Discipline Reviews: Power Glove - Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (2013)

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FAR CRY 3: BLOOD DRAGON

PRESSING [SPACE] ENABLES YOU TO MOVE IN A Z-AXIS ARC WITHOUT TOUCHING THE GROUND INBETWEEN.

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Artist: Power Glove
Released in: 2013
Genre: Synthwave
Label: [none for the digital version]
Producer: [Power Glove, I imagine]
Length: 1:02:23
Tracks: 25
Best Track: Blood Dragon Theme

TRACKS: 1) Rex Colt; 2) Blood Dragon Theme; 3) HELO-73; 4) Warzone; 5) Moment of Calm; 6) Dr. Elizabeth Darling; 7) Power Core; 8) Protektor; 9) Sloan; 10) Sloan's Assault; 11) Blood Scope; 12) Combat I; 13) Combat II; 14) Combat III; 15) Katana; 16) Omega Force; 17) Nest; 19) Rex's Escape; 20) Sleeping Dragon; 21) Warcry; 22) Cyber Commando; 23) Death of a Cyborg; 24) Resurrection; 25) Blood Dragon Theme (Reprise)

Introduction

So, I've mentioned multiple times the kind of music that's reminiscent of 80's synth-infused pop or rock, the type that started popping up super often these days because it's suddenly become a super fad to make callbacks to the 80's: tons of works do it, though the one example that comes to my head is Regular Show. Well, it turns out there is a name for all those albums that try to be reminiscent of the 80's but fail to do so because the technology today is too advanced: it's Synthwave.

This brings me to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Last year, you might have heard of this game on places like this one (yeah, gaming websites actually talking about video games, that's unheard of), for reasons such as its extreme 80's futuristic art design, its being a full-fledged expansion pack/spin-off, or everything else. I won't get too much into the game itself, since I haven't finished it (fucking dragons), but I can tell you I liked what I saw; it might sometimes be a bit too self-aware for your tastes, but it was pretty damn funny, and they really put lots of care into it, especially in the design. I hope it'll set a trend and that we'll get back to larger expansion packs like that instead of small DLC, but that's another matter entirely.

Of course, there was a soundtrack, and it came out both digitally and on vinyl, interestingly. Let's see if the 80's flair is as pleasantly well-done as in the game itself.


The Album

Let's get the worst part out of the way first: the album is not that review-prone. In true 80's fashion (I suppose), the sound of the record is very homogenized (it does try a few things, but the sound is quite the same often times), which means that, save for notable exceptions, you're going to have to pay closer attention to really make out the difference between some of the songs. That might not be a problem to you, but I know it's one to me, considering I'm the one reviewing it.

Now, we're getting the good parts: this album is actually pretty good, for multiple reasons. The first one is easily able to figure out by the time you get to "Moment of Calm": the priority was on making musio. Obviously, they must have taken time developing the sound (or maybe they didn't have to, Power Glove was actively putting out stuff since 2010), but music took priority: the music could easily be arranged into another genre or sound, because, while quite a few of the songs contain cliches of 80's music (big booming synth and drums, guitar solos, but those are the main recurring aspects), the cliches are handled so that they're not actually grating to listen to.

Another good thing is the variety: it partially goes without saying, yes, considering this is a video game soundtrack, but even within its aesthetic, the songs go a bit all over the place: just to cite a few, you get the Terminator-style intro "Rex Colt", the speedy and driving "Blood Dragon Theme", the atmospheric "Dr Elizabeth Darling" (I'm also getting a Vangelis vibe, or should I say Blade Runner), the Steve Roach-like ambient track "Nest", and "Death of a Cyborg", which sounds a bit like what the "death theme" in Tron would be if it actually had one.

Actually, speaking of going all over the place, I can already cite four different movies this music takes inspiration from, three of which I already mention: you got Terminator, Blade Runner, and Tron, but you can also find hints of Aliens and Predator if you look a bit further in. However, most of the faster, heavier songs, like "Power Core" and "Rex's Escape", don't really seem to take inspiration from any specific 80's work, instead fitting more into the "generic" Synthwave style that multiple albums of the genre seem to fall into. Those songs do seem to prove that this style is not necessarily a bad thing.

If I were to really go out and fault the album for something, it's that some songs are either a bit noodly or a bit too similar to each other. For instance, "Rex Colt" is musically reminiscent of The Terminator, especially in the drumming. "Warzone" and "Warcry" also make use of this sort of drumming, which brings in a bit of redundancy, even if, to be fair, this is a soundtrack rather than an album. But then, who's to say that's a good excuse? GoldenEye: 007's soundtrack brings back the James Bond theme in most of its tracks, but it's always used in a new and fresh way. And that soundtrack has roughly 50 songs!

Along with that, some songs don't do much for me. "HELO-73" is a short, atmospheric number, but while it does build up a bit of steam in its second half, it pretty much doesn't go anywhere in particular. Songs like "Sloan", "Blood Scope" and "Katana" aren't bad at all, but they don't really manage to stick out and bring in something that's particularly remarkable, at least not after repeated listens. Same goes for "Protektor" and "Sleeping Dragon" (though the latter has a very nice flute line). I could also say "Omega Force" fits in with those songs, but I find that the big build-up it has makes it the best song to host the melody that shows up about 2 minutes in (it pops up in multiple songs like "Rex's Escape").

Now, the good songs. First of all, "Blood Dragon Theme" is great, with a fast rhythm, booming drums, a superb buildup and a melody that perfectly summarizes the entire style of not only the music, but the game itself. That's not the only highlight either: "Dr Elizabeth Darling" is one of the best ambiance-oriented songs in there also (it looks like the atmosperic tracks are more likely to be the more forgettable ones in here), consisting, in its first half, of an atmosphere surrounded by various sounds and tones, and, in its second half, of a dominant melodic line that, again, sounds quite a lot like Blade Runner.

In fact, speaking of which, there's a song called "Love Theme" (it's pretty good also, it reprises the "Dr Elizabeth Darling" theme but also adds percussion and a saxophone); Blade Runner's soundtrack also had a song called "Love Theme". Ain't that a coincidence?

It's also worth mentioning the "Combat" songs, and they're all pretty good: "Combat I" is more beat-oriented, with the bass line being the dominant part, but it fits very well with its being a combat theme. "Combat III" is more or less the same thing, except it's a bit more melodic. It's not that long anyways, so that's not a problem. I do prefer "Combat II" out of all three, for two reasons: one is the more quirky melody, and the other is the African/Latin percussion. Gotta love those.

There's also the very ambient "Nest", which, in its first half, reminds me a lot of Steve Roach's earlier, more new age-oriented works (perhaps late-80's, when he began delving into tribal), and, in its second, brings out a cool action/horror-like vibe in the same vein as the aforementioned film Predator. To finish up, I can also mention the final song, which reprises "Blood Dragon Theme" in a more dramatic, less driving version. As you could easily guess, I like it.


Conclusion

All in all, it's not that bad a soundtrack. While there are a few problems, like the sometimes annoying recurrence of some themes or the fact that quite a few of the songs don't really bother going anywhere or doing something new, the overall sound is still pretty well-crafted, there are a few legitimately very good songs and I suppose it is already quite a big compliment to say that its production and its 80's synth-centric direction is definitely not the problem.

I'd recommend this to anyone who really liked the video game. Meanwhile, whoever is interested in something that kind of sounds like the "good old 80's" should check out a few songs and see if it's up their alley, because there's a lot to look at; probably more than I see, to be honest.

PERSONAL RATING: ***
RECOMMENDATION RATING: ***
LETTERED RATING: Alpha


As always, feedback is welcome, and remember that you can request me to review an album, game or movie.

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