Sorcery Original Soundtrack :: Review by Josh Barron
Mark Mancina has scored some high profile films in his career, including the films Speed, Shooter, Bad Boys, and, of course, Twister. Sony Computer Entertainment's fantasy action-adventure Sorcery is his first video game score venture. It inspired such interest in the soundtrack community that it was commemorated with both a digital soundtrack release and, from La-La Land Records, a physical release with five bonus tracks. As I looked at the cover of the physical release, I had high expectations. I expected to hear music that reflected a magical world and, since it utilizes an orchestra, I hoped to hear something grand as well. Does this score live up to my expectations given this composer's career? Let's find out.
The main theme "Sorcery" creates a mystical aura for the title. It hybridises traditional instruments such as Irish whistle, harpsichord, and bagpipes together with an orchestral performance. Full of adventure and mystery, this lively track is exactly what I expected to hear! Mancina writes as if he is writing for a Shakespeare play and that is a style that I do not hear often when it comes to fantasy scores "Blue Skies over Ordale" is another track with impressive orchestral writing. The strings really shine here as they bring the piece into a Aaron Copland influence, such as in Appalachian Spring. The bagpipe and clarinet passage meanwhile create a relaxing atmosphere that make me think of the Shire.
"Bogey Village" is an interesting piece that starts off calm, yet with purpose until the basses and tambourine take it away to a faster tempo. The whistle and strings offer a light touch, the harps add some mysticism, and the violins screech at times imparting a sense of danger. It is very complex in structure and is catchy especially at 2:52 in which the melody evolves into a serious theme. Among other scenic entries, "The Mothertree" is a lively Celtic reel a traditional Irish and Scottish dance form not to be mistaken for a jig. Mancina offers some interesting orchestration and percussion that makes you want to dance for sure! "Slumbering Palace" meanwhile is great for creating a relaxing and dreamy atmosphere.
"Bogeys Attack Ordale" seems like it would be quite a hectic track, but it isn't. Ordale's theme before was so beautiful and to have such beauty in peril would naturally call for a great action cue, but the lack of a strong melody and returning motives make this track fall into the unmemorable filler category. "The Endless Stair" meanwhile creates an interesting atmosphere and I love the rhythms presented between all of the instruments. The compositional quality shines at 1:29 when all of the instruments come together to form a complex and well layered passage. The piece closes with an entrancing dance-like style led by the strings, almost making me forget the mediocrity of "Bogeys Attack Ordale".
Among darker tracks, "The Nightmare Queen" is foreboding as the title suggests and serves as the themefor the main antagonist. It is quite varied in dynamics as one can hear low ominous basses and high registers such as the harp. "Seven Wanderers" reminds me of Tristram a little. I like the pizzicato strings as they certainly add a nice touch to the mix, and the section at 1:17 contains some particularly interesting rhythms. "Sylphs and Spiders" starts similar to "Seven Wanderers", but it adds some driving percussion and some electronic sounds to create a tense atmosphere. "Finn to the Rescue" sounds like it tries so hard to be epic and grandiose, but it fails even from a melodic standpoint. The orchestration is lackluster and isn't as lush as some of the earlier tracks on the album.
I haven't mentioned much about the action cues from the album, because they all fail to create a sense of urgency and danger. Battle themes should at the very least do this. As one who finds it necessary for the music to reflect the gameplay, I cannot get excited to defeat a monster if the music doesn't immerse me as a gamer. This is unfortunate as the album contains eight battle themes and only one of these the aforementioned "Sylphs and Spiders" is memorable and inspiring. The rest of the pieces that I have not mentioned are what I would consider unmemorable filler music tracks like "The Island of Lochbarrow", "Forest Guardian", "Faerie Forest", and "Setting Things Right".
There are five tracks that were exclusively added to the physical edition of the soundtrack. The album exclusive "Magic Doors" is simple and clichéd in composition, though the Arabian sound of the melody is catchy nonetheless. It isn't groundbreaking but it serves its purpose. The other four tracks "Between Worlds", "Spell Nexus", "Elf Assassin", and "Shadow Stalkers" tend to be both brief and generic. Some are so short that they need not include them in the score, as they seem like interruptions to the great pieces within this magical journey. The physical edition is nevertheless well-presented and includes an interesting 12 page booklet supplement.
Did Mark Mancina create a memorable score that met my expectations of a fantasy adventure soundtrack? Not really. Did he meet at least one or two of my expectations? Yes. There are some really good compositions here, particularly the main theme and some of the area themes. However, Mancina wasn't able to stay consistent and also contributed some disappointing pieces, especially the lifeless battle themes. At 19.98 USD from La-La Land Records, the soundtrack is priced steeply given its inconsistent quality and superfluous bonuses. This soundtrack is best reserved for those who enjoyed the music within the game.
Overall Score: 6/10