Position Music: Rise Above Review
The Orchestral Series by Position Music is an inexhaustible source of “epicness” in the life of a trailer music junkie. We are the ear-witness of the permanent evolution of the series, exploring the depth of the epic. Albums seem to be trending away from the good old combination of orchestra and choir. This minimal, hardcore approach to epic was one of the main characteristics of the early albums (volumes 1-3). But change is good! Volume 7 – Wonderstruck, composed by James Dooley, is an absolutely fabulous album, transmitting all the positive energy a pirate can experience on the seven seas. These fantasy/adventure pieces would fit perfectly in any Disney movie.
Volume 8 – Rise Above is the latest addition to the Series. Position Music found the extremely talented Veigar Margeirsson to do the job. With Rise Above, they step away from Wonderstruck and offer a nostalgic journey of the good old days. This album guides us to new areas where the Orchestral Series hasn’t been in a long time. It is a good move by the library, because this release expands the style covered the Series, but maybe our sophisticated hearing tempered by Two Steps From Hell, Audiomachine, and Immediate Music, makes us find this album a patchwork. Let me point out that when I first listened to Rise Above I couldn’t find any trace of choral sounds. Now, I am pretty sure, after a handful of hearings behind my back, a tiny little choir part is featured in “Trial by the Warriors”.
Rise Above is arranged with classical instruments in addition to sound design elements. The songs are built from good old violins, violas, trumpets, horns, drums, everything that can normally be found in a symphonic orchestra. The compositions are keen on building tension, and featuring uplifting, hymn-like tunes. The songs are rapidly chasing the climax ending up with sudden breaks or playing the whole story and finishing in heroic melodies. By tension, climax and sudden breaks – for example “Mythical Hero”, “Touch the Sky”, “Loyalty Remains” or “Age of Pride” – the pieces leave you with this weird pressure in your chest as there is no resolving for all this musical ding in your brain. You are just left there – stunned, excited, buzzed by the fact there is no more.
Uplifting tunes are easily identified in hymns like “Road to Victory”, “Inner Strength”, or “Touch the Sky” which offer solemn, victorious melodies. I must highlight the use of piano in the arrangement. Sometimes its sound just subtly adds to the the composition like in “Rise Above” or “Road to Victory”, but in other tracks (“Mythical Hero”, “Touch the Sky”) the piano’s presence is what creates the main impact. Its simplicity contrasts with the complex sonority of the orchestral sounds, and makes the piano stand out: a smooth way to create calm before the storm.
I have to mention the sound design elements combined with the orchestra. “Cataclysmic Clash” is a good example with its “mind heisting” brass: “braaah”. Blow your mind away, “braah” is here again! “Tribal by Warriors”, “Impending Fate” feature less extreme sounds, and while they do not stand out, they are prefect additions to the ambiance. The composer can play the role of an alchemist experimenting with sound waves. Despite the fact that sound design in trailer music is primarily used to catch the attention of the audience – watching a movie advertisement on the screen – it can be also an enhancement to the music overall. Rise Above lives up to the challenge as all these elements support the piece wonderfully.
To summarize my thoughts, I found myself enjoying listening to Rise Above. The album might not be considered as ‘epic’ as past years’ releases, and while it doesn’t feature the most outstanding cues from Veigar Margeirsson, the tracks will create a perfect chemistry with motion picture advertisements. Of course I am playing Capt. Obvious here by stating that this plays a key role in Position Music’s strategy, and is after all the most important aspect of the release. We fans of pure orchestra and choir can stick to the previous epic albums of Position Music, and to past masterpieces of the maestro, Veigar Margeirsson. That said, Rise Above is a welcome change of pace to the standard definition of epic of past years.