Alan Wake has been a game so long in production, it could have been called Alan Will Be Awake Shortly and no one would have batted an eyelid. The score however is something a lot of people have been anticipating for a while and with Petri Alanko it looked set to be a stonker.
Opening with the title track, mysterious keyboard synths and lonely piano plinks introduce you to the isolated side of the cd. A lone string filters through the haze before the piano’s main melody picks up and leads you through the track which is particularly dark.
“A Writer’s Dream” has a falling grace quality to it. It’s very orchestral and grande with its sweeping cymbals and strings with light piano scatterings. It leds perfectly into “Welcome to Bright Falls” which follows a similar pattern. The orchestra is very sincere in its tone, and the music reminds me very much of Heavy Rain’s score, if not a bit more thriller filmic. You can almost see a candlelight voyage through an empty house, or someone rummaging through old antique chests or something. “Vacation” follows the same premise with echoing high register piano however here you can hear various layers of dulled out piano underneath it. It makes for very solomn track especially coupled with the understated string section.
“Cross That River” is more dramatic and fast paced than the previous tracks. Low brooding strings and lots of tom drum slapping and cymbal smashing as the tension is cranked up. It soon dissipates into an ambient brood before returning at full pelt for its finale. “Waking Up to a Nightmare” sounds a bit like how I’d imagine a stringed Silent Hill track to sound like, it has a certain haunted Victorian feel to it without being cheesy. “The Clicker” is haunting but because it sounds so beautiful with such delicate playing and when its playing downcast chords and is surrounded by all the other music on the soundtrack you get suspicious of its sweetness. “Deerfest” which deserves a track name award is actually a delicate aural piece of shimmering underplayed strings and minimal harp plucks. Very ambient but quite invitingly cold at the same time. It sounds almost Enya or Elvish like!
Sitting in the middle of the soundtrack is the almost 11 minute epic “Taken by the Night”. The track itself goes through several movements. One is a quiet piano/string section which quickly descends into a distorted twisted tone with lots of pulsing ambient percussive beats and swishing metalic noises. What does strike me here, as with most of the soundtrack, is that its a very quiet soundtrack. It’s quite introspective. Even the more dramatic tense moments are still not rip roaringly nutty. This is all about mood setting and lulling you into exactly where Petri Alanko wants to take you.
“On the Run” is a six minute track that is more rousing than the previous epic as its more orchestral and intricate. It follows a pattern of building up lots of stabbing and chord raising only to lead to empty swishes. Towards the end things get a bit more frought and tense and Petri does well to keep the tension rising step by step for six minutes! “Mirror Peak” is another track with different movements in it too – switching without warning between murmuring ambience to full on drama which works well but as with some of the these tracks, sometimes it works better having played the game to associate the changes with something.
“Tom the Diver” is a lovely track returning to the piano/string ensemble that is the core heart of the soundtrack and its where the strengths lie. Ever changing and evolving, its a joy to listen to. “The Night it All Began” starts off with dragged strings being pulled up and up to tense vibrato strings and eerie piano as each time the track goes round a new layer is added. “Bright Falls Light & Power” is another beautiful track that holds a certain tragic beauty that the vast majority of the CD possesses.
“Hunters” is the first track that enters in with a real bang with all kinds of percussion and bent string sections kicking off. Even in the bits when the percussion isn’t going hell for leather it still holds a menacing tone and underlaying evil and discomfort. “The Well-Lit Room” is adorable. There’s a warm to the piece that’s not shown in a lot of the soundtrack before this number and although it’s hardly a joyous track at all, to me this piece has more hope and potential for happiness in it than the rest put together.
The final two tracks are the dramatic “Water Pressure” which again shows of Alanko’s ability to write some really tense and dramatic scores to great effect, and “Departure” which is a slow and deliberate piano/ensemble piece.
“Alan Wake” is a soundtrack that is well constructed, underplayed and finds its beauty hidden in the quieter parts of its music. Petri Alanko has made a score that manages to keep a part of it hidden and that’s why on first play you might not really appreciate all it has to offer. This soundtrack is one that improves per listen and over time. You get used to feeling the depths and trodden paths its taken. Give it time and it will certainly reward you with some intimate music for you to feast on.