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

Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots Original Soundtrack Album Title: Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami Digital Entertainment
Catalog No.: GFCA-98/9
Release Date: May 28, 2008
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


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. But I would be lying if I said there was no other reason for bringing my attention to the potential of this album. In truth, my interest was piqued the moment I heard that short snipped of "Love Theme" as it was arranged for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. How have my feelings towards the album changed now that I have actually heard it? Read on!


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.

Many tracks on this soundtrack can be separated into one of four different categories, and I'll be looking at samples from each for the remainder of the review. Let's start off with a look at some of the more melodic pieces on the album. "Call Me Hal" is a rather sad piece, relying on low strings, harp, French horn, and decorative piano to weave their tale. Later in the piece that same lonely guitar from "Old Snake" makes its presence known, moving the piece into a happier tone creating larger chords and comforting melodic segments. This is one of few tracks on the album that really allows a piano line to play through the orchestral work, which I'm very glad to hear. "Violent Cease Fire" is another melodically driven piece which once again uses string chords to propel the track forward. We are also introduced to what sounds like Gregson-Williams' choir work, which I absolutely adore in anything that he creates, but is actually the work of Yoshitaka Suzuki. On this album in particular, I rather enjoy how composers create a seamless style that contains all of the same elements. The choir plays in the background with the strings, creating a comforting melodic bed which carries the track through to its conclusion. "Atonement" keeps with these traditions, utilizing that single lonely guitar once again, backed by very quiet choir and light strings. Other synthesized elements are introduced in this piece which really brings an interesting sound when mixed with the string work. At times, the piece moves gently between these synthesized elements and the low strings, almost to the point where you don't hear the transition. In the second half of the track we also get a taste of some stronger string and choir work, hinting at grander things to come during the final minute of the track, which introduces faster strings and percussive elements through snare drums and stronger synthesized rhythms. However, unlike Suzuki, Nobuko Toda's attempts at a similar style falls a bit flat. While Toda's attempts on this album with the faster tracks are done well, I'm not as immersed in his orchestral work as I would like to be.

Moving from melodic, we enter the orchestral portion of the review. 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? Showing once again the similarity in style, Suzuki gives us "At Dawn." Again, although in a different way, we have the strong percussive snare work combined with synthesized rhythms. Over that, we have string and brass chords working to keep the pace. I like how in the second half of this track we get the switch to synthesized instrumentation to provide the melodic segments. It creates a wonderful bridge leading back into the stronger orchestral style heard in the first half, which now becomes more grand with the inclusion of choir. The ending as well reveals itself slowly, steadily stripping away the elements before returning to that same synthesized instrumental.

Keeping with the synthesizer work, let's move onto 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 although sometimes they 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. "Infinite Loop" attempts to use this same style, but I have to admit that I like Toda's treatment of it better. This piece has a harder edge to it, and the orchestral elements (strings, brass, and choir) all seem to be a bit stronger, combining effortlessly with very quick rhythms and percussive elements. There is no real clear melody present, but even just as chords this piece really grabs my attention. I think it has something to do with the speed, as the entire piece just keeps moving forward with chords jumping out from every direction. Normally, something of this speed would bother me, but I think the face that there is an obvious structure to it is what draws me in. In many ways, this piece also imitates the style seen in Hollywood trailers, particularly those composed by Yoav Goren.

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. "Drebin 893" starts us off, keeping the instrumentation centered on some repetitive bass, light guitar, a very jazzy snare and hi-hat, and some other simple percussive elements. The whole combination really creates a very mellow mood, and although I do find the bass to be a little strong, I like the rhythmic elements, particularly when they become echoed in the guitar work. "Midnight Shadow" in comparison, 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. "One More Reboot" keeps with the idea of rhythmic elements with strings and light percussion. That lonely guitar also makes its presence known. However, what strikes me about this track is that it is the perfect combination of "Drebin 893" and "Midnight Shadow." You get elements from both, not in melody but in presentation style, and the two pieces compliment each other quite well. Continuing with a look at atmospheric tracks, I want to look at a few of the bonus tracks included on the album. "The Hunted" is a very cool track, featuring a strong synthesized rhythm accompanied by brass and string builds. Light guitar work also makes its way throughout the piece, adding a certain funk to the track as a whole that can't help but get you to tap your foot. "Under Curfew" continues this trend, offering a bit more of a jazzy feel to the piece with the inclusion of short chromatic string work. The rest of the piece is told through sharp string chords, with even a little flute thrown in for good measure.

Moving towards the end of the review, I want to return to some melodic pieces and look at those which close out the album proper. "Everything Begins" truly does inspire a new beginning, introducing quiet strings and solo piano before moving into a full string melodic segment. Some woodwinds can also be heard in this piece, specifically oboes and flutes which aren't heard too often throughout the rest of the album. However, I still find that Toda's orchestral work isn't strong enough to pull this off in the way I would like it to. Many of the elements seem unnatural, thrown in because they should be there rather than because they belong. Many of the volumes in this piece also strike me as odd, as the phrasing sounds forced. Still, I do like the melodic nature of the piece, and although it doesn't sound the best to me, I really like the emotion it creates. "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.

You thought I was done, didn't you? Not quite yet — after all, this is a Metal Gear Solid album, so I can't leave without saying something about this one: "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.


At the end of it all, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed this album. There was some repetition, and not all of the tracks really impressed me. But in the end, when I think back on what I've heard, there are very few serious flaws, which is a fantastic accomplishment. As a reviewer, I think that for many this will be an issue of personal taste rather than whether the album is truly good or bad — after all, not everyone is a huge fan of orchestral work, just as not everyone loves elements of electronica. However, I think everyone will be able to agree that this album suits its game perfectly — the styles are right (particularly in regards to the instrumentation choices) and the presentation is spot on. Make sure to check out our corresponding Audio Journal for this album to see exactly how the soundtrack emerges in the game. If you enjoy Metal Gear Solid, then definitely pick this album up. If you've never heard an Metal Gear Solid album, then give this one a try as I have. If you don't like Metal Gear Solid? Well, give it a listen anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Overall Score: 9/10