Universe At War: Earth Assault – music by Frank Klepacki

Universe At War: Earth AssaultThe latest real-time strategy PC gaming experience from Petroglyph Games is also the latest epic soundtrack from veteran game composer Frank Klepacki, and while I’ll admit I haven’t had a chance to check out Universe At War itself (something strange happens to my urges to blow stuff up when I have to bottle-feed a baby every few hours), the music alone makes me want to.

Which may be a big part of the reason why the game’s entire soundtrack – three CDs’ worth clocking in at over two hours – is available free online. As with many of the previous games scored by Klepacki, there are several factions with whom players can ally themselves, and each faction has its own robust selection of music, ranging from raging action to more menacingly low-key music while building up resources for the next attack (or the next last-ditch defense). And as with many of his past projects, the music for each playable side kicks butt in its own way.

The Hierarchy music is the sort of thing that Command & Conquer Players will remember well – crunchy guitars, percussion that doesn’t take prisoners, and driving beats aplenty. If that’s what you’re coming for, you won’t go home disappointed. The selection of music for the Novus faction is more electronica-driven, with a mysterious sound. There’s still plenty of distorted guitar in here, but the emphasis is on more obviously synthetic instruments and motifs. The dreamy “Technical Data” and the aggressive “Zap” are highlights here.

But by far the real meat and potatoes of the Universe At War score is the Masari music, which includes the game’s opening theme and end credits. The Masari tracks are blow-the-walls-down, theatrical orchestral-operatic epics – while listening to “Divine Intervention”, I was thinking “someone hurry up and make a great kick-ass action movie to go with this great kick-ass music.” This stuff knocks it out of the park repeatedly, and reinforces my total bewilderment as to how the man has managed to dodge a major movie assignment. Sooner or later, that’s gotta catch up with him. The end credits suite, combining elements from all three factions’ themes with a thundering techno beat layered in for good measure, makes me want to jump up out of my seat and empty a clip of ammo into something – it’s some of the best action music I’ve heard in years. (And I’m not prone to wanting to get up and fire away, so that should tell you something!)

4 out of 4It’s hard to go wrong with some free music, and for the sheer quantity of tracks that you get for a little bit of download time here, you’re almost certain to find something you like. Since this is a free download in support of a commercially available product, it’s only fair to recommend that you support the composer and developer by buying Universe At War: Earth Assault in theLogBook.com Store if you’re so inclined.

FREE DOWNLOAD

    Hierarchy

  1. Damage King (3:43)
  2. Doom of the Aliens (3:26)
  3. On Edge (2:20)
  4. Anticipating (2:41)
  5. Slithering (3:09)
  6. Schematic (1:45)
  7. Mechanical Brain (3:53)
  8. Strangers Attack (3:22)
  9. Impending Doom (2:58)
  10. Prepare For Oblivion (3:09)
  11. Surrounding (5:00)
  12. Haunt (3:55)
    Novus

  1. Modern Design (3:53)
  2. Act On Invasion (3:19)
  3. Electrode (4:04)
  4. Calculations (2:23)
  5. Bass Case (3:43)
  6. Moving Forces (3:05)
  7. Technical Data (3:30)
  8. Roots (3:38)
  9. Hit And Run (3:05)
  10. Fog Of War (3:44)
  11. Composite (3:23)
  12. Resources (3:08)
  13. Zap (2:41)
    Masari

  1. Divine Intervention (theme for Universe At War) (3:26)
  2. Reanimation (3:35)
  3. Surveying The Land (2:34)
  4. Resurfaced (3:00)
  5. Mind In Motion (2:28)
  6. Display Of Power (2:41)
  7. Disturbance (3:48)
  8. Dark Intrusion (2:52)
  9. The Gathering (3:53)
  10. Ancient Presence (3:06)
  11. Masari Suite (Suspended, Architecture, Masari Victory) (3:45)
  12. Credits: Universe At War Remix Suite (3:40)

Released by: Petroglyph Games / Frank Klepacki
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 121:45

Frank Klepacki – Rocktronic

Frank Klepacki - RocktronicFrank K. is back in the house, and this time he’s kicking the doors down and knocking the walls flat. Unlike his solo debut Morphscape, Rocktronic is a little more similar stylistically from track one to track ten. And that’s cool – I loved some of Morphscape‘s more off-the-wall offerings like “Gonna Rock Yo Body” and “Cosmic Lounge”, but if Rocktronic proves anything, it’s that Frank Klepacki’s always got more musical ideas rattling around. And for those of us who learned about his music through his hard-driving accompaniment to some classic Westwood computer games (and I’d hazard a guess that this category probably includes almost everybody reading this), Rocktronic is homecoming week for you – it easily lives up to its name.

And the title should give you a pretty good clue of what to expect. Guitars are to the forefront of Rocktronic, and Klepacki demonstrates some impressive ability at that instrument. The opening volley, “Decible”, lives up to its name. The following track, “Rocktronic”, is probably the best fusion of rock and techno elements on the whole CD, with some mighty crunchy guitar work melding seamlessly with the techno elements. “Escape” feels a little bit like “Mode One” from Morphscape, only more aggressive and drum-driven, but the similarity is in some dandy throwback-to-the-’80s synth work. In Yo Face has both feet firmly in industrial/techno territory, and it’s best appreciated at a level where the speakers rumble the foundation of your house. Seriously. Headphones don’t quite do it justice.

“Take Me” has a very cool, laid back bluesy opening that leads into an extended hard rock jam on the same theme. There’s a nifty ’70s stadium rock guitar solo vibe to the whole thing. It Has Begun is more of an aggressive dance number, with the sampled voice yelling “It has begun!” Mortal Kombat-TV-ad-style hearkening back to some of Frank’s Command & Conquer work. “The Streets” and “In The Tunnel” almost sound like lost cuts from the Lexx music library, which isn’t a bad thing. The Streets has a little more of a Euro/electronica thing going, while “In The Tunnel” has the dramatic intensity of a soundtrack cue bubbling under the surface.

“Machines Collide” has an epic feel that hails back to some of the better Emperor: Battle For Dune tracks, with sampled choral textures and an interesting sonar-as-percussion element that I liked – it’s probably my favorite track on the CD, with “Take Me” running a close second. “Bring The Fight” closes things 4 out of 4out by jumping right back into hard rock territory, which brings us full circle.

On the one hand, I really missed the roller-coaster variety of styles that made Morphscape a lot of fun – but you can’t argue against Rocktronic‘s dominant style being the one that won Klepacki his fan base to begin with, and it’s still great music.

Order this CD

  1. Decible (4:32)
  2. Rocktronic (3:57)
  3. Escape (4:11)
  4. In Yo Face (3:42)
  5. Take Me (4:58)
  6. It Has Begun (4:06)
  7. The Streets (4:02)
  8. In The Tunnel (3:47)
  9. Machines Collide (4:42)
  10. Bring The Fight (4:28)

Released by: Frank Klepacki
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 42:27

Frank Klepacki – Morphscape

Frank Klepacki - MorphscapeAfter seven years of churning out the hard-hitting accompaniment for Electronic Arts’ Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy games (among others) and releasing over half a dozen albums’ worth of material attached to computer games, not to mention stints with Las Vegas bands like Home Cookin’ and Mo’ Friction, Frank Klepacki is flying solo – and proving there’s more to his repertoire than being EA’s own C&C music factory. Klepacki flexes his signature funk-techno muscle on such tracks as “Defunkt” and “Freaks From Within”, but delves into some new territory, including lounge music and even the glorious vintage ’70s throwback that is “Gonna Rock Yo Body”. In a true tribute to the roller disco era, “Rock Yo Body” features “robotic” vocoder-processed vocals, synth-string stabs, and the kind of cheesy electronic percussion you’d expect from the late ’70s and early ’80s. And the beauty of it is, it works. If you, like me, grew up during that era…this song will give you a thrill of recognition and a goofy grin. It’s good cheese, a nice little trip back to the day when Grandmaster Flash was considered new, not old-school. “Gonna Rock Yo Body” is an unlikely candidate for the best song on the whole CD, but if you’re already acquainted with Frank Klepacki’s body of game work, this track should jump out and grab you because it demonstrates what he can do outside of that genre. “Mode One” shifts into new wave gear with an ever-so-slight nod in the direction of early, pre-drenched-with-samples Depeche Mode. By the end of the album, you’ve gotten to hear so many styles and distinctive pieces that you’re not left thinking “Hey, this stuff all sounds exactly like 4 out of 4Command & Conquer!”

I’ve been lobbying for someone to tap Frank Klepacki for something more than just a short film, and I still think someone should. But he won’t hear me complain if he keeps turning out solo material too, because Morphscape rocks.

Order this CD

  1. Morphscape (5:21)
  2. Blaster (4:43)
  3. Freaks From Within (5:08)
  4. Cybertek (3:12)
  5. Mode One (4:03)
  6. Gonna Rock Yo Body (3:23)
  7. Cosmic Lounge (5:12)
  8. Morphunk (3:47)
  9. Defunkt (2:42)
  10. Virus (4:47)

Released by: FrankKlepacki.com
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 42:18

Dune 2000 – music by Frank Klepacki

Dune 2000It’s been nearly five years since it first hit PCs (which few people could have missed, given that a marathon Sci-Fi Channel airing of David Lynch’s Dune was sponsored by Electronic Arts in support of the release), and despite all the good stuff we’ve gotten from both game developer Westwood Studios and their in-house music guru Frank Klepacki, Dune 2000 is still my favorite PC strategy game – and still my favorite computer game soundtrack.

Klepacki does invoke Toto’s groundbreaking rock-orchestral score in places, mainly in the use of specific instruments such as percussion and electric guitar. But the vast majority of the music from Dune 2000 isn’t trying to be an extension of the film (which is sometimes more than we can say for the game’s cinematic cut scenes), it’s a sweeping, atmospheric and stunningly original movie-quality soundtrack. Some of the music’s 4 out of 4electronics almost steer it into the abstract, sounding in a few places like some of the better tracks from Evan Chen’s soundtrack from Crusade. It’s sinister, mysterious, and utterly appropriate to the game’s action. Even separated from the game itself, Klepacki’s music makes for a compelling listen. I highly recommend both the game and the music – they’re still among Westwood’s all-time best.

Order this CD

  1. Menu Theme (0:52)
  2. The Ambush (4:14)
  3. Attack On Arrakis (4:03)
  4. The Atriedes Gain (4:16)
  5. Enter The Ordos (5:13)
  6. Fight For Power (5:51)
  7. The Fremen (4:31)
  8. Harkonnen Battle (4:16)
  9. Land Of Sand (5:03)
  10. Plotting (4:32)
  11. Robotix (4:10)
  12. Rise Of Harkonnen (3:37)
  13. The Soldiers Approach (4:01)
  14. Spice Scouting (5:10)
  15. Under Construction (4:32)
  16. The Waiting Game (4:13)
  17. Score (2:05)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 70:39

Command & Conquer: Renegade

Command & Conquer: RenegadeThe Command & Conquer games are loaded down with so many obedient soldiers under the player’s control, how could a game be made about any one of them? The answer’s easy: make a game about the one soldier you don’t see in the C&C games. A loose-cannon, gun-totin’ badass. And that’s what Westwood’s first-person blast-fest Command & Conquer: Renegade is all about.

For the music for Renegade, veteran Westwood composer Frank Klepacki goes in two directions at one: back to the original theme from Command & Conquer, and forward for some chunky, hybrid heavy metal/techno music befitting the baddest of the bad. When you have a track called “Got A Present For Ya” in a soundtrack from a game about a heavily armed rogue soldier, you can probably guess this 4 out of 4won’t be the soundtrack from On Golden Pond. This isn’t to say that every cue is top-heavy with action, though – “Sniper” and “Beach” are a couple of good examples of this.

The reworkings of the original C&C theme are a welcome return, bringing the whole thing full-circle and giving it the feel of belonging to a larger saga.

Order this CD

  1. Command & Conquer (2:58)
  2. Got A Present For Ya (2:21)
  3. Sniper (3:18)
  4. Act On Instinct (3:31)
  5. Stomp (2:55)
  6. (Untitled Track) (3:57)
  7. Sneak Attack (3:50)
  8. Move It (2:04)
  9. Dogfight (4:42)
  10. Packing Iron (3:22)
  11. Industrial Ambient (4:00)
  12. Beach (3:01)
  13. Fight Win Prevail (3:36)
  14. Ammo Clip (3:18)
  15. In Line Of Fire (3:57)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 50:50

Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun

Command & Conquer: Tiberian SunIt may seem silly to snatch up the music of a game I don’t even own (honestly, I’m not sure my system could handle it), but sometimes it’s worth it. Frank Klepacki carries on the proud, if unorthodox, tradition of tracking a wargame with some serious techno beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the club scene. The smooth groove of “Lone Trooper” and the slow-building jam of “Scouting” are some of the finest techno cuts I’ve heard, game or no game. “Mutants” kicks off with the slimiest slice of modern funk I’ve heard in a long time, and the menacing “Approach” track echoes the ticking clock percussion of some of the better cues from John Williams’ JFK score. “What Lurks” is a bit reminiscent of 4 out of 4Klepacki’s best work from Dune 2000. While Tiberian Sun itself didn’t get the warmest reception from the PC gaming community (as well as a few Command & Conquer purists who balked at the transition from overhead 2-D graphics to a 3-D look), the soundtrack is right on the money – whether you’re listening to it in the car or blasting away at the legions of NOD.

Order this CD

  1. Timebomb (2:07)
  2. Pharotek (4:41)
  3. Lone Trooper (4:42)
  4. Scouting (4:17)
  5. Infrared (4:31)
  6. Flurry (4:15)
  7. Mutants (4:15)
  8. Gloom (4:01)
  9. Heroism (4:03)
  10. Approach (4:43)
  11. Dusk Hour (4:18)
  12. The Defense (4:05)
  13. Mad Rap (4:32)
  14. Valves (4:22)
  15. What Lurks (5:17)
  16. Score (1:49)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 65:58

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2Hailed by many gamers as a big improvement over Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2 refined the 3-D graphics engine introduced in its predecessor – and it rocked out the music. If there’s one thing that makes the Red Alert 2 soundtrack – which was available from Westwood Studios for a limited time around the game’s release – stand out from the rest, it’s a refreshing blast of heavy metal guitar. The real standout here is the blistering, fast-paced “Destroy”, though there are close runners-up: “Grinder” and “Industrofunk”. The six-string pyrotechnics are a nice addition to the by-now-familiar C&C style of techno music, but the old style isn’t completely lost – tracks 4 out of 4such as “Probing” and “Fortification” are pure old-school C&C cues that wouldn’t have been out of place in the original game.

This may actually be my favorite soundtrack from the Command & Conquer games, simply because it’s so different from the others, while still keeping the “feel” of what came before it.

Order this CD

  1. HM2 (3:44)
  2. Industrofunk (3:12)
  3. Ready The Army (4:57)
  4. Grinder (2:27)
  5. In Deep (3:24)
  6. Motorized (4:02)
  7. Power (3:56)
  8. 200 Meters (4:12)
  9. Destroy (4:38)
  10. Burn (4:37)
  11. Probing (4:19)
  12. Blow It Up (3:11)
  13. Eagle Hunter (4:16)
  14. Fortification (4:02)
  15. Jank (3:46)
  16. C&C In The House (4:06)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 62:49