Lair Soundtrack, John Debney / Kevin Kaska, 2007
The dichotomy of “bad game, great music” has rarely presented itself more strikingly than in the case of Lair. A much-hyped PlayStation 3 title, Lair crashed and burned due to its unwieldy control scheme. Ultimately, probably the only good things to emerge from the wreckage were Lair’s gorgeous visuals and its excellent music. Written by film score veteran John Debney with support from Kevin Kaska, the Lair soundtrack quickly gathered praise from game music reviewers. In fact, soon the music achieved such acclaim that soundtrack fans clamoured for a complete score release. Their pleas were answered in 2014, when La-La Land Records released a two-disc set of the Lair soundtrack with improved sound, making the previous iTunes release superfluous.
In a way, it’s not a surprise that Debney and Kaska’s work turned out so well. Debney had demonstrated his ability to write outstanding orchestral action music with Cutthroat Island (ironically another financial disaster). Developer Factor 5 was keen to give the game’s fantasy narrative a cinematic, widescreen feel. This led to Debney being hired to provide a suitably grand score. In several interviews, Debney mentioned how much he enjoyed the creative freedom he was given on the project. With a budget to record with full orchestra and several soloists at Abbey Road Studios, Debney made the most of this opportunity to write a score that would be a love letter to the fantasy genre and to Debney’s personal inspirations – John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Basil Pouledouris and others. As Debney puts it in the album’s liner notes, his aim was to write “Star Wars meets Conan”.