A few months back, you might have noticed that I reviewed a video game soundtrack called Defiance. You see, Defiance the video game and Defiance the television show spring from the same well, so share many musical similarities being set in the same universe. But while the video game album was very much score-orientated to propel gaming, the TV album is a different beast altogether.
The similarities are certainly there; the same main theme with pounding electronics and the sweeping string melody, the liberal use of synthesised elements and an ethnic feel; but DTV provides a more expansive atmosphere. The show – like most post-apocalyptic fiction – presents the remnants of a post-war Earth as not only a melting-pot of races but also alien elements, and this is reflected in the album and its particular use of vocal language.
In terms of balance, the score on Defiance makes up maybe thirty percent of the album. The remainder are songs – either newly composed or covers – in both English and alien. The different styles are intriguing; there’s the jangly rock of ‘Terraform My Heart’ and ‘Courage Under Fire’, the crooning of ‘Baby Blue’, the mellow ‘Flirting With Disaster’ and some interesting alien tracks including ‘Ritual of Perpetual Moon’ and ‘Behash’, the latter of which invokes a cool otherworldly vocal created by blending the vocals of Raya Yarborough and Brendan McCreary.
There are also a couple of really good cover songs on the album, not least a splendid rendition of The Five Stairsteps’ ‘Ooh Child’. The original version is much of a soulful singalong, but here it’s sparse and has a different tonal feel, with a beautiful vocal by Yarborough. We also get a similarly lovely and tender version of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’.
And then there’s the score. While it’s outnumbered by source material, what we do get is fantastic, nailed on immediately by the opening main title. This is built on with some eerie haunting vocals in ‘Before The Votans’ that emphasise the alien atmosphere, and the literal ‘Welcome To Defiance’ which mixes propulsive electronics with ethnic instrumentation, along with a wonderful solo violin by Neli Nikolaeva. ‘Worth Dying For’ provides a lovely piece of emotional warmth, before ethereal voices beautifully blend into the main theme in ‘Kalagyi Anaila Kaziri’.
And then there’s ‘Battle of the Volge’, an epic eight and a half-minute battle cue that features great melodic work and menacing synthesiser tones for the savage race The Volge, amidst lots of electronic augmentation that works up the tension. This harsh cue is then countered by the soothing ‘Nolan and Irisa Unite’, which features a sweeping emotional sound that feels cathartic after what has previously gone on. The final score track, ‘Lawkeeper’, is a variation on the main theme that provides a degree of resolution, with a slight western flavour and a wonderful sweeping climactic rendition of the theme.
Defiance is another example of the absolute talent of Bear McCreary, exhibiting his adeptness at writing both score and songs. His arrangements of the cover songs are fantastic, but his original compositions really provide a sense of musical world-building, with a depth that feels like it’s ready to be explored further. With a second season of the show on the way, I can’t imagine we won’t be able to do that.
DEFIANCE is out now from Sparks & Shadows
Words: Charlie Brigden