HEALTH – “Max Payne 3: The Official Soundtrack” Quick Review

HEALTH – Max Payne 3: The Official Soundtrack
Genre: Electronica/Ambient

 Label: Rockstar Games

“Max Payne 3”, a videogame released in May, is the highly anticipated follow-up to “Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne”. Unfortunately this reviewer never got around to playing that game, but scarring memories of “Max Payne” (which I’m now replaying) has always kept me interested in Max and his story. Recently, I just finished “Max Payne 3”.

Just as a concept album heavily relies on its story and theme, a game’s soundtrack depends on the game plot and the nature of its character/s. Max Payne returns as a raging alcoholic and painkiller addict, ex-cop turned private bodyguard, still mourning the death of his wife and child, while living in Brazil and protecting a rich family. Due to Max’s depressing addiction to mixing whiskey and painkillers, often on the job, his performance spirals out of control and ultimately failing to protect his clients. In true Max Payne tradition, this leads to a bigger conspiracy theory which he finds himself falling into and fighting out of.

So HEALTH would seem just right in soundtracking a confused and almost broken character through his journey of dual-wielding pistols, slow-motion diving and shoot-outs in New Jersey/Brazil. The noise-rock band however seem to take the opportunity very seriously, pulling back the reigns of their usual madness (for anyone who is familiar with the band, don’t expect much chaos) and deliver a mostly instrumental, ambient soundtrack. Perhaps surprisingly, HEALTH pull it off really well.

SHELLS is this very 80’s synthpop sounding track, full of apprehension as this creeping arpeggio is played on the keyboard – almost reminiscent of what you’d expect from the film “Drive” soundtrack. Then crystal-like rings vibrate alone, as synths pound back in aggressively, and fading out. DEAD is similar, opening with a heartbeat with droney echoes, leading into a repetitive synth progression with quiet background yells and ending with feedback/noise which opens for GUNS – a track featuring the noisier part of HEALTH’s abrasive nature.

TEARS, which would fit in on the “Get Color” album, has this monumental synth riff with the usual robotic vocals you expect from the band, almost sexual in its build. The moment it kicks in on the game is… stunning, to say the least.

With 24 tracks and amounting up to just over 73-minutes worth of music, it’s a challenge to cover the whole collection. In general, the soundtrack revolves around a mixture of ambient and electronically drone tracks, with rising and falling synth symphonies filled with apprehension or despair, while others seem to concentrate on more aggressive snaps, like brief moments of anger.

All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack. There are few moments where music and games really enjoy success together (an example being “Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory” and Amon Tobin), but this is an exception. The soundtrack should satisfy those who have been twiddling their thumbs for new HEALTH material during the last few years, despite lacking the hectic sound the band is known for.

I can’t rate this, it’s just a great game soundtrack!/10
Favourite tracks: TEARS, COMBAT DRUGS, MAX: PANAMA, PAIN.

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