Garry Schyman’s Bioshock score was one the best scores under 20 minutes I’ve heard in the last 10 years. With a full scale Bioshock 2 Score out to support the game in 2010, has Schyman excelled again?
The score starts off with “Pairbond: Bioshock 2 Theme” which is a beautifully understated with lush undercurrants of strings and a beautiful solo weeping its heart over the top. It paves an emotiive introduction to “Waking Up In 1959” which is quite mysterious with lots of tuned percussion tapping out a disorientated melody that’s slightly frantic but still melodic. There’s also a spacious ambience constantly swirling around behind the music and the bending wind instruments that give the track an extra layer. “10 Years Later” is more dramatic with the traditional bending string pulls before “Protecting His Charge” lifts up from tense atmospherics to more hardcore orcestration and lots of screaming brass and stomping strings. “Welcome Back” returns to the more industrial ambience of earlier tracks but with some chilling pizzicato strings and skin crawling melodies and build ups. It’s more a horror film score, this track than anything. Deliciously dark.
“Cult of Lamb” has some great jazzy brass elements that set against an uncomfortable musical soundscape actually sound quiet eerie, and the unsettling whistles and double bass continues throughout “Grace Under the Ocean” as the soundtrack becomes more mood music to destable you and become more unhinged, vying Silent Hill’s music but in a different genre. “The Abyss” has some strange ambient noises which to me sound very much like a heartbeat from inside the womb, which is both creepy and beautiful, depending on the musical context. “Big Sister In the Move” however is all about the fast paced manic strings that pitter-patter out a furious spasm at 100 mph to its furious climax. “Send Him Howling Back to Hell” then becomes much more percussive and larger in scale with all the orchestra getting well into the mix for some big crashes and smashes to heighten your senses. There’s some real fasted paced playing here which deserves a special mention.
“Elanor’s Darkness” is interesting as along with most of the soundtrack, it showcases a decaying beauty of something previously great that now feels and has become such a shadow of its formerself, it’s practically weeping every chord. “That Symbol on Your Hand” is another slow burning tense track, very reminiscent of a quieter track from Schyman’s Dante’s Inferno score with the deep chorus coming into play. In contrast “Out the Airlock” and its sparkling celestial dings are actually like a seasonal greeting amoungst the debris. It is still a sad and intricate piece, but showcases more beauty than delapidation.
“Enterance to Eden” see’s those sparkles fizzle out however as the rot of growling brass and stabbing strings set back in with curious string chords, before “Drained Memories” creeps into your speakers with a song so audiable, it sounds like one of those 1970 hammer horror creep around the house pieces that you can hear the after fuzz of the strings on the speaker. Very cleverly done and a personal highlight of the score. “How She Sees the World” continues this complete closeness to the speakers with a chilling piano track that you can hear the breath and cracks of the piano as its played. Utterly timeless, like a mystical cloud of afterlife passing through you.
“Entering Persephone” returns to the dark and unsettling orchestral underworld of the usual tracks of the Bioshock 2 score. “Lockdown March” increases the urgency with a lot of discordant strings and a constant marching bass string section before “Welcome to the Drop (With Vocal)” gives us more of the same but with vocal ad-libs almost like a plains tribeslady really getting on down with the track. She fits the track perfectly, and there are hints of Plain’s peoples instruments and aboriginal instruments throughout with digeridoo’s being used throuought as a bassline guide. “Under the Tracks (with Vocal)” is an unused track and follows the same pattern but almost in a bluesy way.
“Research” actually sounds a bit like a comical horror piece with its pressing undercurrant of short sharp four note string plucks. “Destroying the Lobby” is more furious and focused as it ramps up to a full on assault on the senses in a fantastical grande finale which is completed in “Gil’s Entertainment” which is full on too. The last massive track is “Escape” which as the only track over three minutes, is the epic full cinematic experience with timpani’s rolling and stabbing string and brass segments with all kinds of industrial elements thrown in for good measure. It’s one of the biggest pieces of pure drama I’ve listened to for a while (outside of the mesmorising Dante’s Inferno which is just badass from start to end). The soundtrack actually ends however with “Eleanor’s Lullabye” which is the only pure piece on the soundtrack and is an uplifting way to end what is generally a downtrodden experience.
Bioshock 2’s score is one teeming with emotion. It’s not for everyone as there’s no real melodies and its more about the feelings protrayed at particular times. It’s also very cinematic so once you’ve experienced the music with the game, it will no doubt heighten your appreciation of the score moreso. I haven’t played the game however and really enjoyed this score. It’s creepy undertones with a beautiful overlay mix a potent reciepe that draws you in upon each listen.