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Video Game Orchestrations Vol 1 Review

December 29th, 2012 by Al Keenan the Bald Gamer Dude Comments


Are you looking for some soothing and beautiful music to help you overcome the post Christmas blues? Or maybe something to pep you up for the upcoming year? Well look no further…


It’s absolutely no secret that I love video game music. On my IPod I have a self-made playlist called ‘The Greatest Video Game Music’. Being a musician it was always something I paid attention to when playing.
Over the last 20 years we have went from simple 8 bit music (Super Mario Bros) to full orchestral pieces (Metal Gear Solid IV), but very little is ever said about them. Only recently did a video game soundtrack get recognition from the Grammys. I’d say that now is probably one of the best times to be a video game composer, especially with so many Kickstarter projects flying around that you could get your work noticed.

One such composer is Blake Robinson who runs the website ‘The Synthetic Orchestra’ and I had the pleasure of reviewing his latest album ‘Video Game Orchestrations Vol 1’.

The wonderful thing about Blake is he doesn’t have the massive resources that many other composers do. He has no access to a thousand violinists or a rather large brass section, instead he has a computer and a big list of sample instruments with which to play with.
What he lacks in access to these things he makes up with raw talent and a great ear for video game music.

The latest album he has released ‘Video Game Orchestrations Vol 1’ is nothing short of brilliant. It’s hard to find a comparison but I suppose it goes in the same vein as The London Philharmonic Symphony’s Greatest Video Game Music releases.
The thing that you have to remember is that they are a rather large and well-practiced professional orchestra and Blake although part of the video game business is pretty much a part time composer.
During the working day Blake creates sample libraries for hobbyists and professionals and has been known to work with big composers to create libraries for them.
The composing is only a hobby and one he does well, at the age of 30 it is impressive to see such a well-practiced ear.

I have personally been playing video games for the best part of 20 years and the first thing that hit me when listening to the album was the grand diversity of tracks. It isn’t just newer tracks which are usually heavily composed as it is, he has taken tracks from some classic games e.g. The New Zealand Story, a game that probably few of you will know or remember. I myself had to look it up, as soon as I saw it I remembered it.
The thing is I doubt many people would think about adding something from such an obscure game into a video game compilation. It not only works well but is a beautiful piece.

The album starts with the Gears of War track ‘Hope runs Deep’ which begins simply then sweeps into various vocal performances and a big brass section, finally culminating with a full choir of voices intercut with a string section. Anyone who has played GOW will instantly recognise it. The first thing that hits me is how much this sounds like a full orchestra recording in some great hall.
I find a lot of the time with hobby composers that there is always something missing but Blake even has the reverb sound right, the echo has the sense of depth to it that many forget about.

My favourite track is ‘Theme of Laura’ from Silent Hill 2. I have various copies of this track as it comes in the game but I can say this is now my favourite rendition.
A track which starts out with a melancholy piano line that eventually moves into a single violin run, then another violin and a wonderful hint of glockenspiel. It’s enough to give anyone goose pimples even if they haven’t played the game.

The stand out tracks are ‘Theme of Laura’ from Silent Hill 2, ‘Flight over Venice’ from Assassins Creed 2 and ‘Back to the Bottom of the Sea’ from Bioshock 2.

Blake has been working on the album for nearly a year and you can tell he has put a lot of love into this, I wish I could say there was a bad track on here but there really isn’t, he has not only added to the original tracks but in some cases made them better.

I asked Blake why people should buy his album and he replied, “People should buy my album to get a new spin on music they’ve grown up playing games to. I tried to pick a large range of titles, from the latest-epic-shooters to creepy-survival-horrors to niche-retro-platformers,  I think there’s something in there every gamer should recognise and hopefully enjoy”.

To be honest I couldn’t say it any better myself, you can buy the album on ITunes here for £7.99 which is about the price of a pint down the local these days.

I give the album 5 out of 5 Nerds, it’s a blinder of an album and even more impressive when you realise it’s just one man.

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I'm Al The Bald Gamer Dude, as you can tell by the name, I'm bald, I play games and I'm a dude. I also do Tattoos, comics, Movies and TV... You can usually find me quoting obscure film references and geeking out when someone understands them. If you have an Xbox360 and fancy a game add my Gamertag below: GT: baldgamerdude Follow me on twitter @baldgamerdude YouTube:

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