The next-gen Castlevania is, first of all, a way for the Spanish developers to revamp the series. Namely, to do so music-wise too, with the composer Oscar Araujo staking everything on one, very strong card. The Bratislava Symphony Orchestra flex their orchestral muscles and the choir impresses with its grandeur. If you want to hear the album in a nutshell (well, most of it), you should give Final Confrontation a spin.
Dozens of soundtracks have treaded the path of pompousness and grandiosity. Many of them did so in an over-the-top, uninspired way, completely clueless about how to better capture the right atmosphere and the spirit of the game. Lord of Shadows OST oozes with loftiness, but not in an attempt to mask the composer’s technical shortcomings. No, it was a conscious decision: thoroughly planned and successfully implemented. It is true that apart from the great Belmont’s Theme (and some parts of e.g. The Ice Titan or Final Confrontation), there are no memorable themes which would etch themselves into your brain note after note. The strength of the album lies elsewhere, so if someone’s counting on grippingly melodic motifs, they’re in for a bitter disappointment. Araujo’s music is as monumental as a gothic cathedral, but it requires humility, patience and focus.
Of course, the word ‘opera’ is an intentional misnomer here, although if you ignore the lack of soloists, it becomes quite easy to imagine Castlevania being performed on stage in a musical theatre. After all, it’s a game with an enormous dramatic potential – a potential that the soundtrack exploits to its fullest. It is the love for dramatic atmosphere (Castle Hall, Laura’s Mercy), powerful wind sections (The Evil Butcher) and emphasizing the form over melody that shows that Araujo’s style is closer to that of Dynamedion (Paraworld). With a touch of musing (Labirynth Entrance, Cornell) and a homage element (Agharta) the soundtrack comes even closer to resembling a play.
Araujo did an amazing job with both the vocal and instrumental passages. The choirs are world class with their powerful, almost overwhelming sound. For some, this kind of clichéd pathos is unacceptable, and for such people the opera’s doors will remain closed. This is what Lord of Shadow OST is: a superb opera and a soundtrack which might as well be a standalone, full-blown concert. Understandably, the nostalgia for old Castlevania (I’m talking about music) is as strong and immortal as a dynasty of vampires, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to have some fresh blood.