Game Music, Reviews

Three Days of Resident Evil 5 ~ Day 3: The Haunting Sounds of Africa (Review)

March 13, 2009 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Three Days of Resident Evil 5 ~ Day 3: The Haunting Sounds of Africa (Review)on Twitter

The final entry into our Three Days of Resident Evil 5 coverage is, of course, a review of the official soundtrack album that was released last week in Japan. We’ve discussed the title’s music with composers Kota Suzuki and Wataru Hokoyama, but now we listen to the tortuous and suspenseful score for what is sure to be one of the biggest games of the year.

I suppose you know just what to expect given that this is the soundtrack for a survival horror title, but there are some interesting twists and surprises as well. Top the three discs of music off with some incredible packaging, and it sounds like we have a winner.

You’ll find out why in our comprehensive review after the jump.

The sound quality on this album is amazing. While Wataru Hokoyama was responsible for the title’s orchestral music, his contributions have blended in so well with the rest of the material that I wasn’t able to pick out his tracks. This is quite a feat, especially with multiple composers involved.

You’re going to find a pretty even mix of unsettling ambient tracks and intense action pieces on this album. While there are a lot of short orchestral and ambient cues here, they don’t break up the flow, and do well to flesh out the emotional rollercoaster that this soundtrack presents. This is a step up from past Resident Evil efforts, and the amazing sound quality definitely helps.

I’ll start by describing one of the opening tracks, “ Opening -Chris’s Arrival- (Original Ver.),” which features the voice of Oulimata Niang.  You’re put in the setting of Africa immediately with Niang’s echoing chants and a backdrop of droning pads and scattered rattling and hisses of exotic percussion.  That’s not to say the piece is bright and sunny in the least; it is definitely dark, but not nearly as dark as what you’re going to find moving forward.

Some of these dark ambient moments are heard through tracks like “Item Box” with its enveloping pad progressions and distant filtered percussion and the absolutely frightening metallic screeching and acidic atmospheres of “Majini I.” Definitely be prepared to be disturbed! “Majini III” features a pulsating march of doom that slowly fades in and out of the forefront of the mix like an incoherent nightmare. One of my favorites is the minimalistic track, “The Sign,” with its weird metallic bowing sounds and distorted ambient patches in the background which are quite unsettling. It sounds like something you’d hear at the bottom of a dark and stagnant well.

As for the other half of the album, its made up of suspenseful electronic/orchestral cues. “Majini II” and “Pursuer and The Pursued” really drive home the action. “Pursuer and The Pursued” is particularly effective with its thundering rhythmic percussion and marimbas accented by a defiant brass section. Another track, “Majini’s Trap I” has a very uneasy progression accented by a seemingly “buzzy” string section with lots of vibrato.  The hissing, chugging, and clanging of “The Claw” sound like heavy machinery at work, and the slow buildup makes for a intense listening experience. “Majini VII” is another favorite with combined ethnic percussion and techno percussion alongside a repetitive electronic baseline that is very suspenseful.  Finally, “Sad but true” is an emotionally-tinged track with a proper melody and a verse and chorus structure, which provides a nice break with its engaging progression and energetic sound.

The third disc is where the album climaxes, and then continues to digress into something altogether different.  The distorted electronic screams in “Majini VIII” along with heavy-hitting percussion and orchestral hits hint that the end is drawing near with its slowy and steady pace, but the twisting and cutting synth lines still sound as though there is an epic struggle ahead. One of the most intense tracks on the album is “A Big Despair(Digital Ver.),” which introduces marching percussion, off-key string stabs, and lots of dissonance.  The voice of Oulimata Niang returns with “Pray -Theme Song- (Original Ver.)”, starting with a similar chant to that heard at the beginning on the album.  There are lyrics this time around, which are hauntingly beautiful as they layer and harmonize over one another.  The emotionally-tinged string progression and percussion creates the perfect backdrop.  My only complaint is that it’s way too short!

About that digression into something different?  Well, the end of the third disc is reserved for the in-game menus and various cues that are somewhat song-like, leaving the dark atmospheres of the rest of the album behind.  These include tracks like “Viewer,” which stands out with its phasing pads and psychedelic triangle and tribal percussion that have a new age vibe. Both “Colors” and “Assault Fire,” on the other hand, are upbeat electronic tracks, with “Colors” taking on a smooth house style, which again surprised me with its departure from the rest of the score. “Rust in summer 2008” delves into traditional trance with electified robotic vocals and trance patches galore. This sounds like a promotional track, and is interesting to hear alongside the rest of the material on the album.  “Dreamy Loops” goes even further, delving into drum ‘n’ bass with some wacked out time signatures and psychadelic sounds.  Finally, “Do you challenge Again?” is a great closing piece with its contemplative sound, tempting you to give the album another spin.

So, I’ll close by saying that while there aren’t a whole lot of tracks you’ll be dying to hear again, that’s not what this album aims to do. When you find yourself craving an album with a dark ambiance to suit your mood, the Resident Evil 5 Original Soundtrack will have you covered, as it’s dripping with atmosphere. Regarding the packaging, Resident Evil 5 us also spot on. The three discs each come individually housed in their own thin single-style case, with their own cover art and one-page “booklet” that lists the tracks (in English) and features more artwork. A sturdy cardboard case holds the three discs and the official booklet which is full of information about the team (in Japanese). I recommend checking this one out at CD Japan or Play Asia for some serious atmosphere.

Are you looking forward to Resident Evil 5 this weekend? Let us know what you think of the game’s music as you play through the game!

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