I was a big fan of the original Borderlands 2 soundtrack (and the game itself, of course). The tunes wavered between spacey western-style shootout tracks and more ambient, electronic pieces (like the absolutely stellar Wildlife Exploitation Preserve track). It capitalized on the vibes the first game had been aiming for while giving them a sense of character that had been sorely lacking. Naturally, I was pleased when the DLC packs came with all-new tracks to frame the action, and thanks to Sumthing Else, those tracks are available as stand-alone releases.
Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep was easily the best of the downloadable extensions to Borderlands for its sheer creativity and deliciously bananas take on well-loved tabletop role-playing traditions. The music is a stark departure from what had been produced before, giving the composers (a Raison Varner/Jesper Kyd tag-team) room to try out new sounds within the Borderlands setting. Far from the usual thrumming electronic beats and sci-fi western tone, the tunes here touch on a more organic, acoustic sound. Varner’s “Flamerock Refuge” is a great example, with its soft, plucky string tracks backed with delicate woodwinds and a beautiful melody that, for me, was one of the highlights of the DLC and the album itself. “The Unassuming Happy Docks” is also a playful track that elicits feelings of a pub crawl in some far-off corner of Middle Earth, and one that I found myself enjoying several times over both in-game and on the album release.
Kyd’s contributions are a bit weightier, with their reliance on what sounds like fuller orchestras and punchier, deeper sounds. “Hatred’s Shadow Ambience” offers a build-up to an intense middle section with a great melody plucked out on strings amidst the aforementioned punchy percussion. All of this gives way to a light moment of respite before the final arc of both the story and the album’s tense climax, in which Kyd’s “Fighting the Sorceror” ably captures the tone and spirit of both the original Borderlands 2 and Tiny Tina’s high fantasy trappings. The choir and the sweeping strings bring to mind much of the work in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean scores in true swashbuckling-finale style.
It’s interesting that a dip into high fantasy, a well-explored field in any other circumstance, comes as a breath of fresh air to the aural landscapes of the Borderlands series. The change, however, is a welcome one that infuses new vibrancy to the game’s musical stylings.