Lords of Shadow 2, or the Spanish Castlevania, continues with the time-tested formula of the first game, throwing in a few improvements and new ideas for good measure. It’s still a variation on the original, but with more respect for “tradition”. And the soundtrack remains faithful to the old, secret recipe for a sequel: same thing, but better and there’s more of it.
This introduction may sound spiteful, because in reality you simply can’t help but be put in awe by the composer Oscar Araujo and the power of Abbey Road. The album feels like a sledgehammer hitting you in the chest, leaving you breathless with compositions such as Dying for a Drop of Blood and Throne Room, with their Dynamedion-esque grandeur. I don’t know if they reached the absolute peak of choirs’ and wind sections’ potential, but what they did is clearly world-class. Sometimes this is taken up to eleven – for instance, in Siege Titan – but as we all know, boss themes abide by their own, bossy rules. Then, you can truly hear this Biggest Orchestra In History.
At the same time, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 doesn’t bring music to ridiculously high levels of pompousness, and probably rightly so. When the battery of wind instruments (oh, boy, The Toy Maker!), percussive sections and string squadrons goes silent for a moment, the atmosphere can become dense. There is a perfect proportion between full-on epic battle-frenzied tracks (Castlevania!) and toned-down, quiet ones (Descent to the Castle Dungeons, Dracula’s Theme, City In Flames, A Man of God). Considering the vast instrumental possibilities that the album’s makers had, the soundtrack is exemplary when it comes to how well thought-through it is.
The appeal of the Biggest Orchestra (it sure deserves the capitalization) is slightly overshadowed by the fact that some of the compositions sound as if they were taken straight from the first game (The Paladin of God). Although the album might be accused of not showing its full potential, in this case I wouldn’t call it a grave offense. Still, if it’s really the first time such a humongous orchestra has appeared in a video game (which could have been overstated by the PR department – it’s kind of hard to verify, unless you check out every orchestra recording, ever), then a big portion of this potential was unused. The second instalment may be richer and more mature in some ways, but generally there’s no immense gap between the two soundtracks. In fact, they’re quite comparable.
All in all, if someone wanted to get to know Araujo’s albums, but didn’t have the time or opportunity to get his hands on both of them (I think they can be treated as two parts of a whole), I’d say go for Lords of Shadow 2 OST. It may give the impression like he’s repeating himself a bit, but if what Oscar Araujo really wanted was to erect an even greater and more majestic monument to the glory of the Castlevania franchise, then boy, did he succeed.
Special thanks to Marcin Moń (FTL Translations).