Battles is 12 track audio compact disc dedicated entirely to the sound of warfare. Created by Toxic Bag Productions, the disc contains battle “soundscapes” from four genres: Fantasy, the American Civil War, World War II, and Science Fiction.
Toxic Bag is probably best known for their Gamemaster’s Collection, a collection of four CDs consisting of sound effects for a variety of genres. This disc builds on the concepts of those earlier album, but extends them with an ear for creating listenable, loopable background tracks.
Each of the CD’s genres has a 30 second to two minute introduction (or “intro”), followed by a roughly eight minute long main track which is designed to be looped. Concluding each section is a short 20 to 30 second “fade outs”. Rounding out the disc’s tracks is “Battle Theme Music”, a playful instrumental track that pulls together the album’s themes.
Backdrop to Victory
The fantasy section’s introduction starts with a rumble of hooves and a few bow shows, leading to a clash of large forces, and ending with the crash of armor and armor. This leads into the main fantasy loop, which begins with swords ringing and men shouting. As the track runs its eight minute course, the orcs launch a counter attack, aided by either larger beasts (trolls perhaps?) or even meaner trolls.
It’s good for any battle involve large numbers of humans and humanoids (orcs, goblins, etc.) though it could be a useful backdrop for any fantasy battle (assuming you can ignore the orcs). The only drawback to it are a few occasionally high-itched screams that show up about halfway through the main loop — I’m not sure if those are supposed to be men dying or women’s fleeing — but it’s hardly a show stopper.
The Civil War’s section introduction — opens with musket/rifle and canon fire, followed by the occasional screeches and impacts of canon balls. The main loop is more of the same, punctuated by ricochets, men’s shouts, galloping and rearing horses, and the occasional gasps of dying men. The usefulness of this track is probably restricted to historic war gaming, though it might be useful in historical RPGs or the rare time-traveling sci-fi romp. Personally, I’d rather have seen this track replaced with something more useful, like an aerial battle, or perhaps dueling battleships.
The World War II tracks start off with the with the distant sound of rolling thunder, giving away to artillery firing, followed by shells crashing into buildings and shattering windows. This gives way to a momentary silence.
That silence is broken by the main loop, and the sound of tanks rumbling on to the battle field, which leads into the sounds of automatic gun shots and small arms fire, broken up by artillery shots and explosions. The low sound of tank treads, as well as the occasional ricochet and crumbling of metal, can also be heard. Near the end of the track aircraft on bombing runs can also be heard soaring overhead and dropping their deadly payloads. This section is more useful immediately useful (at least for me) than the Civil War track — in addition to background sound for war games or for a World War II-themed RPG like Godlike, it could easily be used to set the mood for artillery/explosion heavy tabletop games like Classic Battletech or Mechwarrior.
The science fiction section has a distinctly “Terminator Future War” feel, with the low-hum of hover vehicles pierced by the squeals of lasers and the occasional screams of aircraft and the rare bursts of gunfire. The opening track makes use of some dialogue — generic talk about moving into position, preparing to fire, etc. In the main loopable battle, this crosstalk fades into the background as the energy weapons and explosions take center stage. As with all the battles, the shouts and screams of men haunt this futuristic war, but near the middle the audio focus shifts to the alien side, with their commanders speaking in a guttural, unintelligible tongue (and presumably giving their own set of orders).
The lasers and energy weapons on these sci-fi tracks limit their usefulness somewhat — it’s all just a little too bright and shiny to be used in something like Battletech.
The last track — “Battle Theme” pulls together elements of just about every dramatic battle theme music you’ve ever heard. It nicely complements the previous 12 war tracks, and its something I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. Toxic Bag’s previous discs focused almost entirely on sound effects and ambient background noise, but this track shows they’ve got a musical side too. I’d welcome a full CD of tracks like this one, particularly if it was modeled after something like the very enjoyable Dungeons & Dragons soundtrack by Midnight Syndicate.
The tracks on this CD are aimed at doing one thing, and doing it well: creating a big battle sound. For the most part, it succeeds. While I’ve obviously never been in the middle of a sword and sorcery melee or a Civil War battle, it sounds pretty much like I imagine it would. The tracks are generic enough to be easily looped, and would work well mixed together with effects from Toxic Bag’s earlier efforts.
It’s difficult to give a CD like this a rating, because it’s value is directly related to how much you’ll use it. The average gamer might only use the fantasy track, and even that might only come into play a few times a year. But for more diversified gamers, this disc provides a welcome tool that fills a very specific niche.
- by Toxic Bag Productions
- Running Time: 44 minutes
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