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Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below. Buckle up. This is gonna be...

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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Freedom Cry Soundtrack Review

Posted on Tuesday, May 20 @ 11:00:00 Eastern by gil_almogi

Like cool, blue water for your ears.

Releasing many moons after its namesake, the soundtrack for the Freedom Cry DLC to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is still as relevant and interesting as ever. Here, Olivier Deriviere of Remember Me fame has crafted a lush audio experience for video game music fans full of high drama and high seas. I’ve listened to it repeatedly for months waiting to be able to recommend it to others to buy and that moment finally arrived on May 12th of this year.

The opener, “The Root,” feels like an amuse-bouche, giving listeners a sampling of the interest to look forward to over the 17-track album. At first, I was reeled in by the frantic instrumentation of many of the songs. I’m generally a fan of songs with a lot of momentum, and Deriviere has delivered that in spades but without overdoing the intensity. Songs like “Fight the Tyranny” and “Attack at Sea” respect my ears enough to switch up the foreground and background melodies plenty. This results in each song feeling a little like a musical suite but without any pauses.

Not every track is fast, though, and necessary calm washes over the sea just as effectively. I appreciated the melodic introspection of “False Paradise,” which felt like a nighttime lullaby in a way. “A Boat to Freedom” conveys a sense of traveling over a smooth ocean using small and frequent percussion sounds to maintain the small waves lapping under the hull. It’s easy to lose yourself in these engrossing tunes.

Freedom Cry focuses on the Trinidadian assassin, Adéwalé, and in order to invoke a soulful Caribbean feel that separates this album from the main game soundtrack, Deriviere collaborated with the Haitian music group, La Troupe Makandal. These singers are the shining force here even if they don’t feature on each track. In a few instances, like in “Brothers and Sisters,” they appear after a few minutes of pure instrumentation to bring a passionate and emotional closing.

Praise should also be heaped on the soloist, Monvelyno Alexis, who lends a heavy heart to “The Root” and the closing track, “The Freedom Cry.” He is easily one of the strongest and most compelling vocalists to hit my video game soundtrack collection, and together with his team, they become absolute assets to the music. I have lots of love for the classic, booming church choir, but the raw energy Makandal exhibits feels fresh and new in a sea of oft-ignored background music.

This soundtrack, which had me excited from the first listen, has put Olivier Deriviere on my list of composers to listen for. For $11 (on iTunes) for the digital album, you’ll be treating your ears to something refreshing and unique in the gaming soundscape.

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