Game Music, Reviews

Sweepingly Beautiful and Engrossing: Ori and The Blind Forest Original Soundtrack (Review)

March 18, 2015 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Sweepingly Beautiful and Engrossing: Ori and The Blind Forest Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

The soundtrack to Ori and the Blind Forest is breathtaking and wonderfully crafted. The music was composed by Gareth Coker and performed by the Nashville Music Scoring Orchestra, with additional soloists. I have been listening to it for the past week and can’t seem get enough of it. The game designers describe the game as a Metroidvania-style platformer, and that they were heavily influenced by the works of Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki, and films like The Lion King and The Iron Giant.

Below, you’ll hear the music from the trailer for the game. The soundtrack consists of 32 solid tracks and has a playtime of 88:51. In this review I will highlight my thoughts on what makes this score special, if any musical elements of the designer’s influences show up in the score,  and why its worth your listening time.

What instruments best evoke thoughts of a vast forest wilderness? Woodwinds. Ori and the Blind Forest makes excellent use of them including the alto flute which has an extended curved mouthpiece and a lower tonal range than the traditional flute, a bansuri which is a South Asian bamboo flute, the oboe and the recorder. The score also has wonderful use of soft sustained piano, and strings including some great cello.

The soundtrack’s first track “Ori, Lost in the Storm” features warm and echoing vocals by Aeralie Brighton accompanied by piano, and the full orchestra which sets the tone for the entire album. It’s a beautiful track and Aeralie Brighton sings a theme that continues to pop in various musical forms throughout the album. The second track “Naru, Embracing the Light” features Rachel Mellis on the flute, oboe and is a very upbeat melody with pleasant tropical percussion sound. The sound changes again with Track 3 “Calling Out” which uses the flute, piano and vocals to evoke an ancient sound and ends with a sense of sadness. Track 4″The Blinded Forest” brings back the full sound of the orchestra and the sounds of high vocals and chimes. The music reminded me a little of James Newton Howard’s score from Disney’s Atlantis but softer and much more natural sounding. Since I have not played the game, I can only assume this music plays within the first ten minutes because the track ends with such sustained and soft piano it sounds like a forest has been snuffed out of blinded as the title suggests. The score continues to build off this track and the orchestra gives the listener the sense that something has overcome this sadness.

All of the music in this score is emotional and heartfelt. Track 8 “Up the Spirit Cavern Walls” reminded me of the music that plays in the Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword when you’re in the Silent Realm collecting sacred tears, but with fantastic oboe work by Tom Boyd. Track 9 “The Spirit Tree” continues this sound but adds Aeralie Brighton’s vocals.

Track 10 “Thornfelt Swamp” has a darker stringed and piano sound and in the beginning of the track reminded me slightly of the string work used in Game of Thrones. The song at time also have an electronic sound in the background that reminded me of the Selenetic Age in Myst.

Track 15 “Breaking Through the Trap” is a short but more intense track and from the trailers and reviews I have seen from this game probably plays during an escape sequence. The intensity returns in Track 17 “Restoring the Light, Facing the Dark” the theme of the score returns accompanied by piano and strings, and then leads into glorious choir that sounds like it is responding large that has been vanquished.  Track 18 “The Waters Cleansed” is another lighthearted uplifting track featuring beautiful high tone oboe.

Track 23 “Riding the Wind” features more of the excellent flute work by Rachel Mellis and does remind me of a carrying gust of wind.

Track 30 “Fleeing Kuro” is fast paced with rapid strings, woodwinds,  vocals and percussion that makes it sound like the world is ending. There is also a stringed theme that carries you through the song that gives you a sense of hope that whatever is causing this sense of urgency can be overcome.

The last two tracks on the album “The Sacrifice” and “Light of Nobel” again feature the vocals of Aeralie Brighton, and easily are two of my favorite tracks on the album. They bring together all of the greatness in the entire score and are quite emotional. The end of “The Sacrifice” features loving humming vocals that sound like a warm hug feels. “The Light of Nibel” has all the feelings of a triumphant end credits recounting an epic challenging journey.

Does the score take any influence from the works of Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki? I think that Joe Hisaishi’s use of piano, strings and percussion in Princess Mononoke may have served as some inspiration. At times listening to the score I did have some images of kodamas come to mind especially during tracks 13 “The Ancestral Trees” and track 14 “Gumo’s Hideout”. As for The Lion King, I did get a few Simba vibes listening to the score as in the story of The Lion King it moves very quickly from a light-hearted tale to one of tragedy, challenge, and triumph. As for similarities to the Iron Giant, I have not spent as much time with it so hopefully you can tell me what you think.

I know that this score will be on my list of top scores for 2015, and one I will be listening to for a while.  I don’t own an Xbox One, but I am very happy that I can experience this wonderful music outside the game environment.

OSV’s Patrick Gann was similarly wowed  by Gareth Coker’s earlier work, specifically the soundtrack to InMomentum, which you can read about it here.

The soundtrack was released digitally on March 10, 2015 on for $9.49,  or $9.99 on iTunes and it is worth every cent.

Have you played Ori and the Blind Forest? What did you think about the music as it appears in the game?

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