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Soundtrack review: God of war (Bear McCreary – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: God of war (Bear McCreary – 2018)

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“God of War” is an action-adventure video game developed by Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE). Released on April 20, 2018, for the PlayStation 4 (PS4) console, it is the eighth instalment in the God of War series, the eighth chronologically, and the sequel to 2010’s God of War III. Unlike previous games, which were loosely based on Greek mythology, this game is loosely based on Norse mythology. The main protagonists are Kratos, the former Greek God of War, and his young son Atreus. Following the death of Kratos’ second wife and Atreus’ mother, they journey to fulfil her promise and spread her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms. Kratos keeps his troubled past a secret from Atreus, who is unaware of his divine nature. Along their journey, they encounter monsters and gods of the Norse world. Bear McCreary wrote the score.

The main theme gives me everything I could want from this context: a thunderous choir, and epic instrumentation, heavy, powerful, a mix that inspires me and gets me into the mood to take up arms and fight and since this is a game, not a movie, I can actually do that. Bear knows how to attract and immerse the listener in whatever world he creates. For me the Norse ambient and, actually any kid of mythologic story needs to have an elegy, a female voice humming the memories of the dead or the visions of mystics. The second cue “Memories of mother” gives me just that with a misty atmosphere as well and I am already well into this world. The melody is just as emotional. For games like these, of “World of Warcraft”, it’s always the heavy action, the epic level power that usually impress me but here Bear McCreary, crafty and inspired composer that he is, went beyond that and wrote one could be one of his most complex scores. He covers a vast spectrum of emotions, of sounds and his music is layered from the pounding action to the quiet emotion going through everything in between like the hypnotic “Witch of the woods” or “Lullaby for the giants”, both different but equally immersive descriptive cues.

I like the sharp string sound of the emotional pieces, so in tune with my idea of Norse sound, of mystical adventures, of godly presences. The strings and the voices play together a constant dance that brings depth to the score. The more I listen to “God of war” the more flawless it seems, the better it works on its own as simply beautiful and meaningful music; it makes me experience pain, loss, motivation, longing and it just makes me wish I was part of this story. It’s even hard for me to choose which passages I enjoy more, the emotional ones or the action ones with their constant, menacing pace that sometimes seems to mimic the synchronised rowing on the Viking boats.

Bear McCreary’s “God of war” score is a story, a legend in itself. It affects me, it pleases me, it brings something extra and the time I spend listening to it is time won; it plays with my perception, it expands it and it just gives me a bunch of cues to add to my playlists for various moments. Bear is an accomplished composer with a lot of memorable scores already on his resume but this one certainly is close to his top.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Highlights:
God of War
Memories of Mother
Witch of the Woods
Ashes
A Giant’s Prayer
The Dragon
Echoes of an Old Life
Valkyries
Deliverance
Salvation
The Summit
Epilogue

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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