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The Echoes of Death – Darksiders II OST (Review)

September 18, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook The Echoes of Death – Darksiders II OST (Review)on Twitter

The end of the world may have come to pass, but it seems the journey must continue. It’s been over two years since the first Darksiders game told the (ever over-used) tale of the wars of heaven, hell, and the trials of War: Horseman of the Apocalypse. The dark action-adventure game featured an equally dark and ambient soundtrack to illustrate War’s journey in melodic detail.

Now for Darksiders II, we advance further into the story with the arrival of another Horseman – Death – as he continues the hellish tale and the aftermath of Armageddon. As such, the soundtrack gets a equal change-up with the advent of Danish composer Jesper Kyd (Borderlands, Assassin’s Creed) into the series mix.

Does the soundtrack’s sequel succeed the original? Surpass, even? Check under the jump for the details!

Having been composing since the day of the Commodore 64 and Amiga, Jesper Kyd has a lot to his credit. Having worked since the late 1980’s and on such early titles as Sub-Terrania, Red Zone and The Adventures of Batman & Robin started Kyd on the path towards full-time composing, which led to his involvement with the Hitman series, as well as Borderlands and the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

The approach of having Kyd tackle the sequel to 2010’s Darksiders game was a shift, as the first game was composed by the likes of God of War contributor Cris Velasco with help of Mike Reagan & Scott Morton. Having Kyd himself be the sole composer of Darksiders II was an interesting change, and has yielded some differences in style than in the previous installment.

Darksiders II focuses on the journey of Death:  the eldest and most experienced Horseman of the Apocalypse. Whereas the first game followed after the horseman War and featured an emphasis on multi-layered orchestral pieces with heavy bass and drum work, Kyd shifted the tone of the score in the sequel to match the persona of the new protagonist. A good amount of the soundtrack now features a focus on strings and ambient synthetic tones that coincide more with the ethereal mood Death himself presents.

Featured on 2 disks with a total of 26 tracks, the OST opens with flute work that harkens itself to something along the lines of a Lord of the Rings fanfare with “The Makers Theme”, though this track itself is one of the more upbeat of the score. (Don’t worry, “upbeat” is not a word that will be used often in this review, but that’s not always a bad thing depending on your outlook) This dissolves into what will be the rest of the soundtrack, with the darker melodic and atmospheric tones coming into the forefront with “Into Eternity”. This track is probably the best used to describe what the general feel of the music of the entire game will tend to converge on – light and airy ghostly tones and shades of an attempt to draw you in emotionally with the likes of gossamer chorus and haunting string work during one long journey across the wastelands of death. Take that as you will.

Shades of the first Darksiders game soundtrack do pop up in a few tracks, showing that Mr. Kyd made sure to create a common thread between the two games in terms of overall musical feel; something I always find respectable. “The Corruption” begins with the same epic construction that many of the tracks of the first game leaned towards, but also stays well within the overall feel of the game it’s set in with soft and otherworldly background tone.

Not all the tracks are dark and brooding, however. That aforementioned upbeat or encouraging mood does present itself a few times, and the best example is in “Crystal Spire”. Featuring uplifting piano, harp, distorted chorus and chimes, this track almost parallels the rest of the music of the game. It’s a refreshing break if you happen to find yourself getting too bogged down by the moodiness the rest of the tracks seem to have in spades. This creates a nice contrast that is meant to mirror the common theme of “Heaven vs. Hell. vs Everyone Else” that the series portrays; this offered up as the “heavenly” portion, for better or for ill.

Remember that string work I mentioned beforehand that is the common glue amongst most of the tracks of the OST? One of the best examples of this happens to be one of my favored tracks of the album, “The Crowfather”. Shorter compared to a good majority of the rest of the titles on the score, it features a beautiful build-up with violin and cello work that melts into a very simple and refreshing guitar solo that truly does go out of its way to hook your emotions in, and then explodes into a volley of BIG DAMN EPIC MUSIC that more modern game scores seem to want to hemorrhage all over the place. Thankfully it’s a short stint of this and fades almost as quickly as it comes on, giving you a quick taste but not overwhelming you. (Something not enough other game scores seem to want to always adhere to)

Looking for something to really sink your emotional hooks into? Go a bit further into the soundtrack and take a listen to “Plains of Death”, my other favored track. An extremely hallowed-sounding track that boasts some haunting background electric guitar and melodic work, and a bit of the most deliciously resonant cello and string bass work I’ve heard in a game score that gives a subtle tragic flavor to the entire song that just tugs at the heartstrings ever so slightly. If the horseman Death himself were to have a theme, this would be the best candidate.

Speaking of “Plains”, that must be all you traverse in the games, as not only does the soundtrack end with a reprise of the title “Dead Plains” (Different from “Plains of Death” mind you, and the second incarnation of the tune), but there’s also the very distorted guitar-based “Abyssal Plains”, as well as interesting light-harp and flute mixture in “The Plains Await”. This goes back to my earlier idea that the soundtrack gives the impression all you do is epically ride across vast barren plains, and this naming scheme just further backs up that theory. Riddle me that one.

Overall, Jesper Kyd did a fantastic credit to his talent with the Darksiders II OST and continues to prove the scope of his style. Although some tracks could get muddled a bit too much within the overarching theme of “death” and the sometimes over-moodiness of some tracks, the grand end result is a fantastic dark fantasy album that will appeal to listeners looking for some devilishly ambient music. Darksiders II Original Soundtrack can be purchased on Amazon or iTunes in both full-album format for about $14 or as individual tracks for under $1 apiece.

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