Music Monday: ‘Mass Effect’ Soundtrack Review
Happy Music Monday!
And the winner of the Music Monday poll is – video game music!
Per the poll results, this week’s Music Monday will be celebrating one of my favorite video game soundtracks – Mass Effect by Sam Hulick, David Kates, Jack Wall and Richard Jaques.
If you’ve been keeping up on your gaming news, you may know that Mass Effect 3 is set to be released tomorrow.
What better way to celebrate the last installment in the Mass Effect series than to reminisce, listening to the music that started it all?
The first Mass Effect was a great game. Mass Effect 2 was awesome. The soundtracks are equally incredible.
Starting with the first song on the album, Mass Effect Theme, I have to say that this song is just hauntingly beautiful. This song could get anyone pumped up to save the galaxy from total destruction. Featuring qualities of both electronic and classical music, this theme song captures the emotions of the game in less than 3 minutes. The next track on the album, The Normandy, is definitely a favorite of mine. Every time I listen to it, I am literally brought back to running around the Normandy spaceship in the game. Both Eden Prime and Battle at Eden Prime are fantastic tracks. While one reminds you of the planet, the other makes you feel like running into the middle of a battle. Saren is a darker track, as it is the theme of the main antagonists of the first game. The use of synths in this song (and the album) is excellent. Every song truly sounds ‘composed’ rather than just ‘put together’. You can tell that the composers really put thought into the creation of every track.
The songs from the ‘Citadel’ in the game, The Citadel, The Presidium and The Wards all have a similiar ‘uplifting’ sound and begin the album’s transition to a more orchestral tone. These songs are bright, fun and relaxing. Criminal Elements continues the sound of the last three tracks, and then the song, Spectre Induction, sounds very similar to the first song, Mass Effect Theme. Spectre Induction begins with a light electronic beat and then transitions to an orchestral climax.
After this ‘uplifting’ period of music, the composers then introduce heavier synths and darker beats to the mix. This is somewhat heard in Liara’s World, but even more-so in A Very Dangerous Place – a fast, upbeat track similar to Battle at Eden Prime. Feros is a great track, mixing light beats and sounds with a dark electronic ambience. Protecting the Colony brings the orchestra back in, and the electronic influence isn’t prevalent towards the end of the track. The next song, The Thorian, is a real stand out track in my opinion. It starts out with the orchestra, and then suddenly all you hear is the haunting beat of a synth.
The next track on the album, Noveria, is very similar to the ‘Citadel’ tracks, in that it features a lighter, more relaxing synth. The Secret Labs, is another real stand out track, as this is the first time we hear what almost sounds like dubstep beats and heavy ‘drumming’ synths. This song is a personal favorite of time, particularly because of how different it sounds to the rest of the album. Now, The Alien Queen, is most definitely primarily an orchestral track. Similar to Mass Effect Theme and Spectre Induction, this is another well-composed ‘classical-electronic’ (orchestral & electronic music combined?) piece from Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques and Jack Wall. Fatal Confrontation is another stand out track. The synth beats are heavy and the ambience of the song is dark and mysterious. Saren’s Base is another great one, particularly because the synths in this one sound so different from the rest of the album.
Breeding Ground is an intense fantastic orchestral piece. This is another one of those songs that makes you want to get up out of your seat and run around on a ‘mission’. The song even features a chorus towards the end (reminiscent of John Williams’ ‘Duel of the Fates’, maybe?), and it actually makes me feel anxious (for Mass Effect 3 of course)! The next song, you could easily blast while driving in your car, and you’d feel like a million bucks. If you want to impress your gamer friends, playing Virmire Ride is definitely the way to go. Before you know it, you and your friends will speeding down the highway to go “shoot some Reapers!” Exit is another great orchestral piece from Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques & Jack Wall (this trio composed the majority of orchestral pieces). This song leads into the games Love Theme, a beautiful piano piece composed by Jack Wall. This song is gorgeous. It’s dark and light all at the same time, and it captures all the emotion found in the ‘love interest’ relationships in the game.
Now, onto my favorite song on the album, Uncharted Worlds. Every person who has ever played Mass Effect will (hopefully) be able to instantly recognize this song. It’s just awesome. This song was purely composed by Sam Hulick and it’s a piece that could really define if not the Mass Effect series, the first Mass Effect game. The song symbolizes the exploration of new worlds, and in my opinion it is also a ‘theme’ for the game.
There is only one song on the album that I dislike, and that is Ilos. I have no idea why I don’t like this song, there’s just something about the melody that I don’t like. It’s a darker track, but for some reason I don’t care for it. However, I do love the next song Vigil. This is the relaxing song heard every time you view the main menu of the game. Bioware honestly couldn’t have chosen a better track for the main menu. Since this is the first song I ever heard from the Mass Effect series, it has a special place in my ‘gamer’ heart.
Sovereign’s Theme certainly fits the character. It’s dark, kind of creepy and features a chorus will send shivers down your spine. If the thought of Reapers taking over the world gives you goosebumps, this track will too. Uplink is another awesome song. It’s as if they took Uncharted Worlds and darkened the tone of it. Battling Saren will bring back memories for many gamers that remember the first time they played the end of the game. The suspense, the anxiety, the stress – it’s all there in this track, and the next three after it – In Pursuit of Saren, Infusion, and Final Assault.
The next song, Victory, is short but uplifting. It reminds me of the great burst of energy I got after finishing the final battle of the game. From the Wreckage is probably my favorite orchestral piece from the album, it brings back so many memories, and The End (Reprise) does the same. Just listening to these tracks makes me feel like I’ve played the whole game over again. Now, if you did play (and finish) Mass Effect, you’d know what an INCREDIBLE song Bioware chose for the ending credits – M4, Pt. 2 by Faunts. Now let me tell you, this song is LONG – 8 minutes and 18 seconds to be exact – but it was this song at the end of the credits that really made the game for me. I wanted to play the game again. This song got me so pumped up to play the second game, since I played Mass Effect after Mass Effect 2 came out. Hearing the beginning of this song during the credits was just “BAM!”. Hearing this song stand-alone isn’t the same experience as hearing it during the credits of Mass Effect, but it’s still fun to listen to.
In conclusion, the composers of this album did a fantastic job. Not only does every song evoke a feeling unique to the game, Mass Effect, but each track has stand-out qualities. Sometimes video game soundtracks can sound repetitive – this album does not. Listening to each track, I can actually pinpoint where I was in the game and how I felt. If you want to get the full experience listening to a video game soundtrack, you have to have played the game first. I don’t know anyone that listens to video game soundtracks of games they haven’t played yet, but being a gamer, I’ve really learned that music is a huge factor in what makes a game great.
Don’t forget to go to our ‘Polls’ page and vote on next week’s Music Monday!