Game Music, Reviews

The Soundtrack Of Our (Undead, Communist) Lives: You Are Empty Original Soundtrack (Review)

February 20, 2009 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook The Soundtrack Of Our (Undead, Communist) Lives: You Are Empty Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Here at OSV, and at many VGM-centric sites in this vast Internet, the most focus is put on American and Japanese composers. After all, the majority of games come from these two places. But it’s important to remember that games, and their soundtracks, can come from anywhere. And, sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised by what we find.

Such is the case for the soundtrack to the Russian-developed FPS You Are Empty, composed by Dimitriy Dyachenko. Though the critical reception for the game itself was quite poor, the potential of the plot and concept was most definitely met through Dyachenko’s eerie and effective score.

After the jump, our full review of the You Are Empty Original Soundtrack.

This album, published by KeepMoving Records, clocks in just under an hour (about 53 minutes total). Below, you’ll find the tracklist:

01 Around the Time
02 Underground Ambient
03 Machine of Communism
04 Totalitarianism Zone
05 Heart of Communism
06 Railway Station
07 Reactor – Zone 1
08 Kolkhoz
09 Survey of Industrial Zone
10 Gorsovet (Council of City)
11 Theater Crazy Song
12 Theater of Spirit
13 Wandering on Roofs
14 Drive Plastic
15 Totalitarianism Events
16 P.S. Waltz

Right from the start, you are treated to the sort of ultra-creepy dance/trance music that’s necessary to score a game of this kind. That said, “Around the Time” is something of a happy pick-me-up compared to some of the pee-your-pants-scary audio found on the rest of the disc.

There’s a part of me that wants to resist drawing comparisons to other, more famous works. But the rest of me just beat down said resistence, so here we go: in comparing this music to, say, Silent Hill, I will say that Silent Hill is the more traditional/tonal soundtrack. Akira Yamaoka found a way to blend super-creepy with enjoyable, memorable melodies. In contrast, Dyachenko decides to go all-out on the creepy atmospheric sounds, and rejects traditional song structure (melody, harmony, rhythm) outright.

Now that’s not always the case, mind you. For example, there is some semblance of melody in songs like “Machine of Communism,” but these songs primarily rely on the industrial sounds of distorted guitar and synthesized “clanging” instruments. There is a lot of clever sampling used in this album, particularly the sound of old vinyl records playing music written in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This is important for an “alternate history” game, to connect what shared history we have in the reality of today with this strange 1950s brainwashed-Communist-apocalypse-shooter. It helps the sense of fear “hit home,” as though you too could be a part of the chaos.

The closest thing to a classical composition is “Theater Crazy Song,” which utilizes strings and other traditional chamber orchestra instruments to create a confused 20th-century style piece. However, even in this song, samples of people whispering are mixed in from time to time. This is probably my favorite piece on the album, especially when those voice samples interrupt the already disconcerting sound of the orchestra. I was scared out of my mind when I first heard this song: it felt outright demonic.

If you’re ready to involuntarily let go of some liquid (and even solid) waste, this is the album for you. It was released in May of 2008 on CD, and it’s certainly worth adding to your VGM collection. There are plenty of “atmospheric horror” soundtracks that fail to entertain (here’s lookin’ at you, Parasite Eve 2), but this one will keep your heart racing even as you find yourself frantically searching for some adult diapers.

Finally, a question for the readers: have I played up the whole peeing/pooping your pants thing too much? You may think I have, but once you listen to this album, you’ll see what I mean.

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