Jamestown Original Soundtrack
Despite its era-clashing scenario, Jamestown was essentially an indie homage to Japanese space shooters. Composed remotely by Chilean Francisco Cerda, its soundtrack bucked the trend for most shooters with its cinematic orchestral focus. But rather than simply imitate today's such scores, Cerda also incorporates influences from classic scores. The result is a highly impressive score that doesn't always fit the game.
"Prologue" sets an epic tone for the soundtrack with courageous string leads and suspenseful drum rolls. On a stand-alone basis, the track certainly engages with its emotional orchestration and rich sampling. But in context, the music sounds somewhat over-the-top and melodramatic given the modest visuals and light-hearted scenario. Moving into the main gameplay, the "War Upon the East Frontier" also seems misplaced in context. Gamers are used to hearing high-octane, free-spirited electronic or rock tracks in colourful shmups like Jamestown. Instead, Cerda provides an orchestration that is so massive and urgent that he will overpower the experience for many. While an intimate and adaptive accompaniment to the game, much of the soundtrack still follows this trend trying so hard to make an impact that he outshines everything.
Regardless, the entire album is an incredible ride on its own. After an attention-grabbing orchestrated introduction, "War Upon the East Frontier" enthrals with its memorable string and brass leads. The softer and darker passages that follow add depth to the suite and bring variety to the experience. What's more, the pepperings with electronic beats add a contemporary edge and rhythmic thrust to the track, culminating in a magical synthesizer solo from the 2:04 mark. Taking listeners into dangerous territories, "Journey into the Dark Sector" assembles several in-game tracks into a dramatic musical journey. This track boasts so many unforgettable moments the dissonant avant-garde orchestration of the opening, the way the heroic lead overcomes all the crisis motifs at 2:07, the way the suspended chords of 3:00 capture the push for freedom. It's rare to come across music so potent and immersive these days.
Evidently an ambitious composer, Cerda's curiosity takes him into a range of other musical territories. To the backdrop of a techno beat, "Prisoners of the Badlands" takes Jamestown back towards wild western territories with its incredible Morricone-inspired trumpet solo. "Secrets Mine of New Madrid" is the most percussive of all the entries combining drums, chants, and rock riffs into a vibrant mesh of sounds while the ten minute epic "Lost Temple of Croatoa Suite" includes some top-notch choral passages and plenty of twists-and-turns. "Turning the Tide" and "Truth Stands Revealed" take the tempo and volume right down in order to evoke deeper emotions in listeners. Both go way beyond the average cinematic fare found in games, reminiscent more of classically-trained greats like Korngold or Williams than today's Hollywood icons. The former is especially beautiful with its gorgeous violin leads and abstact spacey orchestration.
While it's clear throughout the soundtrack that Cerda is a movie soundtrack enthusiast, there are also occasions when these influences become too explicit. In "Lost Temple of Croatoa Suite", for instance, sections inspired by James Horner, Danny Elfman, and Harry Gregson-Williams come in close succession. While impressive imitations, they take away from the soundtrack's individuality and diminish the climax somewhat. It's clear that Cerda is so talented that he need not revert to imitating others. That said, the finale of the soundtrack is spectacular. With percussive piano and clamorous orchestration, "Confrontation" brings a real sense of danger to the game's bosses, while "Conquisitador" for the final boss takes the intensity up more than a few notches with its epic chanting and thematic emphasis. The soundtrack closes with a chiptune-rendered end credits theme that is sure to gain the applause of all the old-school shmup fans out there. The piano rendition of the main theme is a welcome bonus, bringing cohesion to the soundtrack and an opportunity for personal reflection.
It's rare for me to include so many superlatives in one review. However, Cerda is clearly such an ambitious and talented composer that he deserves them with Jamestown. Unlike the majority of orchestral scores today, this score manages to do three things in one: be emotionally intense, compositionally rich, and instantly memorable. There are times when it can be derivative, thin, or downright overpowering. However, the overall experience is full of highlights that it is worth of a strong recommendation. I can't wait to see what Francisco Cerda manages next!
War Upon the East Frontier
Journey into the Dark Sector
Truth Stands Revealed
Prisoner of the Badlands
Turning the Tide
Secret Mines of New Madrid
Lost Temple of Croatoa Suite