Game Music, Reviews

It Came From Spain: KeepMoving Records Releases The Abbey (Review)

December 16, 2009 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook It Came From Spain: KeepMoving Records Releases The Abbey (Review)on Twitter

I can’t say that I knew much about The Abbey going into this review, but hey, that’s the nature of soundtrack releases from KeepMoving Records. Yes, the Russian record label is at it again, putting out obscure but typically wonderful music at a low price, and this time it’s music form of the Spanish PC title, The Abbey.

What I do know about the game from the soundtrack booklet is that it has some an amazing cartoon-like art style and a great soundtrack courtesy of Spanish composer Emilio de Paz. Not only was he able to create a fitting score for the spiritual setting of The Abbey, but he was also able to record the City of Prague Symphony Orchestra, lending the album an authentic orchestral sound.

Find out what else to expect from the latest from KeepMoving Records in our review after the jump.

Emilio de Paz describes The Abbey as a comical murder mystery, and the music accurately reflects that. The opening themes are light and airy, typical church stuff, but as the album progresses, the atmosphere gets more grisly and dark, mirroring the progression of the game itself. He also describes his approach to the score, using only male voices in the choir to maintain the all-male reality of a monastery, and only using bassy brass instruments and avoiding high-pitched trumpets, etc., giving the album a more subdued sound.

He starts us off with “In Memoriam,” which opens with some epic strings and choral work. It’s melancholy and somewhat foreboding, but at the same time soothing. The use of a boy choir contrasts nicely with the deeper voices of the full choir, and the faster-paced section towards the end features a catchy ascending melody. This is a great start to what turns out to be a great album.

The character themes are probably the highlight of the album. One of my favorites is “Abbots Theme.” It’s gentle and beautiful with woodwinds, harpsichord (which is all I need to be happy), and a sweeping string melody. “Segundos Theme” (yes, you’ll have to excuse them for the lack of apostrophes) is a little darker with some deep string stabs, but the melody is elegant, like something you’d hear in a classy car commercial. “Umbertos Theme” and “Aegidius Theme,” on the other hand, are quite comical, with the former featuring a funny back-and-forth string and woodwind melody that reminds me of this piece that they use in Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry is doing something mischievous. Both have this “dum de dum” vibe about them. Towards the end, the sweeping string melody in “Brunos Theme” is cathartic and brimming with positive energy.

About those “light” themes that I alluded to earlier, “Gods Domicil” is an angelic piece with layers of strings and brass that are in no hurry whatsoever, moving along at a measured pace. While a title like “Fire and Iron” isn’t all that inviting, it’s actually upbeat with its medieval folksy woodwinds and skipping string section. “Benedicte Dominus” sounds like the first ray of light peaking over the horizon as the sun rises, relying on its airy strings and powerful choral work. “Embracement of the Night” is another track with a misleading title, as it creates an image of a still and serene evening under the light of the moon.

As promised, however, things take a darker turn with “Room of Wisdom,” a stern and mysterious piece with deep brass stabs that sound like something is amiss. “Hand of Dead” features a disturbing descending melody created by layered choir sections that harmonize together beautifully despite the dark nature of the piece and the ominous tubular bells in the background.  “Blaze in the Heart” and “The Confrontation” are as intense as it gets on The Abbey, but that’s not saying a whole lot. There are a few light cymbal crashes that accent the string and choir stabs in “Blaze in the Heart,” but it doesn’t go as far as to take itself too seriously. Another of my favorite track of mine is “Requiem,” which is not only a beautiful piece of music tinged with emotion, but is also the longest track on the album.

I need to mention the final track, “The Abbey Suite,” which apparently won some game industry awards in Spain. It’s another long piece as far as this album goes (it breaks the three-minute mark!), and the contemplative approach closes things out quite nicely. It takes the lighthearted nature of the early portions of the score and looks at them through the mature lens of the dark events that unfolded in the abbey. It’s obvious that de Paz put a lot of time into this piece.

I mentioned that the booklet contains some artwork from the game, but it also features comments from composer Emilio de Paz (in broken English) about his work on the score, others involved with its creation, and what the project meant to his career. But overall, this is a fun and enjoyable album in line with another excellent release that we reviewed from KeepMoving Records, Sea Dogs. I recommend checking it out, although it looks like KeepMoving Records is slowly scaling up their prices, as this one will set you back $9.99 + shipping and handling.

Do you know anything about The Abbey or Emilio de Paz? Are you a fan of some of the obscure releases that have come out of KeepMoving Records?

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