Battlefield V (ep)

Johan Söderqvist and Patrik Andrén

" Battlefield V is the next entry in the series. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the download only release

Battlefield 1
In 2016 the video game Battlefield I was given in the hands of Johan Söderqvist and Patrik Andrén. While Söderqvist has expressed an interest into working on a video game at some point, it was quite a surprise that he, and Andrén, entered on such a high prolific video game, a WOI shooter nonetheless. The score was officially released, followed by shorter releases of all four expansions, but still missing out on much material.

We all know examples of composers who lose their real and unique strength when hired for a big budget project. It was serious matter to consider when Johan Söderqvist and co-composer Patrick Andrén came aboard Battlefield I. The game score does include remote control clichés, but also allowed him and his co-composer to follow their regular working methods of experimenting with interesting, unique sounds and instruments.These trademarks make for the better parts of the score and add something to the genre that wasn’t there before: a bass waterphone, ney and much more. They offer some truly evocative moments throughout the complete game, which were not all presented on official releases.

By far the greatest moments in the entire score are the pieces of ’interior music’ written and recorded with a male and female Kurdistan singer, along an oud and ney player. These are mostly little artworks on their one, slowly crafting an evocative and desolate feel. Some cues are reserved for the ney playing solo, or coinciding with the haunting female voice and in some examples being part of a low-key atmospheric musical basis. The male even gets a considerable amount of time to sing a beautiful passage, with time reserved for several pauses, as does the ney. Such musical ideas are even extremely effectively put to use in tension building and a magnificent solo ney variation on the classic main theme.

The use of choir is limited to a few moments throughout the score and one would expect it to make a grand impact when you get to hear it. Unfortunately, it is rarely given the chance to fully shine and is usually in a short and secondary role on the background. Inspirational use of the choir is evident in the cue Libera Me cue and another shorter track featuring memorable interplay between a boy soprano and the choir.

For the sake of continuity, Söderqvist and Andrén have given the classic Battlefield theme, originally composed by Joel Eriksson, the role it deserves in a new game. It has become a theme of class, a theme worthy of undergoing well-deserved variation in its orchestrations and instrumentation. There is such a great wealth and richness to be discovered in way it weaves through the score, from a small and intimate solo instruments, to low-key fragments and fully exposed ’tour de force’ orchestral treatments.

It’s mostly the action and suspense material where problems arise out of the context of the game, as they have certain recognizable features, namely the horn of doom and other cliched remote control ideas. Even though the word generic comes to mind, I got the sense that underneath all that there is some sheer energy, which makes it mostly entertaining enough and even generates moments of real excitement. Some of the major action set-pieces, similar to the theme, are reworked into a great number of variations, which gives the composer more than enough to expand upon, without having to start all over again. It is especially gratifying to hear how such pieces evolve throughout the same mission, even some parts that heavily rely on percussion, of which there is a broad mixture to be discovered in the score. While playing the game as a Battlefield entry, as a shooter experience, all criticism on this cliché music mostly diminishes and really shows how well the composers have succeeded in what the music was intended to do in the first place.

I really think Battlefield I is a score with different faces, but you can really tell they brought as much of their own on such a huge endeavor, that almost inevitably would be in contradiction with their usual traits. Being an admirer of Söderqvist’ career, it has provided me with a sense of comfort.

Battlefield I Expansions
The game has received a total of four expansions; Turning Tides, They Shall Not Pass, In the Name of the Tsar and Apocalypse.

Turning Tides features a few lovely military marches and reprises some of the fine oud and ney playing, but offers little time to become very engaging. They Shall Not Pass only memorable asset is the Libera Me like choir that works greatly in the Horror & Darkness track.

In the Name of the Tsar is the expansion that really impresses on grounds of the choir use and the bohak. There's often a sense of mystique as the bohak, slightly different from the sound of the normal cimbalom, is used and the Russian choir offers some truly endearing and powerful moments. The classic theme is often presented in short phrases and receives a brief organ treatment.

While Apocalypse shares some of its grittiness with In the Name of the Tsar, the overall tone of darkness is something that separates this from all other expansions and the main game. It does require an ability to look beyond some parts of the music that employ some clichés, but there are some magnificent pieces of music as well, deploying brooding textures and a chilling choir Another valuable asset is the fragile woodwind solo that produces a solemn, slow melody that gives the score a sense of musical continuity. The actual performance and tempo does not change at all, while the musical elements that surround each moment do. Easily the most evocative moment is saved for the very end, reaching an elegiac conclusion in The Aftermath, in which both the orchestral and choral layers match the pace and tone of the melody best.

Battlefield V
The EP of Battlefield V serves as short warm-up to the game and its score, which is due to be released on the 20th of November 2018. While this makes it difficult to base a well-informed opinion of the score, it explains the fact why more emphasis lies on reflecting on the music of its previous entry. Judging from the 20 minutes of score, it looks like the composers continue the established path of its predecessor. Once again, they present the classic Battlefield theme in the shapes of an anthem, namely in the cues Battlefield V Legacy Theme and Tirailleur. It also makes a brief appearance in Under no Flag, along a warm tin whistle melody. It’s a pleasure to the ear, but offers very little we haven’t heard before. The same goes for the mood settling and action scoring in other cues, aside from Sandstone. This is the only action cue that generates some excitement with a basic, percussive action rhythm, alongside loud brass figures, some effectively screeching effects and the didgeridoo.

I suspect that Battlefield V wil be treated similarly as Battlefield I, with a 'full length’ digital release and shorter ones for the expansions. Given the scope of the previous scores (Battlefield I alone contained about five hours of music), it’s difficult to form an opinion on what a greater part of the music for this new entry will be like. While I suspect generic music will have its place, interesting sounds and instruments will likely play an equally important role.

1. Electro War 2:28
2. Moody Suspence 3:36
3. Sneaking Pulse 2:09
4. Tirailleur 2:39
5. Under No Flag 3:37
6. Battlefield V Legacy Theme 3:36
7. Sandstone 3:05

Total duration: 21:10

(written 29-10-2018)

(click to rate this score)  
(total of 5 votes - average 3.3/5)

Released by

Electronic Arts (download only release 2018)