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Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor by Garry Schyman & Nathan Grigg (Review)

posted Oct 3, 2014, 1:02 PM by Leo Mayr   [ updated Dec 7, 2014, 1:15 PM ]

One of the video games I am really looking forward to playing is Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor. I love everything related to the Lord Of The Rings universe, if it is done just right and the game feels like a worthy addition. At first, I was sad to hear Howard Shore was not going to compose the music for this game that is set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings series as his music really defines middle earth the way I like it. The music does not attempt to copy Shore‘s definition and instead chooses a completely different and new path.

We start off with “The Gravewalker“, a track that introduces us to the Mordor presented in the game. It builds a simple and tragic theme that, with the use of heavy percussion and choir elements, turns into a more intense and threatening theme. “He Has Returned To Mordor“ has some elements that remind me of Howard Shore‘s themes for the Nazgul and Minas Morgul, but still creates its own unique voice. “A Perfect Swing For Killing Chickens“ is a playful action track that uses some medieval sounding instruments, but here we encounter the biggest problem with the album. The track instantly leads into the following track, meaning that the initial track was cut into two shorter tracks that start where the proceeding track stopped. This happens quite frequently and I have no idea why someone would believe this to be a good idea. But back to the music. The playful chicken killing track then suddenly becomes an intense action track with “Attack On The Gate“ that uses a lot of percussion. This is the first of many similar action tracks to come. The majority of the action tracks are taken up by stunning intense percussion parts that use some strings and brass instruments as well as an occasional choir segment. These action tracks mostly feel like some tribal war drums which I find perfect for the Orcs' homeland, however by no means does this feel repetitive or boring. Some interesting exceptions are “Caragor Riding“ or “The Rescue“ relying on a lot of non-percussion action. Overall, the combat really feals powerful, violent and still precise. The game's combat mechanics manage to capture just that feeling and so does the music. Musical parts that resemble fast paced sword combat like “An Easy Mistake To Fix" are an absolute joy especially if you get to battle uruks while listening to it. The rest of the score consists of a lot of suspenseful music and fight tracks, occasionally inserting the tragic theme we started with. The few quieter and intimate tracks however are where the score really stands out. The track “loreth“ adds some piano segments that seem unusual for a fantasy score but really make the track an interesting and beautiful experience.

Throughout the entire album, there are some outstanding tracks like “The Hammer“ or "Caragor Riding“ before it returns to the theme we were introduced to in “Ioreth“ with "Could You Really Rest?“, however this time it feels more like a conclusion to the events. The final track “The Gravewalker (Closing Credits Re-mix)“ is the absolute highlight of the album, despite my hate for remixes (especially on Hans Zimmer scores). All the amazing parts we were introduced to throughout the score get combined with electronic elements, creating an amazing fusion between a traditional fantasy and electronica score.

Garry Schyman and Nathan Grigg really manage to create Middle Earth sounds that feel both genuine and unique. If you liked Howard Shore's approach to the universe, you may not automatically like this one. However, they don‘t interfere with each other. It really is its own thing and probably better for a violent video game than Shore's music. Just like this score really should not be for the third Hobbit movie, it works greatly for the world it was created for.

EDIT: Having actually played the game for about 20 hours (as of me writing this), I must say the score does an excellent job as a videogame score. Not only do tracks generally fit the atmosphere, but when you start fighting an uruk warchief, the male choir starts chanting that specific uruk's name. How cool is that? The music really personalizes the game experience and should definiteley be considered one of the highlights of 2014.