Sunday, July 14, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Pacific Rim - Ramin Djawadi

Pacific Rim
by Ramin Djawadi

My partner and I just caught the incredible kaiju+robot movie, Pacific Rim, and we definitely enjoyed Guillermo del Toro's latest flick.   If you guys have a chance to catch it, I highly recommend you do so immediately!  Now, the movie was such an engaging experience thanks also to the soundtrack, which was crafted by Ramin Djawadi, whose work might sound familiar to many of you guys (Game of Thrones, Persons of Interest, System Shock 2 and Medal of Honor).

The soundtrack is composed of 25 tracks and runs a total of 58 minutes long.  The tracks are a great mix of pounding rock music and thematic tunes.  Pacific Rim (Track 01) opens with the energy of an action sequence.  Electronic guitars meld nicely with keyboard synths and a battle-ready drum beat.  I can very easily imagine the track even being used as a credits roll track and some of you might even easily visualize the ending credits of movies like Iron Man upon hearing this track.  Gipsy Danger (Track 02) continues the energetic beat and has some synthesizer moments that plug in a nice heroic theme into the tunes.  Cancelling the Apocalypse (Track 03) shifts gears by ditching the drums for a nice gentle blend between guitar strings and the synthesized keys.  It shifts in mood at two minutes and thirty seconds to a more hopeful and uplifting beat with drums carrying the tune to a more glorious moment.  Just a Memory (Track 04) pulls in the strings to build up the tension and worry.  The tense landscape surrounds you and tightens into a dangerous spiral that is accompanied by a threatening horn section.  2500 Tons of Awesome (Track 05) embraces the use of horns to embody the massiveness of the elements in the scene.  The piece is slower in beat than the main song, but maintains a tense stomping rhythm.  The Shatterdome (Track 06) then brings back the heroic themes introduced in the first few tracks, but overlays a constant tense rhythm.  There's no doubting the danger is growing in this piece.  Chanting Russian voices are added to give the piece an atmosphere of grandeur.   Mako (Track 07) shifts to letting a female vocal lead the piece.  The track is ethereal and soft, but never too gentle.  The song reminds you of a great burden being carried in the scene.   Call Me Newt (Track 08) has an almost easy-going attitude to the piece, almost reminiscent of Billy Joel songs and the like, but at 45 seconds the song shifts into a song that combines hints of the Russian chanting to a more determined motif.  Jaeger Tech (Track 09) carries the dramatic feel of a heroic piece (enough to probably test some speakers out there) and the way it uses the electric guitar is sure to make some smile.  But the suddenly shift at the 1:30 mark might put some people off, given it completely changes the feel of the piece.  To Fight Monsters, We Created monsters (Track 10) combines pounding percussions with a danger-filled blending of leitmotifs.  Oddly, the final result is an uplifting hopeful piece that reminds the listener that there still exists hope.

 Better Than New (Track 11) sounds forlorn and seems to reminisce about better days.    But no, we don't stay there long as We Are the Resistance (Track 12) returns the constant tense beat to the music.  The chanting slides effortlessly in, almost suggesting how important and powerful teamwork is in getting the job done.  But at the same time, the song never removes the feeling that danger is ever present and one wrong move can mean death.  Double Event (Track 13) and boy the tension does not drop as the next track ups the ante with string swells and almost marching chants and pounding beats that suggest martial arts moves being thrown into the battle.    Given this is entitled Double Event, the song does not remain satisfied with the Asian chanting, but slides in the Russian Chants as well to counterpoint the piece before it ends.  It ends with a swell, though, which makes it less loopable than desired for games. Striker Eureka (Track 14) opens with a sense of tragedy and trouble.  Then bolts forward with the electric guitar growling as it blares the impending danger onto your face.  Category 5 (Track 16) and The Breach (Track 24) resonate with this mood as well.  Go Big or Go Extinct (Track 18) kind of tries too hard in this area, but if used alone can work pretty well.  The piece does however shift to a nice battle tune.  For My Family (Track 20) opens with heavy horns and the drum voice combination we've grown accustomed to which we've heard in many other movies.   But then, it catches you by surprise in the forty second mark by adding a rising string section that can be both tragic and heroic, depending on how you feel about the scene.  

Physical Compatibility (Track 15) opens with a playful touch of strings and what sound like gongs.  Drums interject on occasion here, and the piece starts reminding me of shows like Battlestar Galactica.  But interestingly, the song never slides too far away from the Pacific Rim leitmotifs.  Pentecost (Track 17) goes full synth and punctuates the song with a sense of tension that something is wrong.  Hannibal Chau (Track 19) surprisingly has a song that sounds far more tense than mysterious, and its not til the 48 second mark that the expected theme finally comes in.  The song might even remind some of the theme of the Turks in Final Fantasy 7.  

No Pulse (Track 21) sounds more battle-ready than its title suggests.  Kaiju Groupie (Track 22) brings in the tense-mystery feel that has long been absent in the soundtrack.  It feels almost like it would fit perfectly for a show like Grey's Anatomy or Monday Mornings.  Deep Beneath the Pacific (Track 23) and We Need a New Weapon (Track 25) makes no effort to hide it is a heroic moment in a horrific war.  The song shifts to highlight key scenes, seemingly too tied to planned scenes that this might make it a terribly difficult challenge to use in a game.  But thankfully, the 25th track ends faster instead of explores far too many themes, making it far more useful than the other one.

Pacific Rim OST track suggestions:
WTF moment: Deep Beneath the Pacific (Track 23)
Introspective/calm moment: Canceling the Apocalypse (Track 03), Call Me Newt (Track 08), To Fight Monsters, We Created monsters (Track 10)
Tense/mystery moment: Just a Memory (Track 04), 2500 Tons of Awesome (Track 05), The Shatterdome (Track 06),  Pentecost (Track 17),  Hannibal Chau (Track 19), Kaiju Groupie (Track 22)   
Combat music: Pacific Rim (Track 01), Gipsy Danger (Track 02), We Are the Resistance (Track 12),  Double Event (Track 13), Striker Eureka (Track 14), Category 5 (Track 16), Go Big or Go Extinct (Track 18) , No Pulse (Track 21) 
Hopeful moment:  Better Than New (Track 11), Physical Compatibility (Track 15)
Drama/sad moment: Mako (Track 07), Jaeger Tech (Track 09), For My Family (Track 20), We Need a New Weapon (Track 25)  

Best Used In: Big Fights! Heroic Moments!  Games with War!  Heck, I can see this soundtrack being just as useful with a science fiction war-torn post apocalyptic world and a medieval set-fantasy world torn by a world-encompassing wave of destruction.   Admittedly, some tracks might sound too modern than others, but overall, the soundtrack is flexible enough to work with many games.

Oh and for those who LOVED Pacific Rim?  I highly recommend John Wick's The Aegis Project rpg if you want to play a game that can easily capture the excitement and awesomeness of that movie.  Another game that also earns a nod is Bliss Stage.  Definitely great options to consider to capture the fun of beating up massive kaiju monsters.

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