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Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands Original Soundtrack Album Title: Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Ubisoft Music
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: July 5, 2010
Purchase: Download at iTunes


On May 18, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands at the same time as the film release for the franchise. The multi-console project actually comprised two games with differing gameplay, graphics, and, indeed, scores. Steve Jablonsky (Transformers, Gears of War 2) led the soundtrack for the next-gen version of the game for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, while Tom Salta scored the Wii, PSP, and DS versions of the game. A close partner of Harry Gregson-Williams, cinematic veteran Jablonsky created a highly cinematic orchestral score that largely paralleled the soundtrack for the film. A full official soundtrack release was made available for the more marketable next-gen version through iTunes.


The most compelling feature of Steve Jablonsky's musical offerings for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands are its memorable recurring themes. Right from the opening track, Jablonsky exposes a rich melody that recurs in a large proportion of tracks of the score. The melody itself adheres strongly to Remote Control Productions' convention with its rich shape and serious nature, but is still highly distinctive and memorable. Its treatment throughout the score is also highly impressive. At first, its presentation on "Forgotten Sands" sounds rather clichéd — with fanfare-like brass, barbaric string backing, and, of course, some ethnic chanting. However, the composition manages to sweep listeners away with its development thereafter, whether the gorgeous string solo at the 1:12, the elating choral climax at 1:30, or the suspended conclusion. Jablonsky's music may not be the most original, but he certainly knows how to move people and this opener is an excellent example of his magic.

The main theme is the central unifying force throughout the soundtrack. It recurs in everything from action themes such as "Fighting Ratash" and "Chase Through the Royal Chambers", to slow-building atmospheric tracks like "The Prince Arrives" and "Final Words", to even short cinematic cues such as "The Demon in the Sand" and "The Terrace". Each track differs greatly in the way it treats the main theme and the references range from subtle, partial incorporations to full-blown recapitulations. Nevertheless, each recurrence always has symbolic meaning and the integration is always achieved in a subtle, artistic way within elaborately orchestrated compositions. It is particularly spectacular how the use of the melody now makes once potentially throwaway tracks such as "The Tower Breaks" all that much more wholesome and meaningful. Nevertheless, compositions such as "Family Welcome" and "The Release of the Sand Army" demonstrate that Jablonsky is able to present breathtaking secondary thematic material where the main theme is no longer relevant.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is mostly an action-packed score. "Fighting Ratash" is pretty representative of what to expect from such cues. It initially captures the intensity and context of the battle with its edgy string motifs and use of Arabian percussion samples. Thereafter he charms listeners by reprising the main theme in a brutal fanfare-like form before transitioning to a surprisingly deep interlude and finally transiently experimenting with Arabian tonalities. Where necessary, though, Jablonsky is also capable of portraying even more demanding and gruelling in themes such as "Through the Storm" and "The Last Stand", with their obsessively repeated motifs and ever-inflated timbres. However, it is indeed the softer cues on the soundtrack that will inspire most listeners to return for more. "The Release of the Sand Army" and "Final Words" are particularly impressive examples of the fluid cinematic sound Jablonsky has developed for the game and evolve incredibly during their playtimes. The latter, in particular, is a gorgeous, elegaic recapitulation of the main theme to conclude the soundtrack.

While Jablonsky composed the core material of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, breaking composer Penka Kouneva also composed two hours of additional music, some of which is featured on the full soundtrack. She wonderfully builds upon the stylistic and thematic foundations of the album while introducing her own individuality. Compositions such as "The Baths" and "The Sand Is Rising" are some of the richest and fully-fleshed on the entire soundtrack. With their percussive thrust, gorgeous brass melodies, and breathtaking choral elements, these tracks are explicit in their Hollywood stylings, yet still reflect the Eastern setting of the game in both explicit and subliminal ways. Written for orchestra and chorus, "Enemies of the Djinn" provides the climax of the entire soundtrack, at least in terms of volume and energy. Bold, enigmatic, and death-defying, what else could define the ethos of the soundtrack so well? Clearly, Kouneva is an exceptionally talented composer who deserves to soon score her own video game projects.


Many have had mixed feelings about how many game franchises Jablonsky has infiltrated recently, but in the case of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, he certainly delivered the goods. It's clear that, with the assistance of Kouneva, he put great time into conceiving and developing every cue in this score, even the shorter ones. This ensures that every addition is immersive and effective in context, while never sounding superfluous on the stand-alone soundtrack. The final result is an excellent partner to the film soundtrack that also works flawlessly in the next-gen game. Ubisoft Music's well-presented album release is certainly a worthwhile legitimate download.

Overall Score: 9/10