Game Music, Reviews

It’s Raining Bloody Tears: Castlevania Lords of Shadow Soundtrack (Review)

October 11, 2010 | | 15 Comments Share thison Facebook It’s Raining Bloody Tears: Castlevania Lords of Shadow Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Well, okay, I’m certainly trying to be a little over the top with the title. Castlevania is one of the most beloved franchises in gaming, and I’m with a lot of other longtime fans in not being overly thrilled with the new direction introduced by Lords of Shadows. The game is more cinematic, more story-driven, and more epic than any previous title in the series, and the music provided by Spanish composer Oscar Araujo falls right in line with these changes.

That’s not to say this is a bad soundtrack, however. Those who pick up the Limited Edition version of the game will be treated to an impressive listening experience, and playing through the game, I’ve found the music to be very appropriate for the most part. I do, however, have some issues with it the score (and the game itself), but you’ll have to read on to find out what those issues are!

Check out our review of the Lords of Shadow soundtrack after the jump!

First of all, you’re in for some quality music. Aurajo, while not really known in the world of videogames, has worked on a number of film and animated titles,  and did work on Clive Barker’s Jericho. It would seem as though his work on a Clive Barker project would prepare him well for a title like Castlevania, and while we do get a powerful live orchestral sound from the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, you’re more in for an epic Lord of the Rings-style score as opposed to the brooding Gothic soundtracks of past Castlevania titles. Again, this fits in with the changes to the gameplay and storytelling that are introduced by the title, so whether or not this is a good thing will depend on whether you like the game itself.

You won’t be hearing any rock music in this game, and you won’t even hear references to iconic Castlevania themes like “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears,” but even so, Aurajo does do a great job creating memorable melodies among the mainly cinematic, Hollywood-style cues. Right from the start, “Besieged Village” demonstrates Araujo’s mastery of orchestra and choir, giving us a memorable action cue right out of the gate. In terms of a listening experience, I thought it was odd to start with this piece as opposed to the title theme, but it actually does a great job putting you right into the action. I must say that I love Araujo’s brass work which appears here and in numerous other tracks on the album including one of my favorites, “The Evil Butcher,” which is truly terrifying. A number of similar action cues follow, making the album a little heavy on the front end with some more emotional themes towards the middle and end, but they’re all well done.

My favorite pieces, however, are the quieter themes that I just alluded to. The uneasiness in “The Dead Bog” provides the perfect accompaniment to the foreboding swamp area with its creatures that lurk beneath the water, waiting to drag you to your death. The regal air about “Castle Wall” provides a bit of a change of pace, while my favorite track on the album, “Waterfalls of Agharta,” is a thoughtful piece that works in pizzicato strings that sound like water drops, sounding not too unlike the Limestone Cavern area of Super Castlevania. It’s a beautiful piece of music that will make you yearn even more for the Castlevania soundtracks of old. Another favorite of mine, “Belmont’s Theme,” comes towards the end, featuring layered staccato strings and woodwinds, combining beauty with determination and tension. It’s a great moment on the album that I’m looking forward to experiencing in the game.

So, I mentioned that I have some issues with the score as well. First, in the spirit of our big context debate here on OSV, I would say that while the majority of the music that Araujo has prepared matches perfectly with the grand nature of Lords of Shadow, I did feel at times that a lot of the music sounded too similar. For example, whether I was exploring a treacherous mountain area of a frozen lake covered in snow, I was hearing the same general sound. In fact, when I was walking around this particular lake, I thought to myself, “Wow, this sounds just like the grassy meadow I was just exploring ten minutes ago.” This was the only time I had this experience in the several hours of the game that I’ve played so far, but it did make me aware of the music I was hearing the background. In a bad way.

Lastly, and biggest of all, while I have to admit I like this soundtrack and, on some level, the game, I just don’t understand it. If the team behind Lords of Shadow was so determined to set this game apart from previous Castlevania titles, why call it Castlevania at all? Why take a franchise that is so loved by so many people around the world and take it in this drastically different direction? It feels like they’re using the Castlevania name to appeal to fans of the old Castlevania when they’re intentionally trying to avoid creating that kind of game. It doesn’t make sense to me, and I wish that the development team had thrown us a few musical references that could have totally been reworked to fit Araujo’s and the overall game’s more epic stylings. If anything, the score would have been one of the least obtrusive ways to tie together the series of the past with the new direction in Lords of Shadow to let gamers know, “Hey, this IS a Castlevania game!” I’m really torn on this one as it really is a great score.   It’s just not the great score I was hoping for.

The soundtrack is available in as a part of the Limited Edition version of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which also comes with a nice art book and the game disc itself all tucked away inside of a snazzy cardboard case with an outer plastic sleeve. It’s quite nice, and the soundtrack gets a list of credits along with the track titles on separate pages.

Stay tuned in the coming days as Gideon and I discuss this soundtrack in more detail. You haven’t heard the last of this controversial game and soundtrack here on OSV!

What do you think of Konami’s and Oscar Aurajo’s new take on the Castlevania formula? Do you think it would have been so terrible to have thrown in some musical references, or do you see it as completely unnecessary?

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