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Austin Wintory – “Horn OST” Review

Austin Wintory earlier this year swept me away with the formidable Journey soundtrack which has become one of my favourite game soundtracks not just of the year, but of the last decade. In some ways, “Horn” feels very similar in its vein and it simply confirms for me Austin Wintory as a mega powerhouse in the game music world.

“Horn” opens with lots of ancient instruments. Pluckings of harps, sawing of strings and ocarinas in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicle fashion. I love this style. “A Blacksmith’s Apprentice” is sumptuous with its rich orchestration being led by an ocarina and a foot tap before “Reynes in Ruins” offers a moment of solitude in a reflective string arrangement before it delves into an Irish percussive rumble like its desperate to break out into a jig which the lutes provide. “The Pygon Curse” moves more into an ambient rumble of stories told past. The quite cymbal rolls and low ocarina are not often shown in a light like this so its fun to see that instrument used solemnly. “Cuthbert” stays in the same realm with clumsy drums and curious discord in the tune to create a semi state of madness. It’s cute and unnerving at the same time!

“An Empire of Stone and Steel” is a wonderful dance between the lute samples and the strings before “The Road Ahead” feels like it could sit on the Journey soundtrack with its whimsy strings and lack of a bottom end to the sound. Everything sounds so much more desolate without a bass. “The Great Wise One” uses twisted metal chimes to forge a main melody over the ancient instruments and feels more spooky than wise. It then breaks into a fantastic frenzy for the last minute where the strings soar and all the drums come out to play. “A Glimmer of Hope” isn’t upbeat at all but is beautifully played out, as is “Suddene” that has some crazy chords going on in the background with the harps which give the normal main melody something of an uncomfortable edge as you’re aware something is not quite right. Cleverly done.

“Through the Mountains” returns to the richer string led nature and “Bound in Stone” sounds so valiant I wanted to go on a quest myself by the end of, grab a woman and cheers a huge jug of mead with her! It reminds me so much of the soundtrack to the PS2 Hobbit game this track. “Westernesse” is equally as rich and beautiful as all the instruments slowly come together to create a warm ending to what begins a relatively desolate track. “The Knighting” is percussive led and continues to earmark the penny whistle and the ocarina as the vocal lead, as they are throughout the soundtrack. Having such a small instrument lead a bellowing orchestra is inspired. “Execution” is dramatic and dark in its interplay between the strings and the tuned percussive toms as things get more openly frenzied. This progresses into “The Final Trial” which builds you up in complex string arrangements and then exploding into folksy dance sections before combining the two styles perfectly. The soundtrack ends with “Yours To Name” which is a wonderful coda as things build and build to an emotive climax.

Austin Wintory has created another stunning piece of work with Horn. I love how small instruments are given a big place in the arrangements and that the sweeping soundscapes of the orchestra often play second fiddle to them. It makes things much more emotional and you connect so much more with the music. A wonderful collection anyone who enjoys instrumental music will enjoy.

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