By Charlie Brigden
Look around – The 1980s are back with a vengeance. Guys are wearing neon surf tees, girls are wearing cutoff jeans and fishnets, and synthesisers are out of control. Not in a Harold Faltermeyer way, but in more of a Vangelis vibe, with all sorts of scores coming out and kicking ass, not to mention the market for reissued electronic scores. Also dinobots.
Having had a huge success with three instalments of their action shooter Far Cry, software house Ubisoft decided to ride the eighties wave for an expansion of the third game. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a massive take-off of the kind of crazy science fiction action movies that were around in the eighties, from the obvious ones like The Terminator to B-movies like Metalstorm, and even features the voice of Kyle Reese himself, Michael Biehn, as lead character Rex Colt. For the music they hunted down Australian act Power Glove, who had garnered attention from the use of their score in cult hit Hobo With A Shotgun, and the duo’s score has been released as a special limited edition from Invada Records for Record Store Day 2014.
And they fit like, well, a (power) glove. One of the keys to the success of these kind of scores is down to a certain degree of authenticity. You just can’t go out and buy some equipment from wherever and expect to immediately get the atmosphere you’re looking for, you have to put a little more thought into it. For example, when Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury recorded DROKK!, they actually used synths from the time period of scores like Escape From New York, and as a result it sounds pitch perfect. For Blood Dragon, the synths sound similarly authentic, and it immediately puts you in the mood, which is a great place to be for this score.
So the score actually sounds like it’s ripped directly from 1984, and the tunes aren’t bad either. The main theme from Blood Dragon is a amazing melody, just on the right side of heroic. I can’t really describe it as really similar to anything I’ve heard, but it’s absolutely infectious and so, so cool. The actual track ‘Blood Dragon Theme’ sums up how many synth layers are put into the score, with a great little counterpoint melody against the theme that sounds like the end titles from Blade Runner, and the tons of percussion involved. It also has a great little electronic fanfare at the end that I’m pretty sure is a homage to Vince DiCola’s Transformers: The Movie.
In fact, there are a few nods to the classics of both the genre and electronic film music throughout the score, with an electric sax in the love theme that sounds like a cross between Dick Morrisey’s sax from Blade Runner and Miami Vice 2037. Another running theme (pun intended) is a little drum pattern that sounds very similar to the one from Brad Fiedel’s original Terminator score. I also picked up a couple of homages to Goblin as well, but just in general the amount of work here is phenomenal, not only in terms of tracks (a healthy twenty-five) but also the actual layering and cooking.
There’s so much texture here, so many little elements that add to the atmosphere of the music. It feels like machinery being used at times (appropriate given that Rex Colt is a cyborg) and you have pieces like computer loading noises, lots of rumbling, distant explosions, and what occasionally sounds like a transformer, or at the least a very large robot. These hooks are played against a variety of beats, most of which would easily belong in a club as well as a video game or a movie, which means it has a pretty wide appeal, especially considering how popular some of this music currently is.
Invada have given an excellent presentation to the album, with the score spread across two neon pink records that sound fantastic. The great package was designed by James White aka Signalnoise (who also created the game art), featuring art that looks like it should be on a VHS, and it also comes with a download card. Buy it now, even if you have to travel back to the 1980s to get it.