Biohazard Symphony Op. 91 Crime and Punishment :: Review by Chris
Of all the albums in Resident Evil's discography, Biohazard Symphony Op. 91 Crime and Punishment is the most confusing. It is usually classified as an arranged or image album for the original Resident Evil even though it has little in common thematically and stylistically with the original score. In fact, it is an entirely new score created for the second release of Resident Evil: Director's Cut, known as Resident Evil: Dual Shock Version. Resident Evil had a less than stellar soundtrack but, rather than revamp the score as in the Biohazard Soundtrack Remix and the GameCube remake, developer Flagship chose to use their classically-trained associate composer Mamoru Samuragouchi to craft entirely new compositions named with Italian terms. The score features highbrow set pieces influenced by Baroque, romantic, and avant-garde movements in conjunction with a range of shorter atmospheric and action cues. How does the score fare, both in its own right and relative to its predecessor, as an in-game and stand-alone experience?
The soundtrack opens with the solo organ work "Misa to the End of Time". From an ominous chordal introduction influenced by Messiaen, it moves into a spine-chilling two-part invention reminiscent of J.S. Bach. Its use in the game is equivalent to the Resident Evil main theme, but the use of the organ adds an awe-inspiring quality. It is one of the most convincing and intricate faux-Baroque efforts in game music and provides an early testament of Samuragouchi's extensive classical training. "TEMPTEST" is a thematically memorable cue that greatly elaborates on the avant-garde influence hinted at by Makoto Tomozawa's compositions on the original Resident Evil. It's pure Americana with jagged jazz-tinged brass melodies, driving snare- and timpani-supported basso ostinato, and dazzling slow string interludes. Some moments are simply sublime. Among the other accomplished compositions on the score are "Quietamente", which uses claustrophobic string layering to terrifying effect, and "Flebile", which blends elegant waltz melodies with horror accompaniment.
Despite the handful of excellent cues on the soundtrack, there is a lot of less impressive material in the centre. Some pieces like the rhythmically driving "Mosso", piano-based "Soave", or the romantic "Con amabilita" show promise but are tragically short. Others create mood but are not enjoyable or sophisticated out of context whether the highly unstable "Misterioso" and "Con passione", the slow string-obsessed "Quietamente" and "Andante lamentoso", or the pathetically short build-ups "Prestissimo" and "Feroce". Others seem to rely entirely on creating superficially different soundscapes, such as "Quieto" and "Stentando" for prepared piano and bells or "Con anime" with its contrasts of a section dedicated to repetitive string cacophony and another featuring two piercing trumpet notes. On "Furioso" and "Allegro", the drum kit feels particularly out of place given it is a classical album. Evidently the majority of the compositions on the soundtrack were given little time. They're certainly collectively undesirable to listen to.
The intended magnum opus of Op. 91 is the 11 minute piano sonata at the end of the soundtrack. The first half of the soundtrack features abstract fast-paced piano work influenced by Hindemith. However, the decoration of the piece often seems intended to hide the superficial nature of many of Samuragouchi's ideas and often comes across as muddy or even nonsensical. However, there are some stunning chromatic chord progressions and a beautiful interlude nevertheless. The second half of the composition is a rendition of the "TEMPTEST" for solo piano that, while straightforward, has a great sense of vigour and direction. The "TEMPTEST" theme is reused once again at the end of the soundtrack in the two synthetic "Pesante" pieces. Though they are a little more aggression to represent the final boss, they tend to labour the original theme. To close the soundtrack, "TEMPEST" is directly reprised in conjunction with ambient sound effects culminating in a series of symbolic roars of thunder. The bonus disc merely features the sound effects from the revamped game and a Japanese voice collection. Not worth a single listen.
Biohazard Symphony Op. 91 Crime and Punishment features four full length compositions reminiscent of art music. It's very rare to see such highbrow music be composed for a game and these works are very impressive in and out of context. It's hard to believe that the composer responsible was nearly deaf at the time. Unfortunately, Samuragouchi's disproportionate focus on major cues during the limited composing time for the soundtrack completely starved the rest of the soundtrack of musical inspiration or elaboration. The remainder of the soundtrack is highly inconsistent and the majority of the remaining compositions are either underdeveloped, superficial, or pure rubbish. As a result, the soundtrack is less effective in context and less enjoyable out of context than Resident Evil's, as flawed as it was. The bonus disc does not do much to increase the ratio of enjoyable to available listening material. This soundtrack proves that a classically-oriented approach to game music can be effective, but only if a good level of attention is given to every composition. Only get this if you're looking for a few accomplished compositions and don't care about the poor centre.
Overall Score: 4/10