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Batman: Arkham Knight [Volume 1] by Nick Arundel & David Buckley (Review)

posted Jul 23, 2015, 12:22 PM by Leo Mayr

As I mentioned in a previous Through The Cracks article, Christopher Drake‘s score for the videogame Batman: Arkham Origins is as close to a perfect Batman score as the Arkham games have gotten. So when it was announced the music for the final installment would be composed by David Buckley and Nick Arundel, I was both disappointed and excited as Buckley did a great job on Call Of Duty: Ghosts.

A first look at the score‘s cover got me disappointed again. “Volume 1“ it says in red letters. Not a good sign since that not only explains why the score does not fully reach the maximal CD length but also that parts of the experience must be missing if the publishers intend to have a second volume worth listening to.

But enough complaining about these subtleties, what about the music itself? Well, it‘s different to Drake‘s score for Origins. The main theme starts off slowly and dramatically but never becomes aggressive the way Origins did. A suspenseful theme with slow choir segments that especially during the second half really feels like a Batman-theme. The score consists mostly of suspenseful and dramatic tracks with a handful of action tracks added to the mix. Since this is an action videogame, the action should play a vital part in it all. The action is present though it often feels underwhelming to the point that I found myself increasing the volume significantly in order for it to feel more powerful. The mood created by the main theme carries through both, the action segments and the silently staring at the darkness of Gotham city moments, so the score really establishes a connection between the individual tracks.

My real problem comes with the action. The combat gameplay is fast paced and violent but the music fails to do that enough. There are amaying moments like “Invasion“ with intense percussion and a dramatic theme both holepess and heroic. In moments like these the score shines before returning to dark and ambient tracks. “Scum, Criminals and Worse“ and “Insurgency“ probably get closest to the combat but still do not quite reach the intensity of Arkham Origins or Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor. People who enjoyed David Buckley‘s action writing from Call Of Duty: Ghosts will be mostly disappointed as this volume features few action tracks by Buckley but those almost make up for the fact that they are few (see “Gunrunner“ or “Crowd Control“). Another mention deserves Arundel‘s “Fear Within“, another intense action track with choir making it one of the score‘s most intense sections.

And while totally unrelated to the music or album presentation, it's worth noting how this album was released. You can get it digitally, or for people who like to hold their music you can order it via Amazon's CD-R on demand service. Now many labels make use of  this service, and it's better than not having a CD at all. What happens is the label sends all the artwork and layouts to Amazon, and they will print and manufacture a CD on a sale by sale basis. Sadly, WaterTower Music showed an absolute disregard to respect or quality here by doing the minimal amount of work necessary. The CD is plainly printed with "Various Artists" as well as the back tray, and the booklet pages are in the wrong order. Just worth noting in the hopes of better quality presentations for the fans as well as the composers who labored on the music.

So to summarize, Arkham Knight (Volume 1!) fails to live up to its predecessor (yes, I acknowledge Arkham Origins as an equal part in the series), and despite staying behind my expectations still provides some great moments to enjoy. But besides the main theme and some of the action, the music is not very memorable. We‘ll just have to wait for a second (and hopefully last) volume of music to be able to tell if it has more moments worth remembering since we don‘t know what music has been left out to justify the second volume.