Fall 2013 has been a damn good season for horror game soundtrack fans, with a variety of entertaining scores coming down the pipe – ranging from purely fun entries like the hard-rocking Zombie Squash to big studio-quality symphonic epics like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. An even more colorful variety of styles comes together in the soundtrack for Dead Rising 3, the latest entry in Capcom's hit zombie-slaying game series that began as a Dawn of the Dead homage and quickly expanded to World War Z proportions. The third chapter takes the music to the next level, involving not only acclaimed composers like Brian Reitzell (30 Days of Night, Hannibal), Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls, the Harry Potter game series) and returning Dead Rising composer Oleksa Lozowchuk, but also a host of talented cyber-rockers including FEARnet fave Celldweller.
The standard edition album weighs in at 40 tracks across two CDs, the bulk of which is dedicated to Lozowchuk's score and source cues, which run the full spectrum from thunderous, percussive action cues to spooky mood pieces and retro-kitsch. Action-oriented content naturally dominates, as evidenced by the word “Battle” popping up in more than a dozen cues – including pieces by Reitzell, Celldweller, Sascha Dikiciyan (Mass Effect 3, Tron: Evolution) and Traz Damji (one-half of electro team The Humble Brothers). Among the heavier material, standouts include Celldweller's slamming EDM contributions ("Gluttony Battle" and "Hemlock Drone Attack” are the ace entries), the maniacal "Lust Battle" (which features a riff on the Psycho shower-murder motif), the ultra-gritty "Hemlock Melee,” and the orchestral percussion, brass blasts and apocalyptic choirs of “Diego Battle.” Despite the obvious emphasis on action and in-your-face horror, some of the most memorable moments come as moody, pulsing undercurrents – most notably the “Ambient” and “TZ Pulse” cues. For dramatic power alone, the haunting, ultra-dark opening cut "Please Remember My Name” is one of the strongest electronic-based game thenes I've ever heard.
The second half is mainly dedicated to source cues – original pieces created to flesh out the game in the form of dance music, advertising jingles and various cultural accents, all meant to originate from sources within the game's world. A large portion of these would fit smoothly into an '80s-inspired retro club playlist along with similar vintage synth-based scores (2011's Drive springs immediately to mind). In fact, you could easily shape a pretty sweet flashback mix out of sparkly synthpop numbers like "Don't Walk Away,” vocoder-infused cuts "ICUCMe" and "Keep On Rollin," the infectious up-tempo bouncer "Speed Demons" (by Ashtar Command), and post-punk cuts "Sunset Hills" and "Seven" (by Dave Genn). As you might expect, in the spirit of the game many of these cross the line into parody (the Barry White riff "Annie's XXX Supply" and the equally porn-tastic "Speedy's G-Spot" are absolutely hilarious), but the quality and detail is consistently high, and a few giggles at the occasional cheese just add to the fun. There's even a little gift to 8-bit music fans, in the form of Damji's "U Break Wi Fix.”
This manic mash-up of styles and genres across both discs is a potentially head-spinning experience, but the album is sequenced in such a way that it never becomes overwhelming, and you can virtually needle-drop any track on the album as the starting point of a pretty awesome listening session. That balance of quality and variety make Dead Rising 3 a must-own album for horror and dark-fantasy music junkies, and one of the best game music albums of the year.
With that said, if you're a seriously hardcore soundtrack collector (guilty as charged), you might want to pounce on a limited offer from Sumthing Else Music Works, similar to their earlier release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, in which they uploaded virtually every music cue from the game in one mammoth digital album. In the case of Dead Rising 3, that means 99 tracks total – well over five hours of music. Needless to say it's not very suited to a start-to-finish listen, but if you want to hear everything the composers brought to the game, it's here. If that concept catches your interest (again, guilty), be sure to pick this one up pronto, as the package is only being offered through January 31st. If you prefer the standard release, it's available now via iTunes, Amazon, and other digital vendors, and the physical 2-CD set drops next Tuesday, November 26th.