Fallout Shack: The Vault Archives of Mark Morgan
After many years spent dwelling in unavailable nothingness, the soundtracks to Fallout and Fallout 2 have now been available free of charge from The Aural Network since 2010. This collection, titled The Vault Archives, is a piece of gaming history which every self-respecting Fallout fan should have in their possession. As written in a previous Fallout Shack, the soundtrack to the games is vital – should it ever be muted, the reinforced backbone of the games’ atmosphere disappears with it.
The soundtrack is entrenched in the nostalgia for the series’ first two games and this is thanks to the talents of one man: Mark Morgan. With only a short space of time in which to work, the composer produced a masterwork in video-game soundtracks. As he revealed in an interview with game-ost.com, Morgan was a multi-instrumentalist from a young age, his mother and grandmother were both musicians so it was a genetic likelihood he would end up an accomplished composer. After starting out playing in bands and then creating the scores of television shows, Morgan was then introduced to writing music for games by a friend. He soon found himself at Interplay, where audio supervisor Charles Deenan took a liking to Morgan’s compositions and recommended him for their darker games.
After being brought in to replace the original Fallout composer, Morgan was sent an unmarked/un-named compilation CD by Interplay along with a list of how long each piece should be and where it would fit into the game. Due to constraints, there was no time for rewrites or editing, and it is a testament to the body of work he produced that all of Morgan’s tracks were used. Morgan faced similar time constraints for Fallout 2 but yet again delivered an array of quality additions to the brilliance he’d already achieved.
Through a vast array of instrumentation, programming and sampling, Morgan created a sonic expression of isolation, vast lifeless spaces, the indefinite and a ghostly foreboding – a mind-clouding journey through a new civilisation emerging from the brink of extinction. To present an altered state of mind was part of Morgan’s intent, as although he remained sober when creating the music, he did ‘make a somewhat conscious effort to convey an altered or psychedelic state.’
As with many strong albums – every track on The Vault Archives works both individually and as part of the whole. Flowing into one another in a blur of enchanting sounds, each song not only captures the essence of the location it accompanies, but also tells a different aural story. There are many distinct moods and atmospheres created by the soundscapes, from the enchantment of ‘Many Contrasts’, the Old Western swaggering riffs of ‘My Chrysalis Highwayman’ to the stark, moribund desolation of ‘Desert Wind’.
‘City of The Dead’, the track which first blares out as you first enter The Necropolis, screams out a warning of something abhorrent. Like a panic-inducing siren, it puts the player on edge and never relents its sense of unease as you survey the ravaged city’s nerve-shredding spaces. Meanwhile, ‘Khans of the New California’ is an up-tempo piece underpinned by ritualistic voices and majestic instrumentation which expertly creates and perpetuates an atavistically tribal ambience. ‘Acolytes of The New God’ is one of the most apocalyptically haunting tracks ever committed to tape – a combination of tolling doomsday bells, disturbing hymns of a zealot choir and something, probably a tray of teeth, being shaken from side to side in an entrancing manner.
To say it is very unfortunate that Morgan was not brought in for the series’ subsequent games is like saying a Radscorpion would make an irksome lover, but Obsidian did make a respectful nod to Morgan’s influence by reusing pieces from the first two games for Fallout: New Vegas, something which further threaded their new generation game to that of the old. But it is hoped that he will be summoned for Fallout 4, as his contributions are so enduring and bonded to the fabric of the franchise, his work should be passed through the different generations like a treasured heirloom.
Also the composer for Planescape: Torment, the Descent series, Darkseed 2, Civilisation: Call to Power and Need for Speed: Shift amongst others, Morgan has worked on the soundtracks for several television and film projects. His website is www.markmorganmusic.com and The Vault Archives can be downloaded here.