Medal of Honor: Frontline (Michael Giacchino)

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Long before his Pixar scores or his Oscar win, Michael Giacchino’s name was been inseparably linked to the Medal of Honor video game franchise. After  his award-winning score to the first game in the series, and a second Medal of Honor that recycled much of the first game’s music and only required a few additional minutes of score, the third entry in the series, 2002’s Medal of Honor: Frontline, received a new 70-minute Giacchino score. And, as befits the game’s darker subject matter, which revolves around the failed Operation Market Garden, Giacchino’s fully orchestral Frontline score is more nuanced and restrained than his previous effort.

Far from the continuous bombast that characterized his earlier efforts, much of Frontline is slow and elegiac, with a strong choral presence and echoes of John Williams’ “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan. Beginning with the mournful “Operation Market-Garden,” Giacchino establishes a restrained, style that serves as a powerful counterpoint to the on-screen action.

“Arnhem” is the most potent expression of this elegaic style, combining a melancholy Dutch vocal with a full orchestral ensemble for powerfully moving effect. The closing “Songless Nightingale” opens the choral aspect up into a fully voiced piece with orchestral accompaniment, uniting the quieter part of the album with the more action-oriented and martial material.

There is still copious action music to be had, of course, with plenty of martial snare in evidence during “U-4902” and “Shipyards of Lorient,” among others. These action tracks are an extension of the dense, faux-Williams sound perfected by Giacchino in the previous two Medal of Honor games, and are generally rousing if not significantly different from similar cues earlier in the series. A few cues include touches of quirkiness in the mix as well, like the delightful “Escaping Gotha.” The only real misstep is the hidden “Various German Singing” track, which is simply silly.

In addition to reaping several awards, Frontline was an immense career boost for Giacchino; as the liner notes indicate, the music was noticed by the J. J. Abrams of Alias, who soon hired the composer and began a collaboration that has lasted to the silver screen and beyond. The score is a treat for anyone with a taste for large-scale, subdued orchestral composition in the Saving Private Ryan vein, and a fitting continuation of the series. It is an especially welcome treat given the increasingly gritty and soulless music that prevailed in the franchise following the series’ move away from World War II with its risible 2010 “reboot.”

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