If you recall, last year I posted a rundown of the themes from the original Battlefront 2015 game. This year, I'll be covering Battlefront II. Enjoy! Hopefully this will help a listener to identify thematic material in Gordy Haab's games.
A note here: when I talk about thematic material on this album there are two kinds: there's material that represents a certain game mode or certain cues within those modes and then there is stuff that is very clearly designed to work with a cutscene or a character or a location. It's very difficult to separate what is what, so keep that in mind.
1. Encounters on the Battlefront
Our first track is an excellent track to begin our listen-through. It almost serves as an overture of sorts for the rest of the album, as we get some snapshots of a lot of major themes that we will hear again later. We begin with a rather mournful or tension filled rendition of the main Battlefront theme from the first game at 0:00, which eventually resolves into some more heroic material. We hear a very confident rendition of the Pillio theme at 1:34, and after that we descend into some dark material that is seemingly thematic. There is a motif that appears at 4:22 that is also heard at the tail end of the track Return to Vardos, and I’m sorry to report that I’m not sure what, if anything, it represents. But omce that part is over we get into some nicer, lighter music that closes out the track.
2. Iden Versio's Theme
This one is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go too much into detail about it. This is Iden’s theme. You hear the first rendition of it in brass at 0:25, before it explodes into an all out Battle of the Heroes-esque epic choir at 0:48. This track is mostly a hodge-podge of various battle music for the game. We do manage to get a few thematic cameos. The Battlefront main theme makes an appearance at 2:35 and you can really tell here especially that it’s almost used in the score for these games as a Force Theme analogue. We get Gordy’s Imperial theme at 3:15 and at 3:52. We hear the Pillio theme at 4:24. We hear the bardo’s theme at 5 minutes 48 seconds and again throughout the next couple of minutes until the end of the piece.
3. Prologue and the Escape
This track begins with some ominous music as we see Iden interrogated by the Rebels. Iden’s theme appears in low brass at 0:18. Ominous music continues, and we hear Iden’s theme again in woodwinds, then the main Battlefront theme follows at 0:45. Ominous music in hushed high strings and low brass and winds continues until we get a very resolute version of Iden’s theme again at 1:22, which launches us into the second part of the song—The Escape. Funnily enough, the music here is not used in the in game level where Iden is escaping from the Mon Calamari cruiser. Regardless, this is a nice little battle march that plays during moments of action in the multiplayer. After this march we are treated to a more hectic action cue complete with a nice choir. Keep the little part that appears at 4:02 in mind as it will come back in a different form in another game completely.
4. Smugglers Run
This is one of my favorite pieces off of the album. This album as a whole is much broodier than I think a Star Wars score should typically be, as I really enjoy the moments of heroic scoring that accompanies some of the action in the main films (The Return of the Jedi or Sail Barge Assault is the biggest one that comes to mind—one of Johnny’s most triumphant moments in Star Wars scoring), so it’s nice to hear a little bit of heroics in this piece. The main Kessel theme appears after some nice buildup at 0:11. Cue a nice jolt into some absolute romp scoring, then we get a nice heroic horn blast of the Kessel theme at 1:03—very easy to picture a smuggler with a heart of gold leaping into action here. At 1:18 in particular we get some nice Errol Flynn-esque action instrumentation with the main theme played by strings and trumpets. The descending figures at around 1:30 are a nice touch as well. At 2:07 we enter FLUTTER MODE as we then launch into one more, slightly troubled rendition of the Kessel theme before we finish out with some soft triumph. The second half of this track is some more brooding music that represents the harsh life on the planet itself. The track does lighten up a bit around the 3:30 mark and we get some nice orchestration. Then, at 4:22, we get one final resolute play of the Kessel theme as the track comes to a close.
This piece, like Prologue, accompanies a nice cutscene and affords us some interplay with Iden’s theme and a new theme that makes its debut here—Hask’s theme. At 0:11 we hear Iden’s theme, and compliments to Gordy for so well illustrating in his instrumentation Iden’s confusion and anger as Hask chooses to comply with their radical orders. Speaking of Hask, at 0:25 we get to hear his martial theme played in high brass. A nice, more confused version of Iden’s theme comes in around 0:41, followed immediately by a very confident version of Hask’s theme at 0:47. A few tragic renditions of
Iden’s theme are heard between 1:00-1:20, then one final appearance of the Hask theme at 1:28 which is followed by Iden’s theme once again at its most strained, and the piece ends.
6. The Battle Unfolds
This piece begins with a very nice marching rendition of Hask’s theme. This is one of Gordy’s better attempts at replicating Williams’ orchestration, as this one is played in the style of The Imperial March. At 1:13 we launch into some general battle music, but we get some fun interplay between some older themes. At 1:25, Gordy’s Imperial theme comes into play, followed by a nod to the Asteroid Field in some brass crescendos at 1:39 and the Battlefront main theme again at 1:44. At 1:54 we get some very Battle of Hoth-esque stuff which then launches into something that sounds closer to Chase through Coruscant from Episode II. At 2:23 we once again switch back to some Asteroid Field homage. At 2:54 the Battlefront main theme appears in action mode and again at 3:14 where you can almost swear that he’s going to play the Force theme. The next part of this piece begins at 3:48 and is Gordy replicating Follow Me and The Falcon from The Force Awakens—still, this is a very nice piece. Gordy manages to keep his ideas separate yet familiar enough to where it isn’t absolutely frustrating. At 6:10 we enter into what I call the March of the Resistance analogue. Very similar fugue-like scoring, and it stops being mildly similar and becomes somewhat pastiche at 6:39. Like I said before though, Gordy is good at giving you something that is familiar yet different enough. Now to a part I want to particularly highlight: at 7:23 we get to hear Admiral Versio’s theme. During the single player, a low brass version of this is used to accompany scenes where we see the Admiral and Iden interact. What follows this initial showing ends up in an action cue. At 8:09, there is a particularly malevolent version of the Admiral’s theme, and then the piece ends with a version of Iden’s theme that might be copy-pasted from Betrayal, I haven’t decided yet.
7. Across the Galaxy (Pt. 1)
I won’t spend too much time on this one, as there isn’t too much thematically to say about these pieces, but I will list here what music accompanies which maps in-game.
0:00 Kamino Peace
1:05 Kashyyyk War
2:07 Kashyyyk Peace
3:10 Fondor War
4:21 Fondor Peace
5:33 Naboo Peace (cameo of Battlefront main theme at 6:14)
6:35 Naboo War
8. Hard Decisions and the Rescue Attempt
We begin with a very Across the Stars-esque orchestral crescendo. A tragic rendition of Iden’s theme plays at 0:31 and 0:48. At 1:03 Iden’s theme becomes much more driven as she decides to take some sort of action. At 1:44, a variation of Iden’s theme draws this first part of the piece to a close. The second part of this piece has a recurring thematic idea that my brain keeps telling me I’ve heard on this soundtrack before but I can’t figure out where. Or maybe my brain is making that up. This idea shows up at 2:15 and repeats in various forms over the course of the next minute or so before we transition to part three of this piece, a pastiche of I Can Fly Anything from The Force Awakens at 3:05. There’s some good Poe sounding stuff that comes in at 4:02. Not much else to say about this one.
9. Pillio Wasteland and Skirmish
Yet another favorite of mine. There’s something about this one that I feel captures the spirit of the original trilogy scoring. The track begins with some really interesting orchestral textures before launching into the Pillio theme at 0:42. The track quiets down again, we get a guarded statement of the Pillio theme before it returns in a bigger way at 1:38. Following this, we get a very ominous version of the Hask theme at 1:53 before we launch into a nice action variation on the Pillio theme, which makes up the rest of the track. The Pillio theme flows confidently in and out of the action scoring. I particularly enjoy the Hook-esque flourish at 3:09.
10. Go. Survive. Live!
This is a nice, more mellow piece in the vein of The Starkiller or Torn Apart. Iden’s theme floats sadly in an out in various variations, but the string work on this piece in particular is very nice. If you’re a fan of Williams’ more quietly scored stuff then this will go a little ways to scratch that itch for you. Gordy’s scoring starts sounding a little more familiar again at 3:35 but I think this is still original material, but I swear there is some stuff on this soundtrack that is scored in a very similar way. The version of Iden’s theme that plays at 4:12 is the self same version that plays when you boot up the game. Just wanted to point that out, but other than that it’s a particularly nice rendition. The Battlefront main theme comes back semi-triumphantly at 4:46, before a very finale sounding version of Iden’s theme plays, followed by a very finale-esque variation of the Battlefront theme shortly thereafter and the piece is finished.
11. Return to Vardos
This is another absolutely fantastic piece on this soundtrack. We begin with an apocalyptic choir singing the main Vardos theme accompanied by some brass. The little moment of buildup at 0:22-0:28 reminds me of some of the choral stuff from Shadows of the Empire, for some reason. At 0:29 we hear the Vardos theme again but like the planet itself it seems to have been thrown into a raging storm. At 1:02 some delightful bass singers and high strings come in to provide some atmosphere. The low bass voices get to sing the absolute best rendition of Gordy’s Imperial theme at around 1:48. A rather distressed rendition of Iden’s theme appears at 2:32, followed by a punctuation of the Vardos theme again. The mysterious theme that plays in Encounters in the Battlefront plays here in this piece again at 3:06 and the piece is finished.
12. Iden and Dell
I will tell you right now that in no way, shape, or form does this piece play in the game itself, which is a disappointment, but at least Gordy gets a chance to show us that he can do Star Wars romance scoring here. This piece is mostly pastiche of Princess Leia’s Theme and Han and the Princess. Not too much to say about it, it’s a rather beautiful track. A major key version of Iden’s theme begins the track and then it transitions into its main idea at 0:36. The theme here is very classic Star Wars. Listen if you want to be nostalgic.
13. Across the Galaxy (Pt. 2)
Here I will do what I did for Part 1:
0:00 Geonosis Peace
1:00 Geonosis War
2:08 Starkiller Peace
4:25 Starkiller War
5:25 Takodana War
6:30 Takodana Peace
14. Iden Reborn
We begin the piece with some nice brass chorale and hear a great heroic rendition of Iden’s theme come in at 0:10. This piece is very reflective and hopeful in its scoring. Some very innocent scoring ala Harry Potter, before 1:29 signals the Iden theme’s most heroic, triumphant variant as the track ends.
15. The Dreadnought
The last piece of orchestra on the album, and yet another enigma. I don’t think this plays anywhere in the game itself. It’s a wonderful oddity, though. The idea fixee comes in at 0:05, and this little ditty will repeat throughout the track. Is that the Emperor’s theme I hear at 0:25? That’s weird. I can almost imagine this as a theme for the First Order. A nice apocalyptic variation of the track theme comes in at 1:06 played in brass and also some bells to give it that end of the world feel. The variation at 2:22 is also really nice. The low male voices compliment the low brass. At 3:15 the track begins to sound like the fight sequence in Williams’ Chrome Dome from The Last Jedi, which is not unwelcome. Very sudden end on this track that sticks out.
16. Ma Kapar (Bonus Track)
This is the crowning achievement of this whole score. I can’t begin to put into words what a triumph this track is. I’m serious, any attempt to try to paint a picture of this piece is futile. Give it a listen yourself and become immersed in the magic.
All in all, the impression I get with this album is what I’ve said before, which is broody. Gordy does action scoring well, I just wish he would give us a little bit of triumph and heroism as opposed to the prequel cacophonic action scoring he seems to lean on. The moments where this album truly shines are when he allows in that more wondrous, beautiful scoring or some of the more Errol Flynn stuff. But all in all, this album is more thematically consistent than that of the first Battlefront. Whole ideas show up in other tracks and the already established themes get a good work out.
I apologize that this isn’t as polished as my first editorial, but I’m afraid this is probably going to be a reflection of this series going forward, as Gordy has a lot of subtle orchestrations and ideas that repeat that aren’t generally tied to any fixed ideas so it’s particularly hard to identify solid thematic material. That’s not to say that what is there is bad or unpolished, just more difficult to distinguish without any other associations that one would usually get with a soundtrack. The next two big game scores are Jedi: Fallen Order (of which I’m still figuring out the logistics of how I’m going to write out that game’s many themes) and Squadrons which is kind of a mess of a soundtrack in all the best ways.