This week saw the arrival of DmC Devil May Cry – Capcom & Ninja Theory's alternate-timeline reboot of the long-running fantasy combat game series (check out our review here), but it also marks the release of a massive soundtrack album by Dutch electro-house music trio Noisia, who composed the original score. Since their inception over a decade ago, Noisia has whipped up a furious blend of drum 'n' bass, breakbeat and house music, including countless remixes and collaborations, but didn't actually release a full album of original material until 2010 with Split the Atom. Their first venture into video game music arrived the following year, with contributions to Motorstorm Apocalypse. The team explores a more literal kind of apocalypse in the hellish landscape of DmC, for which they provided a wall-to-wall score totaling over three hours of music. The Bonus Version of the soundtrack is edited down from that, but still weighs in at a hefty 36 tracks, which range from traditional action and dark ambient horror themes to a blizzard of dropped bass, slamming beats, glitch and industrial noise.
When in more conventional score mode, Noisia step outside of their heavy-beat foundation to weave layers of surreal textures, and the expected orchestral samples are manipulated in unconventional ways, pushing them beyond the dynamics of most epic-scale game music. Instead of conforming to a familiar cinematic style, the group translate the cyclical, pulsing patterns of their dance music into something larger, more threatening and distinctly alien, with some seriously nightmarish noise-shaping at work in cues like “The Flood,” “Bad Vibes,” “Crystal Core” and “Secret World.” A prime example of multiple styles coming together is the ass-kicking opening cut “Crush Him,” which combines the best of modern score arrangements and avant-garde electronic sound design to create a stunning opening curtain.
While the atmospheric elements are often unique and conistently ominous, Noisia still allow their EDM background to bust through in a major way, with nearly half of the cues on this album weaving elements of glitch, dubstep and other electro-house subgenres into the larger score tapestry. Even taking into account the popularity of those styles, it's actually these tracks where the score really finds its voice. The strongest entries in this area include the pounding “Hunter Theme” and “Poison Theme,” the intense “Mean Dick” and the sensually powerful “Lilith's Club,” the latter ranking among the coolest electronic score cues I've heard in a game. Listen up and you'll get what I mean.
The Bonus Edition also contains a handful of “diegetic” cues, a term which means any music that originates from items, locations and actions within the game itself, such as demonic carnival rides, arcade games (a cool 8-bit flashback) and advertisements encountered during play. While these are mainly included for the sake of completeness, they're another cool example of how deeply Noisia immersed themselves in every aspect of the game.
Capcom has invested plenty of resources revamping the Devil May Cry series, and this approach definitely extends to the music and sound design. Since Noisia's background is not fundamentally based in scoring, they provide a unique perspective on what might otherwise have been a basic dark ambient and/or orchestral accompaniment. The result has a very different emotional impact, with the specific kind of rush that solid EDM music can bring.