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Penka Kouneva – “A Warrior’s Odyssey” Review

Penka Kouneva, is the latest in an increasing collection of game and film composers whom have branched off to create an album of their own. “A Warrior’s Odyssey” is a 16 track narrative told through music – most of it orchestral. It feels like a game or film soundtrack, yet it’s not tied down to anything except the story Penka’s woven in her mind.

The album falls into three main sections after the dramatic opener “Waiting for the Dawn to Break”, which itself is a brooding track that explodes into strings, electric guitars and tom drums. The first collection of tracks fall under “The Battle Begins”. These include some of the big orchestral moments that burst across the speakers like a rail of gunfire. “Storming the City Heights” works perfectly to provide the tension and reflexes of a soldier, as do both sections of “A Solider’s Odyssey” and “Sniper Attack”. In between these are slower tracks of mourning that give short solace.

Section two entitled “Faraway Lands, Ancient Times” places a more Middle Eastern twist to the compositions and arrangements. “Forgotten Steeples” is an excellent mood setter, much like a Western waiting on a gun draw battle. “Chase Through Crete” also makes excellent work of using a different note and chord palette to leave Penka’s roots marked on her music. “Minotaur Battle” however is absolutely stunning, a rapturous four-minute assault of the senses with the entire orchestra working with as a mean machine to get your pulse racing. I love the fact this section uses some unusual but root driven instruments such as the tamboura, saz, oud and taiko drums.

The third and final section is entitled “The Battle Must Go On”. This section feels patriotic. The themes here are rousing from the uplifting latter half of “Fading Fortitude/The Battle Must Go On” to the militant “Farewell to the Pilot”. These really sound more filmic where as the previous sections felt more game orientated. The jewel in the crown of the album is saved til last with the sublime “Airplane Bound for the Skies”. There’s an excellent used of sound effects in this track alongside the strings, percussion and brass pounding out an excellent theme.

For 16 tracks, 48 minutes is a quick run around and no track outstays its welcome. A few require repeat listens to grind in their melodies but from the first note you are spellbound by the excellent arrangements and playing skills of the orchestra. Penka Kouneva’s first solo piece is a success because whilst it does feel like a soundtrack, there’s definitely a personal stamp placed upon it. I feel like I know her a little better after each listen and more importantly – I want to listen again and again.

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