Ace Pilot: Infinity Drifter is a forthcoming online Flash-based video game that, from the images I have seen and the information I have read, appears to harken back to the days of Saturday morning serials such as Flash Gordon. We have a hero, a villain, a universe in peril and a battle of Good against Evil (where Good will undoubtedly triumph in the end). Co-directors Hans Van Harken and Justin Pruitt have called upon up-and-coming composer Brian Sadler to compose the score to this video game. Interestingly, Sadler currently divides his time between service in the U.S. Navy (where he is a member of the 7th Fleet Band), playing in a variety of bands and building his filmography by writing music for a variety of independent and student films. He also composes for the concert hall. Sadler has channelled his enthusiasm into this project, creating an orchestral score full of action and heroism but which also features hints of romance. The main theme is a simple one – perhaps better described as a motif – that immediately generates a sense of excitement as well as heroism with ascending brass fanfares, glam rock-style electric guitar (echoing Queen’s music for the 1980 version of Flash Gordon?) and driving percussive rhythms. It’s a theme that oozes the enthusiasm and excitement composers such as Michael Giacchino and Ryan Shore managed to instil in their scores for animated films such as The Incredibles and Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher, respectively. In less than a minute, “Ace Pilot Main Theme” defines what the score as a whole is about: an adrenaline-fuelled 30 minutes of action and adventure.
This opening track also highlights how Sadler is able to use the main theme in a variety of different ways to achieve different effects. For example, in the middle portion of the opening track of the album, the composer drops the brass in favour of delicate, almost cheeky, strings and piano to give the theme a more light-hearted feel. A solo string statement of the theme where the tempo is slowed right down later in the score (“Looking For Some Catch Phrases”, “Like A Woman I Once Knew”) is very effective in suggesting a romantic aspect to the score that suggests a melancholic reflection on a past romance. Because of the structure of the main theme (using short, repeating distinctive blocks) it is easy for the composer to drop the theme anywhere in the score and it is used particularly well in action cues such as “The Battle of Luna Prime” (both parts) and “Krill Attack”. These action tracks are particularly dramatic and are full of bold percussion rhythms, meaty brass and string passages and (particularly in “Krill Attack”) impressive chorus elements. “The Universe Is In Peril” is the first extended cue that features this impressive action scoring but when I heard it first I was concerned that there was a glitch with the music: but it only turned out to be an electronic effect played alongside the orchestral score. It is these action tracks that linger in the mind after the album has finished.
The score for Ace Pilot: Infinity Drifter is not a monothematic score. “Kim Jong Krill” (presumably representing the villain of the game) features martial snare drum and low register woodwinds for an ominous, relentlessly advancing theme that’s somehow very effective at suggesting the unstoppable threat of universal domination. It’s a theme that is related to the hero’s theme in that it is structured as short cells of music. However, this theme doesn’t appear in the score as often as the Ace Pilot theme but (because of it’s strucuture) is featured alongside the Ace Pilot theme in action cues such as “The Battle of Luna Prime”. As well as this additional theme, there is also a brief statement of a motif (heard, for example, in “Victory”) that is very reminiscent of a passage heard in David Arnold’s Stargate. This may be a bit distracting for those who are familiar with Arnold’s score. “Hyperspace” and “Victory” brings the album to an uplifting and victorious conclusion. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album and is recommended to anyone looking for high-quality action score. Sadler’s music is fresh and exciting and very listenable. I am assuming that the music is electronically generated (synthesisers and/or musical samples) with perhaps some additional live instruments. I don’t tend to enjoy scores that are electronic that are trying to sound orchestral as they almost always fall short of producing the desired and convincing effect. But here, Sadler has created as score where I frequently forgot that it is not 100% live performance. The makers of this video game are lucky to have such a cinematic-sounding, high-quality score for their game and I look forward to hearing more of this composer’s works in the coming years. This highly recommended score is available from most online digital outlets.
Audio samples can be found HERE for samples of the album.
- Ace Pilot Main Theme (0:46)
- Kim Jong Krill (0:59)
- Looking For Some Catch Phrases (1:19)
- Duty Calls (0:32)
- The Universe Is In Peril (3:33)
- It’s Serious This Time (0:56)
- Like A Woman I Once Knew (1:05)
- Krill Attack (3:54)
- Take The Fight To Them (0:25)
- The Battle of Luna Prime – Part I (3:51)
- The Battle of Luna Prime – Part II (3:52)
- Hyperspace (1:42)
- Victory (0:53)
Running Time: 23:54
Brian Sadler (2011)