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Dead Space 2 Original Videogame Soundtrack :: Review by Steven Kennedy

Dead Space 2 Original Videogame Soundtrack Album Title: Dead Space 2 Original Videogame Soundtrack
Record Label: Electronic Arts
Catalog No.: iTunes
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Purchase: Download at Amazon MP3


Jason Graves' music for Electronic Arts' horror sci-fi game Dead Space was easily one of the best vide game scores of 2008. Its amazing orchestral writing, coupled with fantastic, visceral action cues were often reminiscent of Goldsmith's Alien. For the sequel release, Graves returns with the full force of the Skywalker Symphony and the Quartet San Francisco, to create a worthy follow-up. Through contrasting full-throttle action cues with more intimate string quartets, he portrays the outward horror and psychological turmoil of protagonist Isaac excellently throughout the score, while providing a fine stand-alone listening experience.


The score for Dead Space 2 features a mixture of conserved and novel elements. Within in its first moments, the primary thematic elements from the original game appear in "Welcome To the Sprawl". However, this is not before a contemporary atmosphere is set by the opening string quartet section, a novel and recurring feature throughout the score. The track evolves cinematically during its five minute playtime, drawing listeners in as the track approaches a horrifying climax, reflecting that Isaac's nightmare is far from over.

This reprise is overshone by the centrepiece new theme on the score, "Lacrimosa", an eight minute string quartet played by the Quartet San Francisco. The music feels like a deeply moving segment of an avant-garde concert and, in this context, allows for some deeply emotional, and somewhat personal, musical expressions to play between the intense moments of the score. In addition to serving as an excellent piece of art music, it's a perfect depiction of Isaac's inner turmoil and dementia featured through the game.

Complementing its psychological focus, Dead Space 2 also features some more outwardly horrifying cues. As with the first score, there are tracks such as "You Got Nill" and "Rest In Pieces" featuring gigantic dissonant orchestrations; they feature amazing cluster arpeggios against brass lines that move quickly forward with great intensity made more so by the off-beat rhythmic pulses. While all these types of sounds are going on, Graves continues to add small motivic ideas or flourishes in winds. These dense orchestral sounds make for amazing musical moments throughout the score.

The necromorphs return in "Much Ado About Necromrphs", but here the anvils of the first score are absent and are written out as pounding brass. The intensity of full-force orchestral sound is alternated with unsettling lyrical ideas which, in this track, have a little sighing motif similar to what Goldsmith used in Alien. Similar to the first game's musical development, the cue also takes its melodic content and breaks it down into atonal segments, though the drumming this time out is far more intense and insistent. Something equally fascinating is the way the strings seem to have a sort of stretched design feel to them as if they are being manipulated in some way.

"The Cassini Towers" also features some chilling spoken vocalizations against angular musical backdrops and clusters. This segment also incorporates thematic elements throughout its playing time. It is here where the different musical textures to represent Isaac and the scenario are alternated enough so that one can hear their recurrence in other parts of the score. The gushing, almost romantic orchestration, in the climax of "Come Rain or Come Convergence" offers a gorgeously simple moment, but is quite powerful after all that has gone before it — though the horror that emanates this franchise still creeps in as the track closes.


While much of Dead Space 2 returns to thematic ideas from the first game, there are plenty of novel elements provided by the introspective string quartets and unique action tracks. Unlike so much dissonant, or cacophonous music, this score grabs a hold of you and never lets go of your attention. At an hour, this is surely an overwhelming musical experience at times and certainly isn't for light listening. The first score was a hard to beat, but Dead Space 2 is still a fine achievement and a terrifyingly good listen.

Overall Score: 9/10