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Medal of Honor European Assault Original Soundtrack :: Review by Simon Elchlepp

Medal of Honor European Assault Original Soundtrack Album Title: Medal of Honor European Assault Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Electronic Arts
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: August 30, 2005
Purchase: Buy at iTunes


By 2005, the Medal of Honor franchise had lost its position as reigning champ of the first person shooter genre, due to a growing number of competitors and a lack of gameplay innovation. Medal of Honor: European Assault was designed to address this issue, with its more open mission structure that gave players greater freedom in deciding how to complete campaigns. However, the game's short campaign mode and lack of online multiplayer meant that European Assault only received merely good reviews and sold considerably fewer copies than its console predecessor Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. Two months after the game's release in June 2005, EA released Christopher Lennertz' soundtrack for European Assault — his personal favourite among his Medal of Honor scores — as a digital download.


After the colourful frenzy of Rising Sun and the warm, pastoral strains of Pacific Assault, Lennertz shifts the tone of his new Medal of Honor score again. This time, the music takes on a much more dramatic, grand air that finds its closest relative among Medal of Honor scores in Michael Giacchino's Frontline. Lennertz said in interview that he "took the score [...] in a much more classical direction" and that he "did make a conscious effort to play more of the drama", and both statements are certainly correct.

The new stylistic direction, as is common on both Giacchino's and Lennertz' Medal of Honor scores, is mirrored aptly by the game's new main theme, presented on "Dogs of War - Main Title". Again presented on brass, this theme is a complex, sombre and emotionally powerful melodic idea and stands as the best of Lennertz' main themes for the Medal of Honor franchise. The music's air of seriousness is maintained throughout the piece, which includes a section for sweeping string orchestra of impressive gravity. Finally, the cue climaxes in a spectacular finale when a wordless choir makes its presence heard. This awe-inspiring composition also highlights another strength of the main theme: its malleability. Initially stated as a more thoughtful idea by a quiet brass quartet, it also shines when stated triumphantly by the full brass after 1:40.

The main theme's flexibility then enables Lennertz to use it in a number of different contexts and Lennertz makes the wise choice to quote the them often and extensively enough to let it tie the soundtrack together — more effectively than this was the case on Rising Sun. Not only is the main theme heard on imposing brass on action tracks like "Operation Chariot" and "North Africa", as was to be expected. The theme also returns as a poignant cello solo on "Casualties of War", which is a great deal more moving than Lennertz' previous, rather workman-like adagios on Rising Sun and Pacific Assault. Melodically much more inspired than those earlier efforts, "Casualties of War" works its way to a beautifully uplifting finale and showcases Lennertz' successful attempts at imparting his music with more weightiness.

The main theme is even strong enough to carry a whole track on its own. After a sorrowful string introduction, "Battle of the Bulge" essentially works through the main theme by presenting it in various disguises and contexts — and even has it facing off against the Nazi motif from Medal of Honor! While on Rising Sun, Lennertz showcased his talent at constantly introducing ever new melodies and rhythms, here he shows the same skills when it comes to offering variations upon the same theme. More than on Rising Sun, Lennertz also shows himself capable of developing his tracks. "Battle of Bulge" gradually picks up steam after its slow introduction to transform into a powerful and majestic action track. And finally, the main theme caps off the soundtrack in appropriately monumental fashion on the album's final track "One Man Can Make A Difference", whose amassed orchestral and choral forces close the album with a triumphant conclusion. Lennertz stated in interviews that European Assault is his personal favourite because the main theme translated so well throughout the score, and he's correct in this assessment.

One needs to add though that it's also necessary for the main theme to make a major impact and thematically carry the soundtrack, because there are no other candidates for that particular job. As mentioned, the Nazi theme from Medal of Honor appears on "Battle of the Bulge" and the original series' main theme pops up surprisingly often ("Redball Express", "To Stalingrad", "The Desert Rats"). But outside of the new main theme and occasional appearances of old material, no other primary theme is established. Given how strongly European Assault's main theme suggests Lennertz' increased skill at penning such themes, this is a bit of shame. But then again, the new main theme is strong enough to mostly cover up this lack of thematic density.

It's not only the new main theme that highlights European Assault's taste for drama. On this score, Lennertz conjures up the most massive sounds his Medal of Honor action tracks have been clad in so far. It's usually the brass which does the heavy lifting once the action explodes on "Operation Chariot", "Redball Express" and "Russia, 1942". Supported by usually swirling string and thunderous percussion, the brass raises a ruckus that will remind listeners of the supremely forceful battle cues of Medal of Honor. Even though the action tracks don't develop much once the booming brass kick in and are content to bombard the listener with new variations of the same monolithic sound, Lennertz' writing for brass is sufficiently accomplished to keep the listener happy. And sometimes, Lennertz does give his battle music a sense of direction: In "Russia, 1942", choir-laced bombast is driven forward by fierce string ostinati and later adds brass and woodwind to climax in an increasingly dense orchestral flurry. And "The Desert Rats" seamlessly builds from a richly orchestrated andante into a stirring march, while briefly incorporating North African hand percussion and woodwind sounds along the way.

While some listeners might miss Rising Sun's kaleidoscopically colourful orchestrations, Lennertz achieves a more coherent sound on European Assault that fortunately doesn't become tiresome over the album's running time of just 33 minutes. This coherency is increased by the fact that Lennertz applies the same colossal sound to slower material as well. "To Stalingrad" is a feast for lovers of choral music and pairs a choir singing in Russian with marching drums and heavy strings. The track's pathos is heightened further when the brass enters and after a passage powered by impressively pounding timpani, the cue ends with the grandiose finish the listener has come to expect. As on "Arnhem" from Medal of Honor: Frontline, the choir could be more precise at the end of notes and the piece is as subtle as a bag of hammers. And as on Frontline, these shortcomings don't matter much when the result is so powerful, although "To Stalingrad" doesn't reach "Arnhem" stratospheric emotional heights.

There are two factors that immensely support the new sound of European Assault. The first one is the soundtrack's outstanding sound, which is courtesy of an outstanding orchestral performance and of a recording that captures the music in all its sheer impact. Once more, EA has to be congratulated for not sparing expenses, this time when they booked The Philharmonia Orchestra, one of Great Britain's leading orchestras, to record European Assault. The result is a gloriously rasping brass and full-bodied strings that are a joy to listen to — witness the opening of "Clearing Tobruk" or the strings entering at 0:22 in "Dogs of War - Main Title". And those demanding, rapid brass ostinato motifs in the second half of "Russia, 1942" are played without fault.

The second reason European Assault's imperial sounds make their mark is the fact that due to the tracks' longer running times, the music is given more room to breath and develop. Gone are the one-minute cues from Rising Sun and their slam-bang approach to impressing the listener. "Battle of the Bulge" spreads its exploration of the main theme's heroic qualities over four minutes, and "Operation Chariot" and "Redball Express" mark the first time that Lennertz' action tracks open with slow, atmospheric introductions that actually feel like an organic part of the composition. And despite only serving as introductions, these passage are more moving than most of Lennertz' slow material on Rising Sun and Pacific Assault, again due to his more inspired orchestral writing.

Another track that benefits greatly from a longer running time is "Clearing Tobruk", which like "Slash Temple" on Rising Sun opens with a propulsive string motif that's reminiscent of those found on Medal of Honor. But this time, the cue is actually long enough for that motif to make an impact and inject the composition with an energy that turns "Clearing Tobruk" into of the best action tracks Lennertz has written for the Medal of Honor franchise. The only cue that isn't helped by a longer running time is "North Africa", which at over five minutes is unfortunately the soundtrack's most expansive track. Its slow introduction, which is similar to those of "Operation Chariot" and "Redball Express", is appealing. But once the action kicks in, Lennertz relies too heavily on monotonous ostinato elements and orchestral material that is just to thin to carry the track, which as a result meanders for most of its running time. Despite a bold return of the main theme at 3:04 and some African hand percussion, the piece soon becomes wearisome and for once, its action sound isn't imposing enough to cover up structural weaknesses.


Third time's the charm indeed here. Medal of Honor: European Assault betters Lennertz' effort for Rising Sun and stands head and shoulders above the disappointment that was Pacific Assault. European Assault sees the franchise rebounding musically and although the soundtrack doesn't quite reach the stellar heights of Giacchino's Medal of Honor scores, it's a very satisfying listen in and of itself. The soundtrack is a more coherent, smoothly flowing work than Rising Sun was, thanks to longer tracks and Lennertz' willingness to finally give his compositions time to develop and unfold. The music is reminiscent of Medal of Honor: Frontline, in that it's emotionally powerful and possess an enticing sense of grandeur, underpinned by a superb main theme. And the action tracks, with their unrelenting barrage of exciting, mighty brass sounds, will give your music system a good workout, even though they're not among the most varied or creative battle cues in the Medal of Honor franchise. All this is performed and recorded exemplary, which allows the music to make its full impact upon the listener. This is one soundtrack that deserves to step out the large shadow of its predecessors.

Overall Score: 8/10