May 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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EDITOR’s RECOMMENDATION May 2003

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Primal  
Music composed by Bob & Barn (Paul Arnold and Andrew Barnabas)
  City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Soprano - Michaela Srumora
Conducted by Nic Raine
  Available on Silva Screen Records (FILMCD 366)  
Running Time: 61:26
Amazon UK

primal

An ambitious orchestral score for the horror/adventure computer game Primal, composed by Paul Arnold and Andrew Barnabas (otherwise known as Bob & Barn) and performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus featuring soprano Michaela Srumora.

Reminiscent of both Danny Elfman and Christopher Young at times, this sweeping, rather lavish work is a bold exercise in taking the scoring of computer games onto a higher level of production and invention and the music here is certainly good enough to have been composed for a major Hollywood production. Really, there is no reason why scores like this should not become the norm for computer games and there is no doubting that working on projects like this is a major step towards breaking into film work, something which will be welcome news to all aspiring film music composers.

Thematically, the score is broken up into five different sections to represent separate realms that feature in the game and each has individual themes and distinct musical identities, although they never stray too far away from operatic gothic extravagance, something which is perfectly fine with me! The best of the material, heard supporting the underwater world of Aquis, has choir and harp featured prominently and while the music is perhaps not particularly original in conception it works exceptionally well.

Some pleasing melodic writing, plenty of ostentatious brass and strings, garnished with first-rate choral work all combine to generate a rich, very agreeable listening experience. It wouldn’t surprise me to find Bob & Barn signing up for a film project or two in the near future.

Mark Hockley

 ***(*) 31/2

Gary Dalkin adds:

Its strange to find that now, which scores such as Primal, and Michael Giacchino's music for the Medal of Honor series, that computer games sometimes have orchestral musical scores which not only could grace a major feature film, but which far outstrip the lowest common denominator samples and drumloops mediocrity which pollute many very expensive films indeed.

Bob and Barn's score for Primal is quite an achievement and is very well presented on CD, from the wordless female vocal and percussive glitter of the opening to an emotive main theme not so far removed from the melancholy grandeur of prime James Horner, to a startling variation on the Blue Danube. 2001 this certainly isn't! If certain wordless choral passages bring to mind Alan Silvestri's The Abyss, Danny Elfman's Edward Sissorhands or David Arnold's Independence Day, well at least the templates are good ones and the result should satisfy those who are unable to find a suitably sweeping big darkly romantic score among the current multiplex releases. Indeed, there is a real fairytale charm to a cue such as "Jen Meets Arella" which makes this superior fare, while the opening military might of "Raum & Empusa" could almost slip into a galaxy far, far away and not seem out of place. Admittedly the cue then does take a detour through Eastern Europe with a gypsy violin melody fit for a vampire count, but it all adds to a thoroughly engaging and gloriously melodramatic melting-pot. Imaginatively orchestrated with particular featured parts for flute and piano / celeste / harpsichord, this is a lavish work with grade A Hollywood production values.

The enhanced CD also includes a trailer for the video game. I'm getting tired of this kind of thing and would prefer CDs to be used for what they were originally intended for: music. There is apparently a lot more music which didn't make it to the album, though given that what is here does tend to become just a little repetitive at an hour, by not including more I doubt we are missing anything significant.

A big, bold, Gothic score which concentrates on richly orchestrated atmosphere rather than action - most the game's combat sequences are tracked with pre-existing rock numbers by "Volt 16" - Primal is an album to seek out. Now I look forward to Bob & Barn scoring a major summer fantasy blockbuster. It should be worth waiting for.

Gary Dalkin

**** 4

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