A Warrior's Odyssey
Composed By: Penka Kouneva
Distributed by: Howlin' Wolf Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was recently offered the opportunity to review an album that sounds like a movie or video game soundtrack, but is actually a cinematic orchestral album. "What's the difference?" you might ask. Well, the composer in this case had no visuals to work with, but still managed to somehow tell a story through her composition. When I first listened to this album, I had no idea that this was not a soundtrack in the traditional sense...and that fact speaks volumes as to the caliber of composition Penka Kouneva provides for A Warrior's Odyssey.
Penka Kouneva is a Bulgarian film and game composer who started her musical career at a very young age, learning the piano at age six and writing incidental music for children's theater by age twelve. By age 17, she was already winning awards for song. In 1990, Penka Kouneva left Bulgaria for the United States and a Duke University Graduate Fellowship, where she studied with Stephen Jaffe and Scott Lindroth. She made history at the university by earning its first Doctorate in Composition in 1997. In 1999, Penka moved to Hollywood and it has been beautiful music ever since, amassing an impressive résumé of musical scores for films like The Third Nail, Midnight Movie and Ice Spiders and video games like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and Gears of War 3.
A Warrior's Odyssey seems to span back an forth throughout history. The opening track, Waiting for Dawn to Break, is an exciting blend of strings, electric guitars, pianos, electronic sound and rocking percussion. I remember thinking that this score was written for an action-packed video game or movie. The pianos and strings add a certain sense of drama and the electric guitars and percussion offer up that adrenaline pumping action feel. The action continues throughout the first segment of the album, entitled The Battle Begins.
There is more of an orchestral feel as the music moves forward in the second segment entitled Faraway Lands, Ancient Times. I remember becoming confused at this point. Listening to the music and hearing a hint of the Mediterranean region, I wondered if the main character, whom I had presumed was a soldier, had now come across an archeological find. Could I have been wrong? Could this be a movie or game along the lines of National Treasure or Tomb Raider? The music I was listening to had a mystical quality, throwing me off completely.
But then, we are suddenly back in the fight with the final segment, The Battle Must Go On, only this time, we're flying. There is a definite feel of soaring, pitching and exploding...in fact, there are some electronic explosions taking place in some of the tracks. But all is not action in this segment - there are some poignantly dramatic tracks featuring somber tones and piano and string solos. Farewell to the Pilot is my favorite of these, but in truth, I have no favorite track - they're all amazing.
A Warrior's Odyssey is one of those movie/video game soundtracks made before the movie or video has ever been created - such is the vision of Penka Kouneva who can create an entire epic saga solely from music with no visual aids. This album is an amazing musical journey that no music lover should think of skipping out on.