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Limited Release (Deja Vu?): Torchlight II OST (Review)

July 25, 2012 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Limited Release (Deja Vu?): Torchlight II OST (Review)on Twitter

UPDATE (Sept 18, 2012): It looks like Uelmen and Runic had a plan all along. Two days before the game goes retail, they released a digital form of this soundtrack completely free, no strings attached. Get on it!

It seems like it was only yesterday I was lamenting the lack of a full retail release of a game music album I really enjoyed.

Oh wait, that *was* yesterday.

Right now, I hold in my hands the full orchestral soundtrack for a game that’s not even out yet. And while I assume the full soundtrack will have, at least, a retail digital release (if not a physical release as well), right now the soundtrack exists in the form of about 100 CDs Runic Games had printed. Of this small lot, 25 were given away to fans of the first game via Facebook, and the rest were distributed at E3 (and perhaps some other conventions since E3) by Uelmen and the Runic team themselves.

I personally missed E3, but Jayson was able to snag a handful from Uelmen so that he (representing Destructoid) *and* we at OSV could provide early coverage of Uelmen’s groundbreaking soundtrack.

Is it really *that* good? Does it exceed Uelmen’s work on the Diablo series? Or am I just adding to the hype? I’ll defend my stance after the jump, and then you can leave comments to let me know whether or not I’m crazy.

I love being overwhelmed by beautiful things. It’s why I’m in this business. When I’m in awe of something clever, original, or just ridiculously well-crafted, those are the moments that keep me listening, and in turn, talking.

The Torchlight II Original Soundtrack is filled with those moments. And I give credit in equal parts to the composer (Matt Uelmen) and the performing orchestra (Slovak National Symphony Orchestra). There’s something to be said for these Eastern European orchestras so popular in game score these days. Yes, they are a budget-friendly alternative to Hollywood and London, but more importantly, they have something to prove. They want to prove themselves. And when I hear little decorative notes performed so perfectly, with such intensity and finesse, I know those weren’t first-takes. That was painstaking, labor-of-love performance. And that it comes at the perfect volume, at the perfect time, I also know that the post-production mix-down was handled with the utmost care as well.

The above description applies to so many tracks on this 28-track, 73-minute OST. The first two tracks, definitely. The opener, “Torchlight II Title Theme,” does such a good job balancing the thick, resonant cellos with the piercing violins and orchestra bells. And then the song smoothly transitions, note for note, to “Enclave Morning,” one of the most beautiful and peaceful tracks on the album. It’s 5 minutes long, and the flute and harp work together in such perfect harmony … I’d like to see what Uelmen and the Slovak orchestra could do with the slower, memorable tracks from Sakuraba’s Star Ocean tracks (such as “Sacred Song”). “Enclave Morning” is like a less choral version of “Sacred Song,” with an even more “mystic” feel thanks to the almighty phrygian modal scale and other bits of tension within the chord progression.

One other thing about that track transition from the first to second track. It feels natural, and it’s done over and over again. Yes, the entire album flows without any silence or finality until the end of the final track, “Killbot.” It flows so well, it is simply wonderful.

Now, all this “awe and wonder” talk should be balanced out with mention of some atmospheric music that is meant to, quite frankly, creep you out. As effective as some of the best horror soundtracks, the dissonance and post-mix effects found in tracks like “Temple Steppes” (track 3) and “Ever Deeper” (track 15) give me the chills. Some tracks are more “sound” than “music,” such as the short “Glacial Research Station” (track 8), which is just a series of bent pitches and the sound of windswept snowbanks.

But resolution inevitably comes at the end of each of these creepy/ambient tracks. There are some truly wonderful melodies embedded in the full OST. You just have to be paying attention. The various “night-time” tracks (Enclave Dusk, Camp Evening, Zeryphesh Twilight) left a particularly strong impression on me. But even more impressive, right near the end of the album (track 27), is “Camp Dawn.” Uelmen has always been a great plucked-string composer (guitar, sitar, etc). The guitar work on “Camp Dawn” is fantastic.

And it’s on a track like “Camp Dawn” that I am most reminded of Uelmen’s work on the Diablo series. However, there is so much in this soundtrack that just wasn’t present in the Diablo series music, it’s clear that Uelmen’s years of maturation with Blizzard paid off for Runic Games. And, more importantly, for us as listeners.

The only thing I’m left wanting after listening to this soundtrack over a dozen times is a proper soundtrack release for the first Torchlight as well. Maybe a *digital deluxe* set for the two of them? My mind swirls with ideas.

So, anyway, I made a promise. If you think I’m just foaming at the mouth and you’re convinced this will just be some more “generic” or “vanilla” game-score-as-film-score that you would never ever want to listen to, just say so. The comments are here for that reason. Alternately, if you want this album to hit retail markets in physical or digital formats (hey, maybe an LE double-vinyl?!), feel free to use our comments section to say that as well.

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