Danny Elfman & Russell Shaw
Sumthing Else Music Works (2005)
1) Fable Theme
5) Lychfield Cemetary
6) Summer Fields
9) Temple of Light
10) Hobbe's Cave
13) Fresco Dome
- Game Website
- Danny Elfman: Composer website
Microsoft’s role-playing game Fable was one of game design guru Peter Molyneux’s latest works and like with so many of his projects, it ultimately promised more than it delivered. Although critics liked the idea of an open-ended world and perfect freedom of choice concerning what to do and where to go with your character, the possibilities (even more so on the Xbox version than on the PC version) were simply too limited to deliver a gripping and satisfying gaming experience. What the critics did love, however, was the game’s overall presentation: nice and colourful graphics, good voice-acting and an atmospheric musical score.
The main title theme was composed by movie music veteran Danny Elfman and this fact is clearly audible, not so much in terms of quality but rather in terms of style. The theme is characteristically Elfman with strong heroic brass and magical percussion yet it somehow sounds like Elfman on auto-pilot. What’s even worse is that the intro cinematic it accompanies doesn’t suit the music at all or rather vice-versa. It’s pretty clear that the music was written first and that Elfman probably didn’t have a look at the game or the intro-cinematic beforehand. In the end, it must be said that although the main title remains a highlight, his contribution to the score has not made the music anymore professional, deep or engaging.
The rest of the score was composed by Russell Shaw and, as Elfman’s theme, was also performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. Shaw built on Elfman’s style and twisted it into ambient background music. A good example of this is “Oakvale” that combines strings, flutes, horns and choir to an uplifting mix and even features Fable’s main title theme. Just as atmospheric although more sinister and menacing is the track “Darkwood” with its high strings, soft percussion and angel-like vocal elements. The cue that probably captures Elfman’s style the most is “Witchwood”: light-hearted, upbeat strings and woodwinds hand each other the melodic line. Also worth mentioning is the more eastern sounding “Summer Fields” that seems to capture the spirit of a walk in a field on a sunny day.
Sadly, the cues mentioned above remain the highlights. The rest of the tracks are heavily ambient and don’t offer any striking thematic ideas or developments. They are well composed, but just strongly unmemorable and hard to listen to on their own. “Hobbes Cave” is basically just strings and horns playing in a rather menacing way, and “Temple of Light” is a two and a half minutes light percussions cue. “Guild” and “Fresco Dome” feature male and female vocal passages, respectively. The tracks certainly are of artistic value, but since they seem to be strongly focused on an atmospheric accompaniment of the action on screen, they sound too narrow to be fully appreciated outside of context.
As already hinted at, the score ties very well into the game, although, even in this aspect, it seems not to be as interactive as it could’ve been. There are themes that loop over and over again and become repetitive quite fast. Additionally, most areas the player crosses are rather small which adds another vexing detail: every time the player leaves and enters a new region, the game has the music start all over again. Still, as an atmospheric element, Shaw’s effort is solid.
Overall, it can be said that Fable is a magical, Elfman-esque score that works well in-game, but might prove to be a tough stand-alone listen, the latter half of the album in particular. If you’ve played the game or just like great background music this score is definitely for you. Don’t buy it for Elfman’s theme though…it’s not worth it.