Californian noise-rock outfit and capitalisation enthusiasts HEALTH dabble with cinematic electronica in their soundtrack for Max Payne 3 - the latest in the acclaimed and much loved videogame series - while still paying tribute to their experimental roots.
Those familiar with the Los Angeles natives will know that any new release is going to fall into one of two categories; and that's either their main discography of noisy electro-rock or the left-field remix albums sampled with 'Disco', and the appropriately titled 'Disco 2'. The Max Payne 3 OST comfortably fits the latter category, mostly eschewing the trademark effects-skewered guitar riffs for glacial synthesisers, while pushing the marathon drumming of ‘Get Color’ to the forefront. The frenetic drumming adds a much needed sense of urgency and structure to the, at times, nearing ambient synths in a sound reminiscent of more recent Boredoms releases.
As to be expected from scoring the soundtrack of a story-heavy action game, HEALTH are forced to explore some uncharted sonic territory. These interludes mark the record’s high points, bringing some of the band’s more interesting ideas to the table. ‘Max: Docks’ departs from the aggressive mix of synthesisers and drums pervading most of the album in favour of shifting down a few gears into the kind of nocturnal pseudo-jazz that harks back to the more traditional soundtracks of the previous games in the series, whereas ‘+90’ and lead single ‘Tears’ - the only vocal tracks - have an ethereal fragility that serves as a counterpoint to stripped down, brutal cuts like ‘Shells’.
Despite HEALTH’s commendable dedication to pushing the envelope in the face of something as potentially restrictive as a videogame score, there still isn’t enough variation to justify the near 80 minute length. Not only that, but most of the more engaging tracks are front-loaded into the first 40 minutes, while the back end - with the notable exceptions of ‘Severin’ and ‘Tears’ - has more filler than the average chicken nugget.
An oddity in HEALTH’s oeuvre, the Max Payne 3 OST suffers for having too much of a good thing, causing the outstanding first half to be marred by an exhaustingly mediocre second. 6/10