About the Soundtrack: "Halo 3" is co-composed by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, who team up to deliver a mammoth score for one of the most eagerly anticipated gaming titles of the year.
The soundtrack was released on November 20th, 2007 and comes to us in a 2-disc set offering a comprehensive amount of material from the game. The tracks that comprise the set are presented as subsets of the game's varying sections, thereby giving the non-gamers a chance to identify with what the pieces of music represent. This was a nice touch and also aids the presentation of the work in a streamlined manner. The composers brought in a 24 voice choir and a 60 piece orchestra to the proceedings which really gives "Halo 3" a boost above and beyond the preceding titles.
What You Need to Know: I had a light familiarity with the scores of the first two 'Halo' releases so I was really going in fresh for this third installment. I recall that I moderately enjoyed the predecessors but nothing really stuck with me enough to make me totally excited for "Halo 3." However, after my first listen of this release, I am completely on board now.
Simply put, this is a finely tuned piece of work. The music that the composers have brought to us with "Halo 3" is impressive and focused. It's easy to hear that a lot of hard work went into this score through its structure and motifs. Never tipping off balance, "Halo 3" is the type of album you can simply let play and be taken on a journey even if you are unfamiliar with the game play. Further, close your eyes and distance yourself from what soundtrack you're listening to and I would venture to say that nearly all of you would think this is the work from a big budget film (and a top notch one at that).
My immediate reaction when I first started listening the the score was one of pleasant surprise with regards to the tempo. The album begins with a subtle approach, offering more of an underscore and dramatic build up toward things to come. To me, a solid underscore is like having quality side dishes with a dinner entree; the two components make for a great meal. In this case, the underscore marries itself well with the many themes at work. So as the music started to tell the story, I found myself readily immersed in the world of Halo and listened on with satisfaction and interest.
The ethereal choral inspirations of the previous scores make their way onto this album but they aren't the main focus of the soundtrack. To me, that would be the music that represents mankind's struggle against the forces that seek to finish them off. To that end, the use of a piano motif is one element of the album I absolutely loved. It was a brilliant (and risky) stroke to use this very real element in such a high-tech video game world as it offers a way for the player/listener to relate better to the story itself. This is the type of drama I've been seeking from film scores for all of 2007 and here it is from an action packed video game!
Truthfully, there are many well structured themes and individually effective tracks that it would take more time than this review to break it down. Suffice it to say, there's a steadiness to the score that I admire. Through all the dramatic situations, action oriented moments and tones of spirituality, "Halo 3" just keeps coming at you consistently and never seems to veer off course. The direction of the music is so fluid that its hard to imagine that the cues were actually applied to gameplay levels
Final Grade: Simply a marvelous, interesting piece of work. "Halo 3" has a dual capacity to let both gamers and soundtrack fans enjoy the music for their own reasons. For a very unique and compelling listening experience, I highly recommend you get on board with the music of "Halo 3" as its an adventure worth embarking on. Props to both composers for a job well done.