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Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots Limited Edition Soundtrack :: Review by Resk

Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots Limited Edition Soundtrack Album Title: Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots Limited Edition Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami Digital Entertainment
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: June 12, 2008
Purchase: But at eBay


When I sat down to enter the world of Metal Gear Solid, I asked myself what I might expect to hear. I formed my initial views of the album based on what I knew of its composers. Henry Gregson-Williams, known from his work in Hollywood films, has attracted my attention for years now with what he has produced, including his more recent work with the Narnia franchise. The Limited Edition version of the Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots soundtrack focuses on the compositions of Gregson-Williams with the bonus of Nobuko Toda's vocal theme "Love Theme." But, with an album featuring only the compositions of one composer, when a highly talented group of people produced work for the game, does this version of the soundtrack diminish the worth of the full album?


We begin with "Old Snake". In this track I can really start to pick out Gregson-Williams' musical style. The progression of his tracks is what always draws me in — how each new segment of the piece enhances what has come previously. I'm also a particular fan of his orchestrations, taking a special interest in strings and French horns. Both are present here, and are accompanied at times by a solo guitar. So few notes, but they really pack a punch. In the second half of the track, we are introduced to some of the lower synthesized elements that will be heard throughout the album, pushing the speed forward while light string work moves in and out; altogether, a very nice start to the album.

I feel that I should get one track out of the way. I had high expectations going into this album, and I was really hoping that I would be blown away, but "Love Theme" was a complete disappointment. As one of the initial released tracks for the album, and arguably one of the better known tracks because of its use with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, perhaps my initial attraction to the track was somewhat inflated. After all, that one was an arrangement and this is the original piece. Even from that argument though, I can't convince myself to like this track simply because it has nothing in it that really draws me in. Perhaps it is the vocalist, or perhaps it is the orchestral work itself, but I just hear it and feel bored. Putting all of that aside, let's look at the track from a different perspective and see what it does have to offer: after all, many reviews choose to highlight this track and it is often praised, so let's look at why. "Love Theme" is a Hebrew lament sung by Jackie Presti, presented in a slow and rather depressing seven minute musical cue. However, that depressing nature really works well for the track — after all, it is a lament, which doesn't call for sparkly happy string work or jive centered percussion. A haunting melody plays out through Presti's vocals, similar in style to that heard from Tanja Tzarovska or Lisa Gerrard, and when combined with the low string work and simple orchestral solos, the piece really delivers. The only thing missing from it that I am surprised to see gone is the solo violin work heard from the Brawl arrangement, which I was particularly fond of. Also unfortunate is that this cue is not repeated in a second arrangement later on in the album, because at its core, it is a very strong melodic piece that I have to give some credit to.

Stopping to consider one of the melodic pieces on this album, let's look at "Sorrow." This is a very beautiful track, combining slow strings and solos from flutes and French horns to create just that perfect touch of despair. You truly do get a sense of emotion with this track and that emotion is delivered without sacrificing too much. By removing almost all percussive elements, the strings propel the track forward, with gentle choir and piano making an entrance throughout the piece. Again, Gregson-Williams does a fantastic job at bringing in instruments for just enough of an impact, even if it is only just a few notes or a phrase (that's right, the lonely guitar stops in again right at the end of the track).

Looking at some orchestral tracks from the album, it's important to remember that many of these tracks involve a heavy, faster paced orchestral style to them which is often combined with synthesized rhythmic elements. "BB Corps" starts us off quite well, with synth rhythms keeping the listener on edge throughout the piece. In the middle of the track, we are introduced to percussive orchestral work that features sharp chords from strings with snares and other low percussion. In the final portion of the track, much of this is stripped away, leaving the piece with sweeping strings before gradually reintroducing all of the previous elements. One other thing that strikes me about this piece is the inclusion of several different vocal cues. Now, we aren't talking about singing here, but rather emotional responses — laughing, crying, and all manner in-between. It really gives off a sense of... madness to the track, which is quite intriguing. "Mobs Alive" is another piece that takes advantage of strong percussive snare work in combination with other instrumental segments. Of note is the strong flute at the start of the track before giving way to increasingly loud strings. Synthesized rhythms then enter the fray, along with low choir. Throughout the piece, string and brass chords make their presence known, while the choir pushes the piece forward. This particular patterning is something that I have heard with Gregson-Williams' work before, and it can be heard on several pieces on the album. In the later segments of the track, even a few vocals (which sound like Presti to me) can be heard, which shows a true attention to detail. Why else would you hear, in this particular track, two out of place vocal lines?

Keeping with the synthesizer work, let's move on to the pieces which feature those heavy synthesized rhythms I have been talking about. Whatever you wish to call them (industrial techno or electronica spring to mind), they provide much of the punch within many of the tracks on the album. Although at times their presence can get a little repetitive and they sometimes interfere with really great melodic cues, they definitely have a chance to shine on a handful of tracks. "Breakthrough" is one of them. The entire opening sequence of this piece steadily introduces further elements to these rhythms before moving into the focus of the track, which is punctuated with fast string and brass work. Short choir builds are also heard throughout the piece, giving the overall sound a keen edge. Later in the track, synthesized bass can be heard driving the piece forward while being surrounded by quick strings and long French horn lines. The concluding build at the end of the piece is also quite nice, combining these different elements into an interesting, yet satisfying final chord. "Desperate Chase" keeps many of these same elements, utilizing the rhythmic synth to drive the quick string work. We are also given a little electric guitar to accompany the melodic bass. One thing that strikes me about this track is that while all of these faster elements keep the piece moving, there is still enough room to create a convincing melodic line from start to finish, which is often presented in those short string bursts, and later in the track through high brass and a little choir.

Leaving aside the fast paced, adrenaline filled pieces, let's move back a bit and look at some more atmospheric and softer pieces. Subtlety is key here, and there are certainly a few pieces on this album that really keep the idea that less is more. "Midnight Shadow" keeps the instrumentation to a few synthesized elements and low strings, creating a haunting mood of suspicion and intrigued. A little low harp provides a little melody, while some light choir heightens the mystery of the track. Of note in this piece, it is not completely quiet. At times, these elements will suddenly jump up in volume, before quickly backing away back into the murk. Although this does create a jarring effect, I like the contrast between soft and loud.

Moving towards the end of the review, I want to return to some melodic pieces and look at those which finish out both the full album and the Limited Edition. "Father and Son" keeps the melodic ideas moving, bringing in flutes and oboes to balance the strings. Oh, and our lonely guitar is back again to deliver its final phrases. This track really takes off though about half way through, when everything this album has been building up to finally comes through. We get some great snare, and for a rare treat this time, a heavy brass element lead by trumpets. Choir and string round everything out, before changing key and moving into a softer transition, bringing back that lonely guitar to deliver the final melodic phrase. Next let's look at "Metal Gear Saga." This is probably my favorite piece on the album, because it brings out everything that I love about Gregson-Williams' composition style together. It also reprises the memorable melody he introduced in the Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater version of the main theme to replace the disowned true melody of the main theme. The piece starts strong with strings and choir leading into faster paced string work, synthesized rhythms, fast percussion, and some great brass melodic work. The piece keeps its energy as it passed back and forth from melodic elements to quick transitions, before leading into a quieter segment populated by low strings. Later in the track, our lonely guitar returns again with the main theme of the piece, before being joined for the first time on the album by a solo trumpet. Other orchestral elements come in together, adding slowly to the trumpet before leading into a grand ending.

Of course, I have one last track that I wish to discuss. Vocalist Lisbeth Scott presents "Here's To You," a track adapted for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots from the Italian film Sacco e Vanzetti. Fans may recognize Scott from her previous work with Gregson-Williams (performing "Where" from the Chronicles of Narnia), but I recognize this vocalist as the commanding muse of "Preliator" by Globus. I have heard her other material previously, and I am quite happy to find her on this album. "Here's To You" really brings out Scott's emotion, and allows her to really become expressive with Gregson-Williams' arrangement. The piece itself is on the softer side, limited to strings and quiet brass. There is, however, a lot of repetition in this piece — after all, the lyrics are only four lines long. However, pieces like this (with few lyrics) are some of Scott's stronger works ("Passionate Voice" comes to mind), as they allow her to really rely on the arrangement which builds throughout the track, slowly growing to a grand symphonic conclusion. How appropriate as well that the piece should end with a solo French horn, returning from the grandeur of the orchestral accompaniment back to the simple, stripped down elements of the piece.


When I'm looking at this album as it is, with only the compositions by Gregson-Williams along with "Love Theme," I need to consider what has been omitted when choosing the track list. As many of the tracks on this album were originally featured in my full review, this album definitely contains a lot of the strengths from the full version. Another nice thing is that the sectioned pieces such as the ending sequence have remained intact on here without any omissions. I think if you enjoy Metal Gear Solid for its orchestral contributions, then you have a solid album here with tons of great music. However, you are missing a lot of the faster tempo tracks which give the original album its variety. Sure, you do get variety here as well, but it isn't as nearly pronounced as on the full album. That being said, I think ultimately this tracklist would have benefited with imput from all the composers involved. As a sample of what the full album offers, there isn't enough variation to suggest that the full album will offer anything of additional substance, which for first-time listeners may be either a good or bad thing: good in that they might be hoping to either get some variation, or bad in that they might be disappointed to learn that the entire album is not a symphonic work. At the end of it all though, as this is a promotional album, chances are that many of these pieces will be the ones that players most remember from the game itself, so perhaps in that respect this album is a definite success.

Overall Score: 7/10