Biohazard The Darkside Chronicles Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is the second rail shooter game for the Resident Evil series and features both original scenarios and reinterpretations of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Despite being a mere spinoff, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles actually features the highest musical production values of any Resident Evil game. Rather than outsource to Hollywood again, the sound directors decided to stick to Japan for this production, and hired masterful orchestrator Yoshihisa Hirano (Final Fantasy XIII, Death Note) to create a series of dark, artistic, and action-packed arrangements for full orchestra. Nevertheless, Resident Evil 2's Shusaku Uchiyama and Resident Evil: Code Veronica's Takeshi Miura also returned to offer both arrangements of their own music and a number of original compositions too. This two disc soundtrack features all the fruits of their labours...
The composers set the appropriate ambient tone for the soundtrack with a number of introductory tracks. The main theme for the game is introduced in "Sleeping Beauty". The melody immediately captures listeners with its elegant yet haunting shape. While the vocalist is clearly well-trained, she doesn't seem entirely suited to the theme, due to both her heavy American accent and somewhat youthful tone. Thankfully, this isn't a major problem in the full version here, since the piano and strings provide a gorgeous accompaniment. In addition, many will still enjoy her distinctive performance here and her other renditions of the theme elsewhere in the soundtrack. The rendition in "Memories", in particular, perhaps has more in common with the music of Silent Hill than Resident Evil. It's spectacularly produced nonetheless. Moving to more typical Resident Evil tracks, "Overture" is a particularly eerie ambient cue. It blends influences from Resident Evil 4's cinematic compositions with extended ululations from the shakuhachi. "Hydra" meanwhile plunges listeners straight into the action with a thick and dissonant composition written for full orchestra.
A large proportion of the first disc is dedicated to arrangements from the score for Resident Evil 2. The main focus of this section seems to be creating a sense of fate with the obsessive repetitions of Masami Ueda's glorious main theme for the game. The exposition of the theme is surprisingly shrouded in "Raccoon City", with fragments of the melody sporadically appearing against claustrophobic RE4-style ambience. Even the once-glorious "The Front Hall" has been transformed into a surprisingly minimalistic piano-based work to frustration on the soundtrack, yet glorious effect within the on-the-rails game. Yoshihisa Hirano teases with hints of the theme in the pulsating "'T'-A" and militaristic "'T'-B" to considerable impression. The latter is especially exemplative of the style of action themes for the score, also featured in tracks such as "Escape from the Laboratory" and "Licker"; it's deceptively straightforward featuring a commanding interpretation of the militaristic melody against urgent beats yet it is coloured with all sorts of orchestral flourishes and surprising intricacies.
Yoshihisa Hirano reserves the orchestral tutti for the battles with the title's ultimate foe. Originally the final boss theme in Resident Evil 2, "The Third Malformation of 'G'" sounds more bombastic than ever. Like the original, it combines an operatic vocal interpretation of the game's main theme with stabbing militaristic instrumentals. However, thanks to the greatly improved production values, a true soprano now performs the theme in conjunction with numerous brass and percussion players. Yoshihisa Hirano's orchestration enhances the Herrmann-esque sound of the original and also introduces numerous experimental features, such as dissonant piano clusters, eerie trombone glissandi, and a web of countermelodies. The sound is distinctly odd and unsettling, even compared with the original, but the effect is so fitting and impacting nevertheless. The fourth all-new malformation is accompanied by an especially bizarre orchestral and choral performance, even featuring elements of electronic manipulation. "The Fifth Malformation..." subsequently seems fitting for a brief yet definitive definitive and admirably offers further thematic variety to the soundtrack by integrating portions of "Annette's Recollection" too.
The arrangements from Resident Evil: Code Veronica are often similar to those from Resident Evil 2, yet quite often even more impressive. For example, the crucial encounters with Tyrant are accompanied by suitably brutal and commanding action arrangements, though are nevertheless still carried by their amazing original melodies; "A State of Emergency", in particular, is actually one of the few themes on the score to incorporate electronic beats, but doesn't use them as a substitute for laziness. The once-zany "The Theme of Nosterafu" is actually surprisingly well-suited for Hirano's abstract orchestration style this time and is now a fluidly integrated, yet still memorable, component of the score. But perhaps best of all, the two Alexia themes maintain the operatic focus and violent orchestration of "The Third Malformation of 'G'", but take things a step further with their more expansive melodies and charismatic interludes. In fact, the development sections of these themes are reminiscent of arias from the great romantic opera composers, yet with a deliciously dark twist. What could be a better way to represent Code Veronica's divine yet utterly malevolent antagonist? These are the finest operatic themes to grace a video game score.
The Code Veronica section nevertheless features a greater focus on ambient arrangements than the Resident Evil 2. Takeshi Miura directly reworks many of the original game's most remarkable compositions to fit the rail shooter genre and streaming quality. "Death Siege" and "Blanc" are particularly successful arrangements; they adopt the same fluid structure as the original, yet are all the more sublime thanks to enhanced synthesis and new layers of scoring. More controversially, "The Palace of Insane" and the "The Suspended Doll" deviate considerably from their originals during their development sections and take classically-oriented directions. The former is transformed into a hauntingly beautiful ballroom dance for piano and strings. "The Suspended Doll" has an even stronger neo-Baroque influence than before, culminating in an awe-inspiring section for piano, chorus, and organ at 1:15, though the abrupt loop is a little troublesome. Nevertheless, the decision to bring back the original composers of both games was clearly a successful one, as it ensures both a fine selection of music and fitting yet interesting arrangements.
Shusaku Uchiyama and Takeshi Miura also offer a number of original compositions for the original scenarios on the game. Perhaps most strikingly, "Sorrow" maintains the vocal focus of earlier entries in the soundtrack with a choral performance Tokyo Konsel Gassyoudan. This brisk march-like composition perfectly captures a sense of being faced and trapped by an ultimate league of zombies: instantly impacting, ever-expanding, and never-relenting. "Water Devil" introduces an ethnic component to the soundtrack with its racing percussion, before shockingly descending into near-random cacophony, with repeating brass discords and a fluster of pizzicato strings. "Game of Oblivion" is another defining modernist composition that continues the very experimental modernist-styled composition and full-blown orchestral performances. Following a succession of wandering ambient themes, the soundtrack ends on a strong note with "Darkness Falls", a fascinating ambient-rock composition written as a tribute to the Umbrella Chronicles' Masafumi Takada. There are also beautiful orchestral and a capella reprises of "Sleeping Beauty".
Clearly, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles has taken the music for the Resident Evil series to the next level. While the series' music has been interpreted with orchestral performances before, never have they been so artistic and original. What's more, it's clear that the sound team both understand the original music and the various types of arrangements needed to also fit the rail shooter game. It's wonderful to see almost all the best themes from Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica interpreted with fresh new arrangements. Furthermore, the original compositions are also often delightful and, despite the vocalist, "Sleeping Beauty" proves a surprisingly versatile and beautiful headline theme to tie the score together. The Biohazard The Darkside Chronicles Original Soundtrack is highly recommended for fans of Resident Evil music. But be warned: Be prepared for many, many experimental orchestral arrangements.
Overall Score: 9/10