SATISFYING THE APPETITE
One year, one month, three days. As of the time of this article’s publication, that’s how long it’s been since October 8, 2015, when, after having been quiet on the subject for quite some time, Crystal Dynamics treated Tomb Raider fans to their first preview of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s soundtrack.
Posted on SoundCloud —
— the preview was well-received. It prompted me to write The Music of Rise of the Tomb Raider: Part #1, with the intention of publishing Part #2 when both the soundtrack and the game it accompanied were available in full.
For various reasons, though, I never quite got around to Part #2. Time went on — so much time that I decided it would best to inject some brief thoughts on the soundtrack into my thoughts on Rise, and hold back on writing the article proper until the game debuted on PlayStation 4.
Well, debuted on PS4 Rise has, and so here, without further ado, are my thoughts on its complete score (which, like those of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and Lara Croft GO before it, is available for free on SoundCloud).
I love it.
There’s no simpler way to put it. Rise of the Tomb Raider’s soundtrack is one of the highlights of the game. In Part #1 of this piece, I wrote that there wasn’t anything obviously thematic about the preview track we were treated to. These days, those words make me smile, shake my head, because one of my favourite things about Bobby Tahouri’s score is that it’s wonderfully thematic.
First established in 2013’s Tomb Raider, Lara’s theme struck me as being much more of a theme here, alluded to time and time again, but often subtly so — like a whisper on the wind as Lara makes use of various base camps, reminding players of its presence, but never forcing itself down their throats (or ear canals…), so to speak.
A personal favourite example of this is the track Something Else Happened —
— in which Lara’s theme is presented beautifully alongside, as the track nears its end, a quiet rendition of one of the game’s other musical motifs: a six-note statement that I’ve come to refer to as the ‘religious’ theme. Heard prominently in the track The Observatory —
— this ‘religious’ theme is easily my favourite of the new themes Rise brings to the table. It has a satisfying versatility, too, representing Jacob in some scenes, but, when played more forcefully, Konstantin and Trinity in others.
In my thoughts on the PlayStation 4 release, I described Rise’s soundtrack as being propulsive; combined with certain on-screen moments, it gives the game an excellent feeling of forward-motion, of progress. Nowhere is this more evident than in tracks such as London, which crescendos with the accompaniment to Lara’s declaration that she’s going to find the Prophet’s tomb —
— the above-embedded The Observatory, Locating the Source —
— and the soundtrack’s finale, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
In Part #1, I wrote that I wasn’t going to pretend that last October's preview track was the most epic, awe-inspiring I’d ever heard. Similarly, I’m not going to tell you that the soundtrack as a whole is, either. Its thematic material is excellent, yes, but it does have its forgettable moments. Though the creepy, vocal elements of Whispers In The Dark —
— do deserve special mention, it has its share of standard, uninspiring combat music, too. But on the whole, reader, Rise’s soundtrack is greater than the sum of the parts.
Though it is, without doubt, a great game on its own merit, Rise of the Tomb Raider is well and truly elevated by its music. While I enjoyed Jason Graves’s efforts for Tomb Raider, Bobby Tahouri's work here resonated with me much, much more. I found it deeper, more personal in its quiet moments, and more suggestive of adventure and spectacle in its grander statements.
Impossible though it is, now, to know where Lara's future adventures will take her, I hope they at least sound as good as her last. In fact, given the incredible improvement Rise was over Tomb Raider, I might even be bold enough to hope they'll sound better.
Time will tell — but hopefully not too much time.