May 27, 2012

Album Review: HEALTH's Max Payne 3 OST

To date, HEALTH's 2009 album Get Color has sold just around 10,000 copies. That number pales in comparison to the projected millions which the third installment of the gritty, bloody third-person shooter Max Payne 3 -- a video game that the Los Angeles electro-noise rockers have been commissioned to soundtrack by its makers, Rockstar Games -- will push into players' homes upon its release. The numbers don't really add up in terms of star power, but when it comes to picking the right band to create the moody soundscape of Max Payne's world, HEALTH and slow-motion bullets flying through low-life mobsters' skulls turns out to be a adrenaline-driven match -- Not just for the sedentary sitting in front of their TVs, but for those who get high off endorphins as well.

For those who don't consider themselves games and thus, aren't not too familiar with the Max Payne story other than what's on its Wikipedia page and gathered through osmosis while reading interviews with the band about the project, here's a short summary: He's a former cop-turned-vigilante following his family's murder, fights off drug king pins and mob bosses on top of inner demons and vices -- You're usual anti-hero plot. Anyone who has studied HEALTH on from the very start should be familiar with how key the elements of energy and atmosphere are to their sound. At 26 tracks over the course of an hour and 20 minutes, it turns out this body of music moonlights for a multitude of amped up scenarios, whether it be intense workouts, late-night cram sessions or high-speed travel. The listen is also the most multi-faceted reflection of HEALTH's wide scope of sound, featuring kinetically-induced builds made from chromatic synths astute for focus and driving energy ("Shells," "Painkiller," "The Girl") as well as droning, blurred comedowns that hint at inspiration from Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack work on various David Lynch films or Oneohtrix Point Never's Replica ("Max Docks," "+90.") Their signature drum-thrashing ambiance does make a few guest appearances along the way ("Combat Drugs," "Severin," "Tears") but so do refreshingly minimalist takes that opt for quiet noise and may possible serve the purpose in wetting HEALTH's appetite on their next proper release ("Pills," "Torture.")

Whether it be you physically, mentally or through the character of Max Payne by your controller-connected hand, HEALTH engage listeners here into a plot entwined in dramatic layers of conflict, darkness and aggression without isolating their loyal fan base or the millions of gamers who don't even know who or what HEALTH are. This score may have been created to soundtrack the fictitious Brazilian streets for which the game's hero carries out his gun-slinging antics, but let's not forget that noise rock is a blank canvas open for interpretation. HEALTH successfully escape the flat screen panel on the Max Payne 3 original soundtrack by crafting a body material where anyone without an Xbox 360 or PS3 can easily construct their own environment befitting for the multi-faceted listen.

HEALTH's Max Payne 3 OST is available now on Rockstar Games.

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