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Soundtrack Review: 'Arrow Season 4'

Like the series, Arrow: Season 4 Original Television Soundtrack offers a mixed quiver.

Review by Matt Cummings

If any of you found Arrow: Season 4 to be...well...a little boring, you're not alone. I've always appreciated the gritty street drama of Star City, and Actor Steven Amell is fantastic as the titular hero. But the series under Producer Greg Berlanti has declined since the amazing Season 2 (remember Slade?!), with too many love stories and far too many episodes. The biggest complaint I had with Season 4 was that Arrow was now fighting fantastic (and unbeatable) villains, something better suited for (better) shows like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Moreover, a paternity story slowed down any inertia which the show was building, leading to a wild League-esque battle royale that set up Legends. Composer Blake Neely's Arrow: Season 4 Original Television Soundtrack suffers from the same lack of direction, serving as more of a setup album than establishing itself as a must-buy.

With the formidable Ra's al Ghul (Matt Nable) defeated in Season 3, Oliver Queen/Arrow (Amell) hopes to restart his life, driving off into the sunset with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). But Diggle, Thea, and Laurel are having a hard time adjusting to life without him. They need his leadership to keep Team Arrow afloat, but Oliver is ready to move back to a more normal life. All of that changes when the dangerous magician Damien Darhk (Neil McDonough) arrives to destroy Star City, forcing Oliver to suit up once again. But he's unprepared for the chaos Darhk will bring, and soon recruits old friends like The Flash (Grant Gustin) and new heroes such as Hawkman and Hawkgirl to battle Darhk. Without knowing it, Oliver is thrust into the middle of an escalating conflict that will see million of lives precariously hang in the balance, while one of his friends will pay the ultimate price for his decisions.

The 23-song track by La-La Land Records is all over the place in terms of effect. We have the very good My Whole World Exploded / Savage Fight, Ghost Takedown, Fighting Ghosts and Resurrected and Infected, which establish themselves using familiar Neely DNA but add newer tones like more chanting and sound effects. His trademark style is apparent throughout, even when the ballads like the passionate For Better or Worse arrive, mixing hallmark strings and piano with electronic keyboards to build multiple layers. It's a very strong and beautiful track, but it also sounds like material we've heard before, simply re-arranged just enough to make it seem newer. Sometimes that plan works very well, such as Taking a Hand, in which Neely uses the unusual Duduk wind instrument to great effect. The very good Darhk Showdown and Not Black and White round things out, but along the way you'll start to notice a pattern where things can start to grate a bit.

Season 4 doesn't start off that well either, such as the dull Return to Star City / Darhkness Arrives and Beyond Saving. Not every song needs to be an amazing one, but soon everything from these series begins to blend together and it's impossible to remember anything other than the gold-standard Storming the Castle from Season 3. Let Each Other Go is another example of outright borrowing from a previous season. But if you're willing to look past it and appreciate others like Code Names, Thea Has Bloodlust, and a little tympani action in Genesis - because who doesn't love a track with tympanis - you'll find yourself adding more than a couple to your SuperHero playlist. Just be sure to add a few of these as they're shorter set up pieces.

Scoring for television isn't an easy gig, many times forcing a composer to use familiar (and even previously-used) material for its beat. But Arrow: Season 4 Original Television Soundtrack offers us enough new to equal out what's starting to feel like retreaded melodies. If Season 5's music is any indication where Neely is going, prepare for more of the same.

Arrow: Season 4 Original Television Soundtrack is now available on CD and digital download.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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