By 2005, the Harry Potter feature films were becoming darker, soapier, and more critically lauded. A fourth film in the series was never in doubt, nor was a video game to accompany it. For the first time in the series, someone other than John Williams composed the music, and one might have expected game series composer Jeremy Soule to bow out as well. But Soule had never used Williams’ themes, preferring to develop his own, and he returned for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, providing a sense of musical continuity absent from the big-screen version of the story.
Soule’s score doesn’t have much in common with Patrick Doyle’s music for the film, and he continued his practice of coining an all-new title theme for the game and then ignoring it in the subsequent underscore. The “Goblet of Fire Theme” is cut from the same cloth as the others, with a shade of the twinkling personality and chorus of the second and third games. It’s easily the highlight of the music, as well as one of only two pieces that exceeds two minutes in length.
The remainder of the music, as with Soule’s other series scores, is linked by his distinctive personal style. Far more than any of the others, in album or fan-made game rip form, Soule’s Goblet of Fire is an ambient score. Soule can work very well in this style; the beautiful “Greenhouse” and “Greenhouse 2” cues work a subtle kind of magic and are highlights. But there is also copious filler, such as “Ambient” or the twin “Spooky” tracks near the end, which are curious choices given what was left off of the brief album yet appears in-game and in the aforementioned fan rips.
Much of the rest is wildly inconsistent, ranging from the light Celtic beat of “Irish Campsite” to the bizarre creaky vocals of “Erk Voice Piano.” The action music, as heard in “Erk Creature” and “Dragon Challenge” is serviceable but often underwhelming especially considering the thunderous action music Soule provided for the other Potter games he scored. Part of the problem is the short length of most of the songs: most are under a minute in length, and none are looped as they often were in the game itself.
Initially there was no album for Soule’s Goblet of Fire work, although fan gamerips soon abounded. A year after the game’s debut, EA released an album of score as an iTunes exclusive digital download, alongside Soule’s music for the first three Potterverse games and his Quiddich World Cup. Poor production values plague these releases, which were seemingly thrown together with little quality control. While Goblet is missing the jarring hard stops found in earlier albums, many of the suites are still badly assembled and padded with silence. Worse, the short running time (only 25 minutes) leaves out some of the very best music from the game, such as the Death Eater attack.
That is not the most perverse fact about this score, either. In late 2009, Electronic Arts and its E.A.R.S. music label pulled most of their released Harry Potter video game music from circulation for reasons which are still unclear. Soule’s work for Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Quiddich World Cup were all removed from Amazon and iTunes. While flawed, and assembled with the same seeming lack of care and considerable musical omissions as Goblet of Fire, the removed digital albums were the only legitimate source of music from the games aside from fan-made game rips or purchasing the PC games to assemble such a rip oneself. Worse, James Hannigan’s astonishing, well-produced score albums for Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, both infinitely superior to Nicholas Hooper’s work on the films, were removed from circulation at the same time. Of the six Harry Potter game scores released (Hannigan’s Deathly Hallows scores were released after the takedown and never had an album release), only Goblet of Fire remains available to purchase at Amazon. As with the takedown of the rest of the music, no explanation for this bizarre circumstance is forthcoming.
Goblet of Fire is ultimately among Soule’s weakest work in the franchise, a curiously muddled effort made worse by the poor album presentation. Without a consistent style, and with such short tracks, it ultimately fails as a listening experience. Fans should know that they will need to supplement the music with fan-made rips and make some edits, but even in complete form the music largely fails to impress. As Goblet is also Soule’s last Potter score before handing off the baton to James Hannigan, and it’s unfortunate that the album couldn’t provide a better sendoff to his involvement in the series. But its strange status as the last remaining legitimate album of Harry Potter game music means that it is worth sampling, if only to get a glimpse of the wider sonic world of which customers who failed to buy in time were deprived.