God of War II Official Soundtrack :: Review by Dave
The second game in the God of War series, God of War II is another "hack and slash" PlayStation 2 game, released in 2007. As with its predecessor, the game is based around Greek Mythology, and thus once more demanding an epic score from the contributing composers. Fans of the God of War Soundtrack will be pleased to know that four of the original game's composers also feature on the God of War II Official Soundtrack, with Winifred Phillips being the only absentee. Due to this, you can also expect to hear similar styles of orchestral music on this fantastic album.
The most prolific soundtrack contributor, Gerard Marino, maintains a hard-hitting aggressive approach with "God of War II - Main Titles." Making use of a choir on top of some great orchestration, this theme is a great way to open up the game it is epic, awe-inspiring, and has just the right amount of strength and impact. The following tracks such as "The End Begins," "Crossing the Lowlands," and "Colossus of Rhodes" generally take a faster-paced, bass-driven approach; they serve as some of his more aggressive themes, akin to what can be heard in God of War. He does surprise us, though, with the fantastically developed "The Way of the Gods", which contains one of the soundtrack's most gripping melodies. Despite not being particularly obsessed with melodic exploration on the God of War Soundtrack, Marino expertly develops a melodic line here through his chilling use of strings and choir.
Mike Reagan's style doesn't seem so dissimilar to his contributions to the previous game, just except for the clear absence of ethnic instrumentation. Although this removes distinctive character from their tracks, and makes them sound much like Marino's themes, it does allow Regan to further develop upon his orchestral motifs. By this, I mean that we can now hear the more prominent development of brass, a more detailed backdrop, and more powerful by the melodies he creates. Reagan's two strongest tracks are "Battle for the Skies" and "The Glory of Sparta." "Battle for the Skies" is an invigorating and captivating accompaniment to a major battle, heightened by its strong drum accompaniment and emphatic brass line. "The Glory of Sparta" succeeds with its threatening string sections and choral chanting.
Interestingly, Ron Fish seems to have adopted Winifred Phillips' ambient style with his ominous contributions to this soundtrack. "The Summit of Sacrifice" is a good example of this, with its quaint flute and guitar introduction, and ominous brass-led body. The result is a track which constantly builds up; whether it be through crescendos or adding more instrumentation, it effetively accompanies a dangerous in-game journey and becomes all the more aggressive as time passes. "An Audience with Cronos" and "Bog of Lost Souls" are two more impacting tracks, but really are nothing especially unique. "Atlas", however, is by far my favourite composition from Fish, with its contrasts of silence and reverberation. The dark atmosphere created by the first portion of track is terrifying and completely grips the listener. The second section of the track sees the introduction of the strings and a fast-paced rhythm, further adding urgency and danger. I much prefer the approach which Fish has taken here, and ideally, this is the sort of music I wish to hear from him in future.
Lastly, with five prime contributions to the soundtrack, Cris Velasco's pieces are just as melodic as ever, but are now far more impacting. The shortest of his themes, "Waking the Sleeping Giant," is an energetic and compelling track with fantastic brass interjections and a gripping swaying string melody. "The Barbarian King Returns" is just another energetic track too, but seems more accomplished, not only due to its greater development, but because of the way in which the instrumental sections collaborate with each other. My two favourite tracks from Velasco though are "The Isle of Creation" and "Phoenix Rising." "The Isle of Creation" features one of the album's strongest and edgiest melodies, while "Phoenix Rising" is dominated by an especially inspiring chorus.
Moving to the bonus tracks, many will be surprised to learn that traGiC thought it would be a good idea to create a rap version of one of Marino's tracks. In addition, electro artist Junkie XL offers an arranged contribution named "Junkie XL Colossus Remix." The latter track is actually quite good, and provides a different aspect on Marino's music. "God-Like" though, is certainly detrimental. Finally, "Blood of Destiny" concludes the experience on a hard note with a powerful performance by Shadows Fall.
Overall, this is a strong album, and comes in on par with the God of War Soundtrack. Once more we are graced with a wide variety of ominous orchestral pieces, but the difference this time is that each composers' contributions seems a little more distinctive: Velasco has created a more impacting tone, Fish has become more ambient, Reagan has moved on from his ethnic roots, and Marino is even more aggressive. The album has few downfalls, though the random addition of traGiC's tragic rap theme is the only really bad point. This is highly recommended for fans of the game and epic orchestral scores in general.
Overall score: 8/10