At long last, the score for the highly successful Red Dead Redemption sequel has been released, and what an album it is.
The score begins with By 1899, The Age Of Outlaws And Gunslingers Was At An End (which, I might add, is one hell of a track title). Slow and solemn piano notes in combination with a few rather ominous and sporadic guitar notes take up the majority of the cue’s ninety second runtime, making for quite a gloomy mood setter and introduction to the album overall. Things then cheer up a bit with subsequent track Outlaws From The West, and it’s here that the game’s western and cowboy-esque setting really starts to shine through. It opens with that now practically iconic whistling that Ennio Morricone is famous for using in his western compositions, before then kicking the instrumentation up a notch with upbeat percussion and a rather hopeful-sounding guitar. For the first minute or so this is simply used to establish mood, before then moving into more thematic territory by introducing the main theme for the score. It’s primarily a simple three-note motif, yet surprisingly is quite effective at getting across the tone and atmosphere of Red Dead.
The music then returns to more solemn territory with Mrs. Sadie Adler, Widow, a mainly strings-based piece that’s almost funeral-esque for the first minute or so. Interestingly the musical mood then changes considerably for the remainder of the track, with loud and dramatic percussion taking the forefront and the established strings rapidly increasing in pace, a change that removes the solemnity almost entirely and replaces it with a grim, almost war-like tone. This is then continued through into the next track Revenge Is A Dish Best Eaten, where intense and fast-paced strings take over for a rather anxious five minute semi-action setpiece.
The Fine Art Of Conversation then returns to the score’s heavily western side, complete with the iconic whistling and light guitar moments. A sense of calm and relaxation falls on the album for the next three minutes, and as far as ambient mood setters go, this is a pretty great one. The serenity doesn’t last for long however as the darker side of the score re-emerges with subsequent track Banking, The Old American Art. Eerie guitar notes in combination with deep percussion take up the majority of this five-minute-long cue, building a much harsher and colder atmosphere.
So far, the vast majority of the score has leant on ambience and mood-setting, which while enjoyable in all honesty isn’t really making for many standout tracks. Here’s hoping for something a bit more memorable (and maybe thematic?) a bit later on.
Some rather startling Native American-style yelling opens Welcome To The New World, before the music then continues the rather sombre nature of the previous track with light and repeating guitar notes and soft vocals – said repetition then keeps going through the remainder of the five minute cue. It’s another tone setter, essentially. Next up of interest is Fleeting Joy, a darker and much more tense piece that utilises musical build-up to considerable effect. Light strings appear in the background about a minute or so into the track, which then slowly build up in both volume and intensity, with dramatic guitar notes appearing alongside more and more often as the music continues. Tensions then reach a high about three minutes in, where additional and rather melancholic strings arrive to close out the cue.
An American Pastoral Scene seems to carry weight on its shoulders, with a low and impending-doom-esque guitar in combination with some rather dark percussion seemingly hinting at events to come. The opening of Blood Feuds, Ancient and Modern then continues this tone, with ominous vocals and a similar-sounding guitar taking the forefront before looming percussion then arrives at the two minute mark. The pace then slowly begins to pick up, and the music slowly manoeuvres towards action territory with several welcome guitar-based reprises of the main theme. This then leads pretty much directly into the score’s standout cue; Red Dead Redemption. Dramatic and atmospheric guitar notes open the piece, and before long the main theme returns once again for a f ew laps before almost heroic percussion kicks in, combining with the main theme for several truly kick-ass musical minutes.
To finish up, the album then unleashes The Wheel, a rather solemn and heart-wrenching piece that does a pretty amazing job of instantly and completely switching up the tone from the near heroism of the previous cue to incredibly sorrowful. A slow and pensive piano takes up much of the four minute runtime, with almost mournful strings taking up the background. To cheer things up a bit, the score then returns to much more western-sounding territory with American Venom, complete with striking guitars, dramatic percussion and many a reprise of the main theme.
Overall, the score to Red Dead Redemption 2 is pretty damn good. The various composers have rather expertly captured both the tone of the game and the musical feeling of westerns in general, which is not a simple nor easy feat. The vast majority of the tracks are well composed and very enjoyable to listen to, and the main theme is great; being short but quite effective, particularly towards the end of the album. I do feel that perhaps it could have been used just a little bit more across the score though, as there are a number of ambient and atmospheric pieces that could have done with a bit more thematic presence. When it does appear though, the theme is used very well (see the standout cue) and so with that, several great action tracks and a well-crafted western feel, all-in I’d say the album’s a winner.
Standout Cue: 19. Red Dead Redemption