.I.G. If You Can Get It” (3), an oppressive and percussive action sequence.

Luckily there is some respite to be had in “Canonical Aside” (4). The string quartet returns for this cue, and delivers a stirring and lilting development of the main thematic ideas. This is where we begin to understand the strength of GRAVES’ idea to have the two ensemble sizes. After seeming like a strange curiosity in the opening track, our encounter with the angry orchestra of the first few cues now emphasizes the contrast and reveals its impact. We are the string quartet; we are Isaac, upset and determined, hopelessly outnumbered.

Driving the point home is “Rest in Pieces” (5), where more orchestra hits pound away under unsettling string smears. The cacophony dissolves into a very quiet, prickly atmosphere that almost imperceptibly leaves us in “The Cassini Towers” (6). Here, whispered voices and heavy choral moans welcome us to the world of Unitology. Rather than represent this menacing church with a theme, GRAVES portrays them with textures. The twisted choir, those bells we met in the first cue…whenever we hear them, we can be sure of whose influence haunts us. It’s a subtle and very effective tactic.

As if to directly discuss the conflict between Isaac and the Unitologists, “It Had To Be Unitology” (7) opens with our familiar string quartet and begins a slow confrontation with the bells. Low woodwinds punctuate nervous silences, and ever so slowly the full orchestra unfolds its dreadful claws and chases us to the next track. “Say Hello To My Little Friends” (8) sounds like a twisted nursery rhyme until the orchestra comes trampling in. But you’ll notice that these sequences are sounding more and more controlled as the score — and plot — progresses. Strong brass leads the way and keeps everything together despite the churning beneath it.

The solo bass at the top of “Awesome Hulk” (9) precedes one of the most ferocious builds of orchestral noise you could ever imagine, and the ensuing madness of skittering strings and muted brass certainly reflect conflict with a huge foe. With barely a pause, “You Got Nill” (10) carries the action forward at a more march-like pace, with prepared piano and cymbal and gong strikes joining the fray prominently. Extremely low male choirs, bass woodwinds, heavy bells, and other moody low-end contributions suffuse the latter half of the cue.

The album’s closing stretch contains some of the most frightening music you’re ever likely to encounter. “I Only Have Eyes For You” (11) is a deceptive piece that frequently erupts with violence only to die back down to a false sense of security. It passes the torch to “You Go To My Head” (12) where all the various elements of horror that we’ve encountered apart so far come crashing together. The stakes are clearly high here, and the interplay between indomitable orchestral violence and persistent string quartet offerings is powerful. The score itself concludes fiercely with “Come Rain Or Come Convergence” (13). Expect some truly beautiful development of the main theme here, as well as one of the only moments of true purity and beauty on the entire album.

The final track is unique in that it is actually a segment from a longer concert work that GRAVES composed during the scoring of the game. It, of course, is very much in line with the mood of the score and develops its thematic material in a sophisticated manner. Bits of this “Lacrimosa” (14) ended up used throughout the game’s more sympathetic moments, and it served as the iconic piece used to represent the game for its London premiere, where it was performed live in concert. The suite provided on album is an excellent and manageably sized segment that brings the score to a close with intelligent poise.

The obvious caveat with a score like DEAD SPACE 2 is that, for all its sophistication and craft, it simply isn’t nice to listen to. But for what it is, the score is brilliant. I wouldn’t want to attend a dinner party where this was setting the ambience. I won’t soon be exercising to it (though, upon reflection, it may provide the necessary motivation to actually take up jogging). Like its predecessor then, JASON GRAVES’ work here is something to be appreciated and admired — especially in the context of the game, where the implementation is fantastically organic — but not really enjoyed, per se. Still, it joins the ranks of excellent modern horror game scores alongside BioShock, and Dante’s Inferno, and showcases JASON GRAVES as a multi-faceted talent with the creative ingenuity to see a project like this through to a satisfying conclusion.

…Boo!

 

Rating: 7/10

 

 


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Welcome t the Sprawl 5:19  *****
2 Much Ado About Necromorphs 4:34  *****
3 Nice R.I.G. If You Can Get It 2:19  ***
4 Canonical Aside 2:00  ****
5 Rest in Pieces 2:44  ***
6 the Cassini Towers 3:56  ***
7 It Had To Be Unitology 5:14  ****
8 Say Hell To My Little Friends 5:01  ***
9 Awesome Hulk 4:12  ****
10 You Got Nill 4:11  ***
11 I Only Have Eyes For You 4:59  ****
12 You Go To My Head 4:13  ***
13 Come Rain Or Come Convergence 3:44  *****
14 Lacrimosa 7:39  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 60 minutes  

 

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