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Destiny by Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Martin O'Donnell & Paul McCartney (Review)

posted Oct 3, 2014, 1:01 PM by Leo Mayr

Somehow, I never really liked Martin O‘Donnell's Halo scores. I am unable to say why, but they never appealed to me, similarly to the games they were made for. So when I heard that O‘Donnell among others would compose the music for Destiny, I was not expecting much. But when I finally got my hands on Destiny, my expectations were more than exceeded by what the four composers involved achieved.

The score starts off with “The Traveler“ (as does the game) that serves perfectly as an introduction to Destiny's universe. This subtle theme introduced in the very beginning carries on throughout most of the 140-minute album and ties everything together. A good example is “Untold Legends“, a fighting track that uses this subtle and peaceful theme as a bold action track. Throughout the album, a choir gets used both in quiet and action tracks that perfectly supports the atmosphere of the score. A big advantage the album has are long tracks, usually between 2 and 6-minutes, which allows variations of the individual themes so it does not feel like listening to a loop. The score really emphasizes on the mystical and undiscovered universe with tracks like “Excerpt From The Hope“ or “The Journey Home". It manages to feel just right for the exploration of the final frontier, while still being unlike any other sci-fi score I have heard before.

The wide variety of themes really stand out with the four different enemy races in the game. The insectoid Fallen that are most commonly found in the ruins of old Russia are accompanied by a scarier atmosphere that relies a lot on percussion elements (see “The Fallen“). Even though the Hive rely on a similar scary atmosphere, the action here consists mostly of electronic sounds and percussion best represented in “Temple Of Crota“. The Vex, a robotic race have a more subtle approach that uses percussion and electronic parts as well, creating some sounds that reminded me of robot bleeps from old sci-fi movies (see “The Vex“). The biggest difference in the music are the themes for the Cabals, a species of amphibious soldiers, therefore the music has a darker and more intense orchestral approach with “Cabal Stomp“ and “Dust Giants“.

The different planets have their own ambient tracks as well. Most notably old Russia, with almost tragic music that represents the rusty ruins of a once great civilization as heard in "Lost Horizons". The jungles of venus that harbor the ruins of an ancient civilization are represented with a subtle and mysterious theme in “Ishtar Sink“ that changes into a Vex fight sequence halfway into the track. The merciless deserts of Mars use a style similar to the Cabals, this time mixed with choir elements dominating the second half of “Exclusion Zone“. The boss fight tracks really burst into some amazing heroic action themes with the highlights being “Sepiks Prime“ and “End Of The Line“. The climax, starting in “Excerpt 2 From The Rose“ reuses parts from “End Of The Line“ being an intense and dramatic action track with the following track, “Excerpt From The Union“ changing to a bold and heroic finale. All of these fighting tracks really make you feel like it's earth's last hope without feeling repetitive, even if you have to restart a level several times.

The entire album as an absolute joy to listen to from the beginning to the end, and is one of the few that really establish the feeling of a journey starting at a point where humanity has almost lost hope and ending with this spark of hope becoming a raging fire, which is always something I love in a score. There are no parts in the music that feel undeveloped or out of place, everything feels just right. The album is definitely worth your time more than once, and is one of the reasons I keep playing the game. A definite highlight of the year.