November 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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Headhunter : Redemption/Headhunter
Music composed by Richard Jacques
  Available on La-La Land Records (LLLCD 1023)
Total running time: 132.59
CD 1:66.42
CD 2:66:17
La-La Land   Amazon UK   Amazon US

headhunter redemption

This is an ambitious release from La-La Land Records with a two disc set featuring music from the computer games Headhunter and its sequel Headhunter: Redemption.

The 'Main Title' from Redemption is a likeable theme with driving percussion and a strong melody that whets the appetite. Other cues such as 'Jack at Ground Level' and 'Power and Recycling', are suspenseful and atmospheric and this is the mainstay of the entire score. The problem with computer game scoring is that it's difficult for any composer to keep things fresh when writing over an hour of what is for the most part incidental music used as a backdrop while game play progresses. The body of the score is made up of a pretty even assortment of action cues and suspense work, with the action material dependably energetic as on tracks like 'Mig Encounter' and the swinging 'Making Trouble', and this does not pretend to be anything other than a polished, modernistic synth based action/thriller soundtrack. The synthesised sound, with lots of skittering percussion, serves the project perfectly well but a sameness does inevitably begin to creep in around half way through, allowing for the fact that several pieces do win nods of approval ('The 6808' for instance).

The second disc featuring orchestral music from the original Headhunter game is inevitably similar in style and tone but it has surprisingly strong thematic material and the more you listen the more appealing it becomes. While the 'Main Title'' is a very brief introduction to the key motif of the score, it's not until 'Jack's Theme' that we get to hear the theme in all its glory and here things climb to a far higher level of quality. This is a very catchy, rather rousing cue that lingers in the memory. The use of numerous variations of this theme works to good advantage on cues like 'Greywolf' and 'The Queen of Hearts' and there are many satisfying pieces to enjoy here in their own right with highlights like the stirring 'Ramirez at Bay' and the more subtle 'A Dark Secret' demanding many repeat plays. Jacques' music is that it is genuinely exciting, and that's not something to be undervalued.

When assessing computer game music I always try to imagine how I would react if the soundtrack was actually taken from a film production. It is becoming more and more unrealistic to dismiss computer game scoring as some illegitimate cousin to movie work and the likelihood is that composers will drift from one discipline to the other in an effort to find work in what is currently an extremely competitive market for employment. Gradually, as these two discs unfolded Richard Jacques won me over. Yes, it's electronic, percussive music in the tradition of someone like the underrated Vince Dicola, but there's enough dynamism and melodic attraction here to impress most listeners and the music from the first Headhunter in particular is definitely worthy of some positive attention.

Mark Hockley

**** 4

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