Last November, horror gamers and soundtrack collectors alike rejoiced in the long-awaited arrival of one of the most impressive game music albums of 2013: a massive “Ultimate Edition” of composer Oscar Araujo's award-winning orchestral score for Konami's franchise reboot Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. It represented an excellent turning point in the history of the classic horror-fantasy game – a legacy which continues next week with the arrival of the latest and (allegedly) final installment, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
Araujo followed the highly cinematic first release with the more contemporary and horror-centric score for the sequel Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate, but the composer returned to the original's grandiose, action-oriented classical arrangements when scoring the latest installment, which is slated to drop next Tuesday, February 25th. While it's hard to top the majesty of the first Lords of Shadow (abbreviated LOS from now on), on which Araujo worked with the 120-piece Bratislava Symphony Orchestra and a full choir, LOS2 boasts an even mightier, more traditionally cinematic score than either of its predecessors.
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the recording process, with Araujo on location at London's legendary Abbey Road Studios, considered by many to be one of the finest recording facilities in the world:
As the epic saga of Gabriel and Dracula continues – and presumably concludes – in LOS2, many of the motifs Araujo established in the first installment are carried over and built upon for the sequel (most memorably the tragic, piano-based “Dracula's Theme”), but you can tell immediately with the brooding, rumbling opening track “The Throne Room” and the percussive, synth-enhanced "Brotherhood Assault" that the sonic canvas has been widened even further to fit more unique textures. As in the original LOS, the arrangements are similar in scope to Howard Shore's Oscar-winning work on The Lord of the Rings; line up the chorus-filled passages from "The Paladin of God" and the plaintive violin solo of "Descent to the Castle Dungeons" against Shore's work in Peter Jackson's trilogy and you'll hear the same emotional resonance... not so uncommon for a film score, but pretty rare to carry off well in a game environment.
Boss battles obviously pack the heaviest punch; martial brass and percussion support the most violent action sequences in "The Siege Titan," stabbing, staccato strings bring evil chills in “Satan,” and industrial rhythms add extra menace to "Chaotic Battle." While the electronic elements are dialed down quite a bit here compared to Mirror of Fate, there are frequent low, synth pulses, buzzes and beats woven into the orchestral arrangements, from the pensive "Dying for a Drop of Blood" to dynamic high-energy cues like "The Toy Maker" and "Carmilla's Flight," and dissonant electronics are well-blended with human voices in the spooky "Gods Chosen." But it's the frequent meditative moments that give the album its greatest emotional weight, often featuring a lead piano theme to state the human element within the epic landscape; the cue "Carmilla's Spell," which closes the standard album, has a “requiem” feel that is remarkably moving.
As they did with the original Lords of Shadow, Sumthing Else is releasing a Director's Cut of the LOS2 soundtrack, featuring a dozen cues not found on the 19-track standard CD. Like the LOS Director's Cut (which included a whopping 42 cues for hardcore fans), it's available for digital download from the Sumthing Else web store, and they're taking preorders now.