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Homefront by Matthew Harwood

Homefront

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Homefront (Soundtrack) by Matthew Harwood
Homefront (Soundtrack) by Matthew Harwood
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Homefront (Soundtrack) by Matthew Harwood

Homefront
Composed by Matthew Harwood
Promotional Release (2010)

Rating: 4/10

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“Whether because of time or creative pressures, MATTHEW HARWOOD’s score simply fails to muster up the energy to make us engage with the story. ”

Take Me Home
Review by Marius Masalar
 

Unlike many mainstream critics, I actually enjoyed 2008’s intriguing future shooter, Frontlines: Fuel of War. What it lacked in groundbreaking mechanics it more than made up for in polished gameplay, nice graphics, and some compelling combat scenarios. To have that team working on a game with a premise as provocative and important as the one belonging to HOMEFRONT seemed like a smart match in the making. The story itself, penned by Apocalypse Now co-writer and Red Dawn creator, John Milius, represents a strong look into one political fantasy that is chilling because of its willingness to bring the conflict home. Despite promising sales though, the game’s tepid critical response perhaps reveals a studio unable to do justice to such complex plot potential. The overall effect is one of having made no real progress from Frontlines.

Unfortunately, the musical score has also taken a step firmly in the wrong direction. Following the Frontlines score, which was at least moderately good if a little bland, MATTHEW HARWOOD’s music for HOMEFRONT delivers an overly long salad of mediocrity that does the game’s narrative almost no justice.

Opening once more with a rock song, MATTHEW HARWOOD teams up with score mixer SCOTT CRESSWELL for “Stand Your Ground” (1). This alternative rock ballad is an embarrassing pastiche of bands like Breaking Benjamin, whose work leaves it in the dust. Pleasant chord progressions carry the bored vocals through to the conclusion. The score itself begins thereafter with “Main Theme” (2). The theme we’re introduced to is about as basic as can be, which is to be expected, but the non-existent development robs it of any impact it may have had (present it, repeat it, repeat it again louder, meandering bridge, once more with feeling, etc.) Dropping off after a build, the theme leaves us in the “Lobby” (3), a track that instantly asserts a more memorable presence than any that have come before with the gentle percussion/guitar work leading to a large orchestral swell. Two action tracks, “Golden Gate” (4) and “Cul de Sac” (6) follow, with the former being far more dynamic and interesting than the latter and its stunted length. In between, “Oasis” (5) offers a gentle reprieve with some lovely string pads; it’s a peaceful ambience showing a rare glimpse of emotion.

“Escape” (7) is another criminally short (less than forty seconds) and uninteresting action cue based on descending arpeggios. Whoever thought it was a good idea to include so many short stinger cues in an album was clearly not thinking of the listening experience. The strong percussion in “Goliath” (8) is supported by piano stabs and some brass, and the combination sounds a great deal like one of the action themes from the first Pirates movie until the strings take over with some thematic drama. “Good By Boone” (9) is a stunning glimpse of the score’s potential, with soft woodwinds and an unexpected vocal presence managing to evoke in 50 seconds the level of emotive power that the album as a whole spends an hour falling short of. The vocals are carried forward into “The Drop Off” (10), but it is once again so short that we barely get to enjoy their atmospheric touch.

We return to action with “Parking Lot Fight” (11), a propulsive cue with a strong (if abrupt) conclusion and some personality. “Outpost” (12) follows with some ethnic percussion and bass grinding, which brings us back down toward the generic — a destination that “Airliner” (13) and its dorky orchestral stabs are only too happy to take us to. Some cool clicky percussion enters the fray in “Back Yards” (14), and the gameplay cue makes an impression on the strength of its sound design if nothing else. Some of that makes it into the vicious “Bridge Assault” (15), and a nice thematic reprise at the end make for a welcome improvement. This improvement continues with “Abandon Streets” (16), where the guitar and vocals take us back to the mindset established briefly with “Good By Boone” (9) — and this time we have time to enjoy it before it leaves again. “Gas Station” (17) represents the score’s midway point, and offers nothing new for it, just more thin action material hoping to be cool enough to slip past unnoticed.

Since suburbia is apparently a good source of sound design inspiration for HARWOOD, it’s not entirely surprising that “Suburbs” (18), like “Back Yards” (14), is carried by the strength of its interesting production rather than its musical merit. One more utterly forgettable action cue later, we end up at “Burnt Oasis” (20) where the score’s softer elements return in the form of a gentle ambient lullaby — as gorgeous as it is short. Both “Back Yard Battle” (21) and “Warehouse” (22) trundle by without any attempt to disguise their bare and uninteresting construction, which is just as well since they’re keeping us from the cool and otherworldly percussive layers of “Outsiders” (23). The strident blasts in “Under the Bridge” (24) have a hard time keeping our attention, and the following track, “Take The Shot” (25), manages to be expertly soothing…for a track that was presumably intended to be tense. The tension builds linearly with “Little Bird Approach” (26), and some theme snippets sneak in amid the churning string and percussion rhythms.

The unnerving ambience of “Bus Ride” (27) serves as a good interlude before the score’s last stretch. “No Compromise” (28) is (finally) a rousing summary of the score’s better action elements and theme, and the powerful reprise in “Front Gate” (29), though once again cut stupidly short, forms a solid conclusion. Five “extra” tracks are offered at the end of the album, and sadly they are better than much of the score’s official material. “This is our Home” (30) and “Temperance” (31) offer some warm dramatic ambience, and “Connor Morgan” (32) features some spectacular guitar grooving. The oppressive atmosphere of “Crate City” (33) is well executed with growling bass rumbles, and “Familiar Has Become Alien” (34) is an excellent credits cue — one of the few that pushes over the three-minute mark. While it never quite reaches any musical heights, it gives us at least a half decent way of ending the album.

As a listening experience, the HOMEFRONT album suffers from an overload of extraneous material sliced into unbearably short track lengths that keep things shifting away before we can appreciate them. Not that there’s that much to appreciate to begin with. The score is best enjoyed in small doses, where the individual merits of the standout tracks make a stronger impression; when taken as a whole, the listening experience both in game and out is simply underwhelming. Whether because of time or creative pressures, MATTHEW HARWOOD’s score simply fails to muster up the energy to make us engage with the story. If the few glimpses of brilliant emotional writing were representative of the score as a whole, the entire game experience would have been transformed. As it is, HOMEFRONT plays out like a very generic shooter supported by a very generic score, and it’s hard to decide which perspective is more disappointing.
 

Rating: 4/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Stand Your Ground 3:47  ***
2 Main Theme 2:29  ***
3 Lobby 1:31  *****
4 Golden Gate 4:06  ****
5 Oasis 3:22  ****
6 Cul De Sac 0:57  **
7 Escape 0:37  *
8 Goliath 3:48  ****
9 Good By Boone 0:50  *****
10 The Drop Off 1:05  **
11 Parking Lot Fight 2:17  ****
12 Outpost 1:21  **
13 Airliner 2:27  **
14 Back Yards 1:57  ***
15 Bridge Assault 2:19  ****
16 Abandon Streets 2:10  *****
17 Gas Station 1:35  **
18 Suburbs 2:00  ***
19 On Fire 2:12  **
20 Burnt Oasis 1:27  ***
21 Back Yard Battle 1:47  **
22 Warehouse 1:58  **
23 Outsiders 2:19  *****
24 Under the Bridge 1:46  **
25 Take the Shot 2:01  **
26 Little Bird Approach 2:53  ***
27 Bus Ride 4:01  ***
28 No Compromise 2:03  *****
29 Front Gate 0:49  *****
30 This is Our Home 1:17  ***
31 Temperance 1:23  ***
32 Connor Morgan 1:16  *****
33 Crate City 2:28  ***
34 Familiar Has Become Alien 2:20  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 72 minutes  

 

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