Thursday, 19 November 2015

DRAGON AGE INQUISITION: THE DESCENT Score Review


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ____
Check it out... if you're a fan of the score for the base game, Dragon Age Inquisition, and wish to check out or own each DLC expansion score, despite their quality

Skip it... if you object to blatant Hans Zimmer/Junkie XL/John Powell/Brian Tyler influence and references, some of them well-executed, others generic in nature
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ____

"The Descent is a melange of a release, that contains an equal share of highlights and missteps."

DLC scores are similar in purpose to your average sequel composition; in an ideal situation, both prioritize augmentation of an established world and characters, but concurrently aim to remain individual in execution and story. After last year's exceptionally well-conceived score to video game Dragon Age Inquisition, Trevor Morris has returned back to the Dragon Age franchise to offer music for two of the latest game's most recent expansion packs; The Descent, and Trespasser. The former, The Descent, is what this review shall be concerned with; the latter will be explored in another article. The Descent is a melange of a release, that contains an equal share of highlights and missteps, its most astounding instances unable to salvage a mostly conventional, underwhelming successor to the original album. Clocking in at a fleeting ten minutes, Descent retains but a minute portion of the epic size and density of its predecessor, whilst simultaneously forfeiting detail and nuance for the sake of anticlimactic brass blasts (as evidenced by the opening and closing of 'Titan'), distorted and over-driven bass drum, and uninventive, unrelenting ostinati, which permeate every piece on this disappointing five track release. The Descent offers momentary, short-lived samples that demonstrate Morris' compositional aptitude, but is ultimately grounded by mediocrity and banality.

Admittedly, the opening two cues, 'Main Theme' and 'Aftermath', are so rich with rambunctious, rousing enthusiasm that it's hard not to be quickly enveloped by the atmosphere of it all. The orchestrations, recordings and mixing are sublime, part the clipping of the deeper elements within the percussion section, and the relentless drive of the strings is irresistibly entertaining to behold. Comparisons to the bombastic methodology of Brian Tyler are unavoidable, the primary melody within 'Main Theme', a proud, stirring brass fanfare, proving eerily reminiscent of Tyler's own central identity for Thor: The Dark World, minus the gorgeous choral influence. Whilst this resemblance in execution and structure is easily apparent, it's not particularly distracting, and the end result remains enjoyable. The ostinatos that characterised the action writing on John Powell's Bourne series are present all throughout Descent, and in these initial two tracks, they serve as some of the more impressive highlights. Combine all these facets with Morris' naturally anthemic style, and it should come as no surprise that a variety of easily-appreciated, amusing standout moments litter the length of The Descent.

But the good is short-lived as this brief release reaches its half-way point. 'Titan' is immediately comparable to Hans Zimmer's Inception, thanks to the gratuitously overwrought brass blasts that besmirch its potential from its onset. Needless to say, the Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL/Remote Control Productions influence becomes quickly evident after this point, the dull, predictably tedious crescendo that defines the rest of 'Titan' a major blunder. 'Edge of the Abyss' reprises the main theme, but does little to further its development, part engulfing the idea in unconvincing, atmospheric synthetics, and adding the aforementioned over-driven drums to the equation. Neither of these pieces are truly heinous; they are, at the very least, listenable. But imbued within their inherent tapestry is a clearly palpable sense of unoriginality, and it hurts Morris' work dearly. 

The finale, 'Legion of the Dead', offers little more than 'Edge of the Abyss' did, with the exception of some interesting vocal effects and string flourishes, and thus, The Descent is only marginally elevated by its presence. In the end, mediocrity prevails over this score's ten minute duration, minor transient embellishments, invigorating action passages, and nuanced composition as plentiful in quantity as the generic Remote Control influence that pervades the album all throughout its length. Stick to Morris' score for the base game, and you'll be kept happy, as The Descent provides little more than disappointment for fans of that installment into the franchise. You can purchase Dragon Age Inquisition: The Descent on Amazon or iTunes, here and here.

4.7   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ____

Additional notes about release: comes with the score to fellow Dragon Age Inquisition DLC, Trespasser.


Track Listing

1.Descent - Main Theme2:59
2.Descent - Aftermath1:29
3.Descent - Titan2:01
4.Descent - Edge of the Abyss2:09
5.Descent - Legion of the Dead2:21
Total Album Time:10:59