Michael Giacchino and Chris Tilton
La-La Land Records (2004)
1) Mercenaries Main Theme
2) Destination: DMZ
3) Allied Nations
4) Mercenary Without A Cause
5) Deck Of 52
6) For The Motherland
7) Family Business
8) Show Me The Mercenary
9) Honor And Strength
10) Hidden Valley Bunker
12) Swedish Fireballs
13) Trouble At Work
14) Trains, Planes And HMMWVs
15) Relentless Pursuit
16) Gas Tank On The Roof
17) Explosion Scherzo
18) Thermal Event
20) The Blinding Flash
21) World's Best Carpool Lane
- Composer website: Michael Giacchino
- Composer website: Chris Tilton
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
The world is not safe in the near future. At least that’s the vision of the creators of the action game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction. The North Korean Government is trying to take over the world which in turn attracts the attention of the Allied Nations, the Chinese forces and even the Russian Mafia. The player takes up the role of one of three mercenaries and works for the different factions of the game as he sees fit. This open gameplay in connection with decent graphics and voice-acting made the game quite popular. On top of that, you got a fully orchestrated score by Michael Giacchino and Chris Tilton performed by the Northwest Sinfonia.
Originally, Giacchino was hired to score the game but after having written the main theme he got called away by Disney to score the Pixar animated movie The Incredibles. The task to finish the score fell to Giacchino’s associate Tilton with whom he had worked on the television series ALIAS. Ironically, Giacchino’s involvement with the score proved to be its main flaw: The main theme is brassy and heroic although it’s far from Giacchino’s best. It is, in fact, a rather lazy and uninteresting theme which raises the question if not Tilton should’ve done the theme as well. This theme is, of course, first heard in “Mercenaries Main Theme” and gets quoted throughout the score in different orchestral arrangements like in “Show Me The Mercenary” or “Thermal Event”, in the latter even backed up by choir.
To compete with the destructive on-screen action of the game the score is equally action and brass oriented with the use of strings limited to a rhythmic function. It’s mostly the trumpets, horns and trombones who take on the themes and melodies which makes the score sound harsh and militaristic. In addition, there’s extensive use of drums and other percussion which, again, highlight the action parts of the score.
There are quieter moments too, although they are mostly reduced to the overly melodramatic cue “For The Motherland” featuring strings and a harp.
As for the orchestration of all the cues, it is decent, although the use of choir doesn’t always sound properly mixed and is sometimes taken over by the brass and other instrumentation. Another thing to criticize might be the relative sameness of most of the cues. There are neither impressive solo passages nor a great variation in instrumentation or orchestration. The dominance of brassy action sequences might tire you quite quickly. If you are, on the other hand, a fan of big and bold, fully orchestral arrangements, then this album will be right up your alley.
With that being said, the overall quality of the score is impressive and the use of full orchestra is welcome. And even though it’s not a very diverse score and doesn’t feature a very strong theme, it is mainly the full-blown brass sequences which make this an exciting score and an enjoyable listen for all action fans.