Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Soundtrack :: Review by orion_mk3
In 2004, EA released another entry in its series of Harry Potter video games, tying in with the theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The game offered what was expected of it an interactive take on events in the book and movie and was as successful as any tie-in could hope to be. Even though the third movie saw the first real shake-up in the film franchise, with Alfonso Cuaron taking over for Chris Columbus, the game developers remained largely the same and Jeremy Soule returned for a third year as Hogwarts composer in residence.
Once again, Soule ditched the title theme he had created for the previous game. This is less of a problem than it could be, since the other two themes he conjured weren't integrated into the game scores much (they were never as thematic as John Williams' movie compositions anyway), and interestingly mirrors the choices Williams made for his movie score, which largely avoided the maestro's established themes in favor of new ones. Still, given the blisteringly strong theme Soule had composed for the previous game, a reprisal would have been welcome. The new theme does retain a choral element but returns to the more florid classically-inspired sound from the first game, albeit in a darker form.
The album as a whole has a tone closer to that of the film, especially in its presentation of soaring themes for Buckbeak in "Flying Buckbeak" and "Buckbeak Night Flight," both of which mirror the grandiose "Buckbeak's Flight" conjured by Williams. The music has a deeper sound to it possibly the result of better synths and passages of dark music offset by some incredible vocal work. It's as if Soule was consciously driving his music in the same darker direction as the film, with less magic but more drama; when the sound works, it's spectacular.
Sadly, the action music is once again a mixed bag. There are some utterly explosive sequences of choral action in "Dementor Patronus" and "Extreme Patronus" which easily equal or exceed the finest action writing from Soule's career. But "Glacius Boss" and "Carpe Knight Boss," among others, return to the ramblingly percussive music that characterized the first game. The cues in general are also very short, with only two of the 26 songs exceeding two minutes.
Soule's Prisoner of Azkaban, like the others in the series, had no official release to satisfy the cravings of fans for several years. But in late 2006, portions of the score were released to iTunes as a digital download alongside Soule's other work for the Potterverse. All four albums suffer from a seemingly rushed and muddled presentation of the music, seemingly pulled willy-nilly from Soule's original files. As with the previous two games, there are enough hard stops and tracks with trailing (or even internal) stretches of silence to make for a frustrating listen. And although 30 minutes of music are on tap, the soundtrack is once again incomplete.
Prisoner of Azkaban is another strong Potter effort from Soule. It may not have as many highlights as his previous work, and the aforementioned production problems are a nuisance, but when the music is firing on all cylinders, listeners may not even notice. Fans of the composer and the original Williams music should purchase without hesitation, though as before some audio editing is necessary to restore the music to its full potential.
Overall Score: 7/10