The Kaladin Soundtrack
A Track by Track Review by Michael C. Miller
Once in a blue moon, we as mortals, latch onto something that we can be a part of, something that reaches beyond ourselves, and in doing so hope to make some kind of mark on the world or add something to our lives.
Often though, we have no way of knowing what that something is. But it is often that unknown sense of wonder, that changes a person. In this case a book, a seemingly simple epic fantasy, that has affected not just thoughts, but enriched the lives of so many. This book is The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
Literature is something that we have clung to as a mark of humanity and intellect. But by the act of this adoption we create an emotional connection to characters and events that you can relate to your own life. The expression of that connection, can stir the heart and make someone feel closer to the story, and The Black Piper has done this with music.
Kaladin is a motion picture style soundtrack based on Brandon Sanderson’s best selling novel The Way of Kings, the first book in The Stormlight Archive.
The brain-child of Sae Sae Norris, Michael Bahnmiller, and Richard Williams, Kaladin dares to take us on a groundbreaking musical journey through one of the greatest epic fantasy books ever written, the afore mentioned The Way of Kings.
Kaladin is not just the work of these three guiding individuals, but the result of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of composers, musicians, graphic designers, singers, artists, producers, and behind the personnel, all of whom helped make it come to life. And to all of those talented people, who participated in the creation of Kaladin, a well deserved, and heart felt thank you, from all of the Kickstarter Funders.
Never have I been so involved in promoting an endeavor on social media that I cared about so deeply. After all, it is the soundtrack to my favorite novel, how could I refuse help?
I am going to say up front I love this album. It has been nearly a decade since I have liked, or even cared about, a musical score as much as this one.
My thoughts and opinions come from a lifetime of listening to science fiction, fantasy, and motion picture soundtracks, and not from anything else.
Please don’t take offense at my dissection of Kaladin’s tracks. Just because I dissect a track doesn’t mean that I dislike it, on the contrary, I only point out my own thoughts so that I can express them then set them aside to then be able to enjoy this thoughtfully created album.
At first I disliked several of the preview tracks for my own assorted reasons. The addition of live recorded strings, woodwinds, and singers help the album as a whole be more cohesive and helps to raise the bar across the entire album. Now many of the tracks that I disliked I can now enjoy fully, and the tracks I did like became even better.
In fact my only comparison to the this well thought out and lovingly crated album is Howard Shore’s score for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy over a decade ago.
Track 01 – Oathpact Abandoned
Sandra Schnieders’ powerfully moving Oathpact Abandoned begins our musical journey to the world of Roshar. As with many of these tracks Sandra’s music stirs our hearts at the sense of loss. You could say that loss is one of Kaladin’s themes as we are pulled back to it time and again through out the album. Oathpact Abandoned is a wonderfully crafted beginning to Kaladin.
Track 02 – Assassin In White
To be quite honest, my expectations of Caleb Blood’s Assassin in White were off the charts even before I heard a single beat of music. I expected pulse pounding Parshendi rhythm, and Caleb delivered. Assassin in White is near perfection. The only fault I can find is that the drums do not carry through to the very end of the track, even mutely, but the fault here may be my high expectations again. Caleb’s pulse pounding track is one of my favorites from the album.
Track 03 – Stormblessed
With Richard Williams Stormblessed we are introduced to Kaladin the soldier. Williams brings our hero to life with energy and passion, flooding our senses with rhythms of battle and loss. Stormblessed is a pleasure to the ears.
Track 04 – Honor Is Dead
With Michael Bahnmiller’s Honor is Dead, Kaladin transitions from the heart pounding battles of the previous tracks to the more emotional feeling of loss that I mentioned before. Michael’s Honor is Dead is a beautiful heart stirring score that is subtle and wonderfully composed.
Track 05 – Sylphrena
Philip Klein’s Sylphrena was one of of the preview tracks was unsure about. But with the finished track complete however, Klein breathes life into Sylphrena, giving this score a sense of wonder and playfulness, allowing us to be carried away in the melody.
Track 06 – The Shattered Plains
Richard Williams brings to life a haunting vision of Roshar in The Shattered Plains. Tone and tempo change as we journey through the score. The “midi mix” from the preview track brought to mind Native American or aboriginal tones, but the final mix gives the track and entirely different feel, one of Indonesian influence, different but not unwelcome to my western norms. Williams brings a new level of understanding to The Shattered Plains and it’s Parshendi occupants. I keep finding new things each time I listen.
Track 07 – Bridge Four
Richard Williams continues themes from The Shattered Plains, and surprises us anew in Bridge Four. Again Richard flexes his composing muscles with Bridge Four, bringing us a enjoyable discordant romp across the chasms. The haunting chanting of the bridge men echo in my mind long after the track is over and once again I find myself discovering new tid-bits with each listen.
Track 08 – Honor Chasm
Philip Klein brings us the powerful emotionally charged Honor Chasm, giving life to both Kaladin’s despair and his renewal. Klein masterfully stirs the emotions as we listen to this compelling score.
Track 09 – The Blackthorn
Sandra Schneiders’ The Blackthorn gives us a glimpse into Dalinar. Sandra shows us a hero torn between his past and future, exploding into breathtaking action. The Blackthorn reminds us that there are times we can do the impossible.
Track 10 – Alethi Codes of War
I knew that Caleb Blood’s Alethi Codes of War would be one of my favorite tracks even while listening to the preview tracks. The score practically exudes Honor. This track is not without faults however. There are two parts in the final mix, one near the beginning and one near the end, that feel over composed, where the strings and the rest of the instruments feel like they fight for control of the track. Despite this, Alethi Codes of War is one of my favorite scores on the album.
Track 11 – The King’s Wit
Richard Williams and Katisse Buckingham pleasantly surprised me with The King’s Wit. The wonderfully playful flute shines as we roam a light eyes feast. I can see Wit insulting Brightness Marakal. “What a disaster that hairstyle is; how brave of you to show it to the world”. Once again I find enjoyment from the unexpected. This track is fun and fleeting at the same time, making it sparkle among the surrounding tracks.
Track 12 – You’re In My Spot
Richard Williams again returns us to Bridge Four with You’re in my Spot. Both moving and heartbreaking, Richard shows us Kaladin assuming the role of leader and taking Rocks spot in the center of the death line. Williams vivid score puts us in the sandals of the bridge-men and we feel their pain and loss.
Track 13 – Chasm Kata
Michael Bahnmiller’s Chasm Kata is one of my favorite scores of the entire album. Classically composed, Chasm Kata rises from mediocrity gives me chills every time I listen to it. I close my eyes and become Kaladin doing the kata. Goosebumps every single time. This track is just pure awesome, and filled with Bahnmiller’s subtle yet refined style.
Track 14 – Unite Them
Michael Bahnmiller’s Unite Them is a joy to listen to. Bahnmiller shows a wide range of composing prowess though out the score, making me listen to it again and again to hear what I missed the first fifty times.
Track 15 – Bridge Four Shield
Richard Williams is back leading from the deathline of Bridge Four again in the epic Bridge Four Shield. His emotional score adds to yet another notch is his increasing collection of amazing scores. Williams weaves Bridge Four Shield expertly into the Kaladin narrative.
Track 16 – Highstorm
Richard Williams assaults us from a new vantage point with the wonderfully powerful Highstorm. This score was one of my favorite preview tracks and continues to be so even now. Richard shows his composing skill and Logic (haha), to place us at the wall of the Highstorm. I can envision Kaladin battling the storm itself, and Williams shows us the power of a Highstorm.
Track 17 – Rysn
We are swept up from The Shattered Plains and brought to Shinovar with Michael Bahnmiller’s Rysn. Michael paints a picture of calm and serenity among the strange Shin people. At 0:50 though the song feels as though it has moved Rysn and us to the Reshi Isles, when the score takes on a Pacific Islander tone, making this part of Rysn feel like it is part of Shallan not Kaladin. Aeralie Brighton’s vocals are angelic and help to lift Rysn into a being delightfully pleasant score.
Track 18 – Hearthstone (Tein’s Theme)
Nathaniel Drew and Sandra Schneiders’ Hearthstone (Tein’s Theme) is one of the only tracks on Kaladin that did not settle well with me even from listening to the preview tracks. There is nothing technically or musically wrong with the track, although somehow I feel Hearthstone is being approached from a skewed musical angle. Tein was a vibrant and wonderfully alive child and I feel that the score may have not met my expectations.
Track 19 – Sas Nahn
Sandra Schneiders’ heart wrenching Sas Nahn makes us feel Kaladin’s betrayal. Kaladin’s theme of loss continues here in Sandra’s carefully crafted score. We hear Kaladin’s guilt at the loss of his squad then his larger betrayal by Amaram. Sandra orchestrates this crucial score with brilliance, giving Kaladin another solid track in its already full quiver.
Track 20 – The Day of Recreance
Michael Bahnmiller brings The Day of Recreance into focus with a wonderfully introspective track. Bahnmiller takes the continuing theme of loss and finds new avenues to explore it through Dalinar’s vision. I manage to find a sense of wonder and awe in the notes of this score.
Track 21 – Wandersail
Michael Bahnmiller and Chad Cannon’s Wandersail is the crown jewel of the Kaladin Soundtrack. Rarely have I heard such a beautiful score brought to life so brilliantly. Chad Cannon’s mastery of the flute is one of the stars of this score. The flute leaps and flys through the track bringing Derethil and the Wandersail to life. Bahnmiller’s technical mastery of the composition weaves together all the musical elements of the score, plus the more than 30 members of the Wandersail Choir (Kickstarter Backers all). These pieces and more make Wandersail the star of the Kaladin Soundtrack and my favorite track of the album.
Track 22 – Three Glyphs (Wind, Beloved, Protection)
Of all of the tracks on the album, Richard Williams, Three Glyphs (Wind, Beloved, Protection), is the only track that I have a major problem with. Honestly it’s probably just me but… I’m fine up until 0:59 seconds into the song and then from out of nowhere it sounds like a Doctor Who Soundtrack where David Tennant is saving the day for the next 30 seconds. (see The Cyberman by Murray Gold at 3:03 how it is similar but not the same). The rest of the track is great. Unfortunately Three Glyphs is the only track that kicks me out of Roshar.
Track 23 – The Rhythm of Morning
Kristina Bishoff makes us feel for the Parshendi in The Rhythm of Morning. The tone of her lyrics help us to understand the enemies sense of loss, and adds another layer of complexity to Kaladin.
Track 24 – 16 Seconds Pre-Death
Richard Williams returns us to Bridge Four in 16 Seconds Pre-Death. Urgency and the sense of loss give us another dimension of Kaladin. The background vocals help to make this track vividly memorable.
Track 25 – Tien
Caleb Blood’s Tien is nothing short of a tear jerker. Caleb zeros in on Kaladin’s pain at the loss of his brother. Caleb shows us that he has not forgotten how to create a simple yet moving melody.
Track 26 – The Tower
Richard Williams’ The Tower is emotionally charged and ready for battle. The track explodes half way through the score and keeps you at the heart of the scene. I wish that The Tower were longer so that I could spend more time reveling in Williams’ dynamic score.
Track 27 – Thath (Justice)
Michael Bahnmiller’s Thath (Justice) brings together all the remaining elements of loss to help bring a conclusion to Kaladin’s main theme. Bahnmiller does this wonderfully creating a score that swells with hope out of loss. Thath (Justice) is one of my favorite tracks of the entire album.
Track 28 – Warrior
One of Kaladin’s best surprises was Warrior by TREN. In true soundtrack fashion, there was, to my absolute delight, a rock ballad. I throughly enjoyed Warrior. The track is perfectly placed following Bahnmiller’s stirring Thath (Justice). TREN has created a classic rock ballad that is worthy of anyone’s play list.
Track 29 – Shallan’s Lullaby (Bonus Track)
Alex Crandall’s Shallan’s Lullaby (Bonus Track) is haunting in its beauty. Maggie Cubillos is mesmerizing and gives us an amazing performance. I hear something new with each listen and really deserves far more attention than I’m giving it.
Track 30 – Tarah (Bonus Track)
Sae Sae Norris’ Tarah (Bonus Track) is is pleasure to listen to. Stirring and introspective, Tarah brings forth images of love lost and fondly remembered. Sae Sae shows that she can hold her own, going toe to toe with other composers.
Track 31 – The Knights Radiant Theme (Bonus Track)
Michael Bahnmiller again shows his mastery of Roshar with The Knights Radiant Theme (Bonus Track). He tricks us intro thinking the track is done and then gives us a modern upbeat reprise of the theme. Once again I crave for a longer track wanting more of Bahnmiller’s enlightened score.
Track 32 – This is Not How It Ends (Kaladin Kickstarter Theme) NOT ON THE ALBUM
I would not do justice to the story of Kaladin if I did not include the Caleb Blood’s This Is Not How it Ends. Though not officially part of the Kaladin Soundtrack, it was essential to Kaladin’s Kickstarter Campaign. Caleb’s intriguing score helped to set the tone for this wonderful project and is another of Caleb’s best scores.
The Black Piper has created in Kaladin a groundbreaking soundtrack album. It redefines the meaning of “Book Soundtrack” and sets a new standard for all those that will follow. Care and thoughtfulness shine through each track, weaving together a narrative that is a pleasure to listen to time and again.
Kaladin is unique in my experience, first by being a part in what I have coined as the Kaladin Kickstarter Miracle, and second by having the privilege of getting a few behind the scenes glimpses into the creation of the album.
I want to thank, once again, all the people associated with this project: the composers, musicians, singers, artists, graphic artists, producers, and behind the scenes personnel involved in Kaladin’s creation.
I also want to thank all of the Kickstarter Funders who, by their generosity, supported this unique album and The Black Piper.
Thank You for the best Christmas Present of the Year.