Galahad Soundtrack, Matt Furniss, 1992
It probably didn’t sway many customers towards buying a Sega Genesis, but one advantage that the platform had over the SNES was a reasonably steady flow of European computer game ports – particularly from the Amiga. That was undoubtedly due to the Genesis outselling the SNES on the continent, making ports a potentially lucrative undertaking. However, few – if any – of these conversions are particularly well-remembered these days. Mind you, that’s not necessarily due to a lack of quality, which means there are some hidden gems to be unearthed. Enter Galahad, previously released as Leander on the Amiga. While the game – a medieval-themed hack’n’slash platformer – didn’t do anything drastically original to stand out from the crowd, it was a prime example of a rock-solid title that still entertains decades later: substantial content, tight controls, lovely graphics – and one of the platform’s greatest soundtracks.
Tim Wright, Lee Wright, Matthew Simmonds and Jon Burton had created the original 1991 Amiga score (and the sound effects). As usual for Traveller’s Tales games, Matt Furniss handled the conversion to the Sega Genesis – and while he always improved the music in the process of porting, he never did so as consistently as he does here. At least on the level of individual compositions, this is Furniss’ most structurally ambitious work.
Look no further than “Title Theme”, which quickly ditches the Amiga original’s soothingly pleasant, if meandering atmosphere for something far more gripping. Synth ostinato stabs, pounding percussion and swirling strings set the required epic fantasy mood effortlessly, but “Title Theme” has far more going for it than a dramatic opening gesture. Never forsaking its Gothic spirit, the cue develops flawlessly, constantly and seamlessly integrating new material, melodies and atmospheres, confidently weaving and diving from one musical thought to the next. From ominous interludes to folk-inspired passages and contemporary sections – featuring Furniss’ trademark amazing rock drums and some of his best Genesis guitar sounds – “Title Theme”’s scope and variety are astounding. What’s particularly surprising is Furniss’ ability to write more classically-inspired material. His fantastically powerful rhythms don’t come as a surprise, but no other score of his features such pronounced contrapuntal writing.
A comparison with Furniss’ Puggsy seems apt. These scores present different approaches to scoring a fantasy game on the Sega Genesis, which didn’t allow for the SNES’ (relatively) straightforward emulation of orchestral tones that have become synonymous for the fantasy genre. Puggsy opts for a unique tone palette to evoke its world, while the Galahad soundtrack chooses a more traditional approach – immense scope and a lush soundscape that masterfully mixes orchestral and contemporary elements. In that regard, Furniss moves away from the Amiga score’s medieval-inspired stylings.
Generally speaking, Furniss’ version of the Galahad soundtrack has little to do with its Amiga predecessor. “World One” is the only substantial cue that reprises material heard on the Amiga. However, it expands significantly on the original and its gentle, intricate interplay of percussion, woodwind and harp. Clocking in at more than seven minutes (looped), “World One” is a magnificent accomplishment, densely arranged with layers upon layers of melodies and rhythms. Like the entire soundtrack, “World One” continuously reshapes its melodies and never sticks for too long with one particular tune or set of instrumental colours. It also allows Furniss to deploy his jaw-droppingly life-like percussion in a more complex and layered environment that’s different to the composer’s action scores, where the instruments are usually heard.
“World Two” and “World Three” feature entirely original material – and while they are not as expansive as earlier pieces, they benefit from the same superb development that sees them pushing from melody to melody within seconds, while Furniss’ sturdy percussion holds the track together and pushes it forward. The cues’ mood is more subterranean, seeing “World Two” kick off with sustained, chromatic organ chords. On the Genesis, you would not expect anything less from Furniss than a score polished to perfection and “World Two” is a beautiful example of just how vital the Galahad soundtrack’s presentation is to allow its content to shine. Furniss finds precisely the right, spacious sound for this fantasy score while still allowing the music’s myriad details to register.
“World Three” is tenser still than “World Two”, leaning into its pop/rock elements more strongly (sample the beautifully wailing guitar at 0:25). Furniss’ arrangement remains ornate, with a focus on bell-like instruments and metal percussion prominently heard elsewhere on the soundtrack as well, helping to heighten the game’s fantasy atmosphere. Melodies are more clipped and pop-influenced here, although they are no less carefully arranged. Contrapuntal structures become less common, as the composition focuses on driving melodic energy while the showdown approaches. There’s no doubt that the Galahad soundtrack is one of the most sweeping Sega Genesis fantasy scores – showcasing a new facet to Furniss’ talents.
- 01 - Title Theme Furniss, Matt 3:38
- 02 - World One Furniss, Matt 7:36
- 03 - World Two Furniss, Matt 3:52
- 04 - World Three Furniss, Matt 4:01