When The Two Thrones appeared in retail, the Sands of Time trilogy came to an end. The story of the time-manipulating Persian Prince was concluded with another iconic game in the series, profiting from the inclusion of the Dark Prince into both story and gameplay. Given the lack of any ground-breaking changes in its structure, it was something the creators had to commit to completely to call the game new and innovative for the franchise and it’s noticeable on the soundtrack as well. The Two Thrones learned a lot from its predecessors and worked out new aesthetics by fusing two previous games, resulting in a magical story but also a dark and brutal one. Inon Zur and Stuart Chatwood approached their composing process in a similar way.
Compositional cooperation of the composers seems way tighter here – they aren’t as evidently distinctive from one another as in the previous works.
Firstly, what’s surprising is the lack of rock/metal instruments and approach that were a staple of the previous soundtracks. The Two Thrones are clad in symphonic sound with a support of dark ambient and moody vocalizations — darkness pours out of speakers from the first track and doesn’t let go for the rest of the ride. Secondly, compositional cooperation of the composers seems way tighter here — they aren’t as evidently distinctive from one another as in the previous works. Stuart’s knack for quickly paced percussion and Inon’s symphonic approach are both present and interwoven with each other, making the Two Thrones soundtrack the most consistent of the bunch.
A lot of the tracks are in fact musical soundscapes painted with resonating drones, modulated eastern vocalizations, exotic instruments.
What I like about it, is its sound-design approach. A lot of the tracks are in fact musical soundscapes painted with resonating drones, modulated eastern vocalizations, exotic instruments (sitar, zurna), ambient humming and choral parts. Mental Realm, Beauty of the City and Nostalgic Sand Prince are sonically dense pieces sharing dark ambient sound, presenting the size of Babylon with echoes extending space around the listener. Previously mentioned darkness is also present in the action pieces — low sounding, male choir voices goes along the string section (The Mighty Prince), marching The Palace Battle includes some creepy electronic additions, while Beneath Bablyon weaves zurna into a very hypnotic beat. Composers complement each other, however their hefty score uses some samples sounding a bit artificial at times.
The score goes along the convention, gladly. The game’s story oscillates around around Prince’s evil alter ego that takes control over his actions in certain moments and the music presents it throughout with gloomy textures and layered sound. It compliments psychological aspect of the game that tries to dig deep into Prince’s id and show the crisis in his life that literally cuts its way into him with metal chain-blades. The sound design emphasizes the Prince’s experience of a malicious, self-destructive voice talking inside his head and distorting his reality, morality and actions (although it’s sometimes presented via symphonic means as well, e.g. Ancient Palace). Dark Prince’s presence, psychological tone, ethereal mood are all stressed by the music, which also helps pull the game’s „darkness” from bloody combos into the narrative — this soundtrack is less fun and more demanding. I’d argue that — even with my endless love for Warrior Within and its metal joys — is way more mature than it had ever been.
Zur and Chatwood fulfilled their duties just right. Chatwood himself created the Prince in Sands of Time, and Zur steadily added more symphony to the mix, resulting in a coherent end to the beloved trilogy of albums and games. It’s nice to see…hear composers understanding each other better with each sequel and it shows here. Even though the score may sound unapproachable, dark and lacking „fun” action pieces, it works just as good as the previous soundtracks, dedicating itself to depiction of character battling his own demons and fate, something not seen and heard in previous games of the series. Give it a good listen with closed eyes!