Invisible Gamer writers Austin Clark and Seth S. Scott really love the music video games have brought us. Together, they want to highlight some of gaming’s tunes that have been recently released for your listening pleasure! So grab your headphones and take a trip down gaming’s soundscape in this month’s Sound Test. In this edition, they’ll be talking about composer Inon Zur’s recent release, Age of Sirens.
Seth: When it comes to music scores I want to listen to outside of their source material, I tend to be more fascinated by the simple and understated ballads that feature a soft piano dancing wistfully through a romance of cellos and woodwinds. Blasting horns and galloping drums indeed work great when I’m watching an epic battle with a fistful of popcorn, but they don’t do it for me when I’m home with earbuds in. Inon Zur’s newest release “Age of Sirens” features previously unreleased material, but interestingly enough all the songs are tied to previous releases he’s worked on – a best of B-Sides, if you will.
I love the idea of revisiting previous worlds, and Zur’s compositions do have some similar voices between said worlds. But while listening, I struggled to find a common thread throughout the album. Just as I finished one song I enjoyed, hoping to hear another in the same vein, gears would shift and take me somewhere else: to another world. I get that a compilation like this is naturally going to do that between tracks, but I wanted more from some of the worlds within the handful of tracks and less from the others. By no means does every track have to be a winner for the album to be successful — that is the beauty of composed music like this — but Age of Sirens, while full of sweeping melodies and haunting harmonies, ultimately struggles to find a common tone and in the end comes off a bit scattered. It’s meticulously crafted and full of passion, but it’s too “epic” at times for me, and ultimately doesn’t fully stand on its own away from the games it’s meant to accompany.
Austin: Inon Zur hasn’t exactly been on my radar until now. Not because I don’t like his music, but some of his most acclaimed work has been on games that I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with. Having worked on the Fallout, Dragon Age, and Prince of Persia series, Zur’s work — especially shown in Age of Sirens — carries a weight to it that reflects the epic scope of the games they were made for. In Age of Sirens, each track feels like I’m embarking on a new quest. Even with this being a collection of unreleased tracks for multiple games, I still feel like there’s a thread in here that brings the whole thing together. Sure, it might be a little jolting from one track to the next, as Seth talked about, but listening to each individual track and looking back at the album as a whole reveals a group of songs unified by their theme, scope, and of course, the composer.
With that said, Age of Sirens doesn’t quite hit it out of the park. Almost every song feels like it’s trying to be more grandiose than the next and many follow a very similar build up that ultimately makes the collection lack variety. Individually, I think each song stands on its own as a well written composition that could easily have been found in games like Dragon Age. It’s only when you listen to these tracks from back-to-back-to-back that their appeal begins to wane. Regardless, there are definitely some beautiful songs in this album.
Where Else – The worst part about this song is that it doesn’t last long enough. Though it’s primarily made up of strings and percussion, like the rest of the album, the plucking style that Where Else uses instantly caught my ear and there’s nothing else that sounds like it on Age of Sirens. The piece has an intriguing and mysterious melody to it, almost as if you’re listening to discover what the rest will sound like. I’m not as high on the bridge, but overall, this is one of my favorite pieces on the album.
True Life – True Life is one of the few songs on Age of Sirens that really stands out in the collection. While it still shares an epic theme, it’s much more peaceful than the majority of the album. I felt serene when I was listening to it and — if I may steal what Seth said earlier — I could see myself walking through a hillside meadow, after a long, grueling battle, of course. It’s one of the last tracks on the album and it fits perfectly as a tune with which to wind down.
Remember – Remember is far and away my favorite track, as it balances an elegant tether between beauty and mysticism. Strings and pianos softly reveal themselves to work in tandem, spinning in a dance as soft as silk.
Way to Eternity – This song has a graceful build up from the get-go. Keys resonate in the background as chiseled strings pick away. I was instantly excited to see where this song took me and what was to be revealed as each new verse added another instrument to the mix. Just as the song crested, a chorus of voices joined in to take us to our final destination and send us sailing into the sunset.
True Life – True Life truly makes me feel lost amongst the flora and fauna in a beautiful hillside meadow somewhere. The delicate piano chords resonating at the end could go on for another minute or two, but sadly make their departure within a few seconds.
As a full album, Age of Sirens doesn’t quite have enough variety to warrant a non-stop listen. Too many songs rely on a similar “epic” feel with recurring build-ups and instruments that seem to take away from the songs individually. As a compilation of unreleased music, it lacks a real focus and tugs the listener in too many different directions. However, there really are some great tracks here, and if you’re a fan of Zur’s previous work, these unreleased tracks will easily bring you back to some of your favorite worlds with brand new, unfamiliar sounds.