As I anxiously wait for my copy to arrive, the iTunes version has at least slaked my thirst for the latest MGS sound. I've listened through the score twice, and while I can't say it has the instant appeal of MGS3 (still the very best Metal Gear soundtrack, in my opinion), MGS4 has grown on me very quickly.
As said, the overall sound is harder and edgier than MGS3 - and any Metal Gear soundtrack to date, really. Stylistically, it's more like AC!D and Portable Ops, as Toda and gang rely heavily on suspenseful rhythmic percussion, sharp staccato punctuation and a rawer, more relentless industrial-techno sound. Long-time series listeners will come to the conclusion that MGS4 is much less melody-friendly than past entries, but that doesn't make the listening experience any less visceral and adrenaline pumping.
There are some really incredible action cues, such as the new Alert/Caution themes. It looks like they've designated said themes to the last few tracks on disc 2 (tracks 18 through 27); I know that "War Zone" and "A Rebellion Rests" are the alert and caution for the opening Middle East location, so it stands to reason that the remaining eight tracks follow the rest of the four areas that Snake will visit throughout the game. I'm really digging "The Hunter/The Hunted" and "For Liberty/Surrounded." Following the insanely creepy voice-induced "BB Corps" introductory track are the rest of the Beauty and the Beast unit's battle themes. They unfortunately don't come anywhere near the greatness of past battles like Yell Dead Cell! or any of the Cobra unit fights, but they certainly have their moments. "Raging Raven" is actually really, really good. (Have I mentioned how much I love those choir shouts and chants? They add such a cool element to the score - almost a primal feel, a juxtaposition to the mostly modern, futuristic sound palette.)
Gregson-Williams' contributions prove to be an especially invaluable component. They are really good this time around, bringing the bulk of the orchestral element to the table, along with his usual panache for militaristic-industrial. For those wondering, every piece featured in the various trailers are featured on the soundtrack, and it's awesome to finally hear them in unabridged form. They're all excellent, but "Desperate Chase" in particular just might be one of the greatest action pieces featured in a MGS score yet. The final few tracks leading up to the ending are a blend of sorrow and inspiration, almost on par to MGS3's Debriefing. It's interesting to note, however, that there isn't an underlying main theme to be heard throughout the score. As prominent as "Old Snake" and "Love Theme" are by opening up the soundtrack with, there's nary a trace of their melodies heard ever again.
And then there's the ending vocal itself. Kuja had it right with "Here's To You" - it is indeed based off the Sacco and Vanzetti Morricone original, rearranged by Gregson-Williams and sung by Lisbeth Scott. It's an interesting and seemingly appropriate choice for Snake's swan song - the single featured verse is repeated throughout the course of its near-six minute length, soothingly resonating with the audience of Snake's intended fate. I think the song - no, more like the tribute - could go over really well.
Two asides: Now that the OST is officially out, I'm taking down any previous sample tracks from the Briefcase. The other thing is that the track "Vamp" didn't look to be a part of MGS4 after all. It's too bad, as I've grown to really like the piece, whatever it was.