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Assassin's Creed by Jesper Kyd

Assassin's Creed

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Assassin's Creed (Soundtrack) by Jesper Kyd

Assassin's Creed
Composed by Jesper Kyd
Ubisoft Music (2008)

Rating: 7/10

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“ASSASSIN’S CREED is an experiment. Just like the gameplay of the first title, the musical score was a framework that future incarnations would strive to polish and perfect.”

A New Breed of Hitman
Review by Marius Masalar


There is a rather small list of composers whose work I’m always looking forward to hearing more of. JESPER KYD is one of them, and the reason is not that I am confident that I’ll always enjoy his work; I look forward to it because I can trust him to reliably try new and interesting things and create some truly remarkably stylistic fusions. In November of 2008, audiences were first introduced to the ASSASSIN’S CREED franchise with its first title. The historical fantasy action game soon won over critics with its engrossing gameplay acrobatics and stylish, complicated mood. One of the key elements in establishing that mood was the edgy score from Hitman veteran composer, JESPER KYD.

The score begins very strongly, with “City of Jerusalem” (1). There is a consistent setup to the music on album, and it carries over into the later ASSASSIN’S CREED game scores as well, and that is that for each city there tends to be at least one ‘peaceful’ theme and then one ‘combat’, or ‘active’ cue for when the tension is higher. This first cue is the peaceful one for the city of Jerusalem and offers an excellent introduction to KYD’s eclectic musical palette. Ethnic plucked string instruments and woodwinds combine with harp, percussion, and heavily processed choral vocals to produce a rich soundscape. One of the strongest elements is the quiet chanting of monks, synthetically processed for a bit more edge.

The excellent combination continues in “Flight Through Jerusalem” (2), one of the most rousing and attractive tracks on the album. There is an airy feel to this music, appropriate for its title, and the propulsive rhythms make it especially thrilling to hear in the context of the game. Unfortunately, this highlight is followed by something of a misstep. “Spirit of Damascus” (3), with its ferocious hits and embarrassingly synthy-sounding brass statements feels significantly less polished than the previous material and causes an unpleasant break in the atmosphere as a result. “Trouble in Jerusalem” (4) fares a little better, with wispy flute rips giving way to a dark rhythm and crying vocals. These are soon joined by percussion, strings, and more strange-sounding brass to produce a cacophony of energy toward the end. The effect tends a bit toward the disorganized and unpleasant, but it’s definitely a fitting cue for the game’s most intense moments.

Calming down, “Acre Underworld” (5) is an ambient gameplay cue that brings the synth elements to the forefront for a moody and uncertain feeling. Male whispers add an extra dose of creepy, and you can just imagine an assassin patiently stalking his prey…

Folks who’ve played the game will be aware that the description is somewhat deceptive (spoilers incoming!) in that not the whole game takes place in the past…you’re actually playing in the near future and accessing the past through a device that allows you to re-live ancestral memories. “Access the Animus” (6) is the first track that represents this more modern front of the game, and it’s also the longest and most popular track on the album. While the music is certainly compelling and makes use of a great blend of synthetic and organic elements, it lacks the appeal of some of the other cues — especially considering its inflated length. Still, it makes for great ambient listening.

“Dunes of Death” (7), on the other hand, is just plain boring. There are a number of interesting melodic elements, but the overall soundscape remains quite thin. Even when it sounds like it’s going to build to something more interesting, it just falters. “Masyaf in Danger” (8) continues the ambient trend but is a much more interesting cue. Percussion and a quiet gamelan-like metallic sound underpin a shifting texture of woodwinds, processed choir, and strings.

One of the album’s strongest tracks is “Meditation Begins” (9). Right from the fade-in opening, you are immediately transported elsewhere by the evocative sounds. KYD employs more of his organic instrumentation performing idiomatic solos overtop a brooding synth bed and the result is downright hypnotic. The equivalent synth-oriented track would be “Meditation of the Assassin” (10), which is similarly hypnotic, but far more creepy. Distorted bell sounds and quiet whispers intertwine over deep gong hits and evolving pads. Especially toward the end of the track, the sense of menace and impending danger is powerfully evident in the music.

The closing track (it’s a fairly short album) is an odd one. It is clearly biased toward the modern synth aspect of the game, and because of that the parting impression we have only represents a fraction of the actual game. The majority, spent in the past, seems forgotten. It’s a pity because the cue is excellent and blends some of the organic elements in sparsely, so having just one more track after it that tied everything together more satisfyingly would have made for a more successful listening experience on album.

ASSASSIN’S CREED is an experiment. Just like the gameplay of the first title, the musical score was a framework that future incarnations would strive to polish and perfect. As a result, this album introduces a number of fascinating and creative ideas, but it fails to develop them in a satisfying manner, leaving us wishing for more.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 City of Jerusalem 3:11  ****
2 Flight Through Jerusalem 3:40  *****
3 Spirit of Damascus 1:32  **
4 Trouble in Jerusalem 4:06  **
5 Acre Underworld 3:25  ****
6 Access the Animus 9:35  ****
7 Dunes of Death 1:47  **
8 Masyaf in Danger 3:44  ***
9 Meditation Begins 2:49  *****
10 Meditation of the Assassin 3:44  ****
11 The Bureau 3:13  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 41 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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