Journey – Soundtrack Review

The score for Journey forms a symphonic tapestry of emotions, and whether it’s using sweeping strings to express excitement or quiet vocals for sorrow, composer Austin Wintory absolutely nails the tone and style of the game.

The album opens with Nascence, a slow-paced and pensive piece that does an excellent job of introducing the incredibly atmospheric tone of the game itself. Low strings with light percussion in accompaniment open the track, setting a somewhat wistful and rather peaceful mood for the remainder of the piece. Lighter and slightly more upbeat strings then appear, shifting the tone upwards from sad to a more hopeful setting before the track then comes to a close. Overall, Nascence is a beautiful introduction to Wintory’s score to Journey; perfectly capturing the rather mysterious yet hopeful atmosphere of the game in a just under two minute runtime.

Things start to get interesting with The Road Of Trials, as the pace picks up significantly and Wintory treats us to the game’s first and best action cue. Light percussion in combination with rather spectacular-sounding woodwinds take the forefront for much of the piece, with sweeping sombre strings popping up occasionally to remind the listener of the game’s somewhat sad overarching tone. The track is a pretty welcome breath of hopeful and orchestral air, and one that sadly doesn’t last anywhere near as long as it should. What we did get is pretty great though, and The Road Of Trials would have been standout cue if not for a certain track later on in the album.

What I feel however that Wintory’s score to Journey is lacking is a central motif; a main theme that binds all of his different musical ideas here together. There have been snippets here and there that resemble something of a recurring set of notes (with Nascence being the best example of this), but nothing distinct enough to notice and identify as a theme (at least for me, anyway). I do think that this is a bit of a missed opportunity on the composer’s part, as without a distinct central motif much of the score just feels…ambient. There are standout tracks of course but most of the others sound like they just sit in the background with no real purpose other than mood enhancement. A recurring theme I think would have done a great deal to rectify this, as it would give both listeners and players a thematic idea to both identify and rally behind.

The standout cue award goes to Apotheosis, a seven-minute-long and rather solemn piece of music. It opens with slow and pensive strings, which slowly build up to a short but  loud emotional explosion before then seguing into more hopeful and almost heroic territory with a faster pace and additional backing strings. After a few minutes of continuous strings-based build-up, brass subtly arrives in the background, with dramatic vocals joining the frey a few seconds later. All these elements then work together in particularly breathtaking form for a few highly enjoyable minutes before the track then returns to its tonal roots with a slow and solemn solo-strings finale. There is a great deal of musical “power” in this piece of music, with more raw emotion conveyed here than I feel in any other track on the score, so naturally it became the standout cue.

The score then draws to a close with I Was Born For This, a vocal-heavy piece that ends the score on a rather hopeful yet dramatic note. The particularly enchanting vocals are the star of the show here, elevating the backing strings from quiet solemnity to loud optimism and generally making the final four minutes of Journey some of the most spectacular music on the album.

Overall, Austin Wintory’s score to Journey is breathtakingly beautiful. The composer’s use of sweeping strings and subtle-yet-effective brass expertly conveys the pensive yet dramatic tone of the game itself, and stylistically the score is simply wondrous. However, I would say that the album overall is lacking considerably in the thematic department, as I could only really pick out one motif (in Nascence) that I would perhaps consider to be a theme, and even that recurred infrequently and sadly wasn’t particularly memorable (at least for me). Additionally, the tonally lighter elements of the album were the much more enjoyable ones, with tracks like The Road Of Trials and particularly Apotheosis as the standout pieces of music, and the darker and more pensive pieces being generally less interesting. For the most part though, Journey is a well-crafted and pretty enjoyable score.

 

Score: 7/10

Standout Cue: 17. Apotheosis

 

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