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The Saboteur Original Videogame Theme :: Review by Simon

The Saboteur Original Videogame Theme Album Title: The Saboteur Original Videogame Theme
Record Label: Electronic Arts
Catalog No.: iTunes
Release Date: December 22, 2009
Purchase: Download at iTunes


It's quite easy to see why The Saboteur, EA Games' WWII sandbox shooter set in Nazi-occupied Paris, received a soundtrack release, despite sporting a musical backdrop that mostly consisted of period songs. Continuing the tradition of drafting a big name composer solely to create a game's main theme (see Michael Giacchino's similar involvement in Black and Mercenaries), film music composer Christopher Young was hired to create the original music for The Saboteur. Given Young's standing as the foremost creator of classy horror movie scores (that were often better than the films they accompanied) and soundtracks for the likes of Spiderman 3, anticipation predictably ran high when his involvement with The Saboteur was announced, and a soundtrack release was sure to arrive at some point.

However, what listeners got in the end has to be one of the briefest game score releases ever: clocking in at under seven minutes, it's save to say that the soundtrack release for The Saboteur mainly saw the light of day because it was powered by one of the film music's big guns. Is this soundtrack release then only an attempt to cash in on Young's good name, or does it deliver some substantial music in its brief running time?


Young achieves his aim to create music that's "mysterious and dark but filled with a subtle feeling of hope" quite well in the soundtrack's opening piece, "The Saboteur Theme". It's a slow, sultry jazz composition, with the theme — a seven-note motif — presented as a melancholy clarinet solo. Lush strings enter the fray soon enough, and the track's more lively finish, with the clarinet duetting a bit with a saxophone, is beautifully atmospheric. While the theme's use is repetitive and hardly original — on two occasions, it is repeated three times and adorned with the same short coda — the track paints a fitting, if somewhat clichéd, image of Paris in the early 1940s.

"The Saboteur Theme (Action Mix)" starts out as a faster-paced jazz piece for drums and plucked double bass, before segueing into a generic part for full orchestra, featuring all the hallmarks of modern, anaemic Hollywood action score writing: violin ostinati, throbbing deep string rhythms, and a heroic melody in the brass, which turns out to be the once wistful main theme, proving its surprising malleability. Unfortunately, it's surrounded by uninteresting musical material, and things deteriorate further when the piece jarringly switches twice between sections for orchestra and jazz band. The theme makes another appearance towards the track's end, played by the violins against more string ostino rhythms and a three note motif in the brass, but by then, the theme's wearing a bit thin and is overwhelmed by the loud, monotonous orchestral material.

"The Saboteur Theme (Piano Version)" continues the descent into mediocrity by taking "The Saboteur Theme", replacing the clarinet with a piano, and calling it a day. Don't expect any elaborate reworking of the theme for two hands — instead, the piano replays the theme one single note at a time, robbing the music of a good deal of its atmosphere.


There's not much to recommend on this soundtrack release: its short running time would be forgivable if it delivered the goods (and would be priced accordingly). But apart from one 96 seconds long jazz track that is pleasant, but hardly outstanding, and a versatile main theme, the listener will be hard pressed to find anything worthwhile here. "The Saboteur Theme (Action Mix)" doesn't justify its longer running time through its uninspired action material and puzzling shifts of mood and genre, and "The Saboteur Theme (Piano Version)" can only be described as "lazy". The Saboteur's soundtrack is available on iTunes for US$2.97, which is quite a bit for not even seven minutes of music, and for the same price, you could get Jeremy Soule's vastly superior soundtrack for zOMG! Considering Young's compositional skills, his work on this soundtrack is a vast disappointment.

Overall Score: 4/10