Darksiders Original Soundtrack Director's Cut :: Review by Harris Iqbal
Darksiders is one of this generation's sleeper hits, inspiring critical acclaim and enough sales to receive a sequel. Yet the game was described by many as a God of War clone and the same is true to an extent for its soundtrack. Vigil Games went for an epic orchestral sound for the soundtrack and hired two of veterans from the God of War series, Cris Velasco and Mike Reagan, to achieve this. THQ initially released the game's soundtrack as a digital download, though a Director's Cut release was made later by Sumthing Else Music Works, featuring an additional disc of tracks.
The game's soundtrack contains music by three composers, Cris Velasco, Mike Reagan, and Scott Morton. Each of them have scored with different aspects of the game in mind: Velasco's tracks are filled with suspense and tension; Mike Reagen scored the bombastic action tracks; and Scott Morton has written the slow and emotional tracks. The only collaborative track available in this soundtrack is the "Darksider's Theme", which is a combined effort of Mike Reagan and Cris Velasco. This amazing theme serves as an introduction to big traditional orchestral sound featured on this soundtrack. In classic cinematic style, it builds up suspense during the slow introduction and escalates with bombastic strings and bold percussion. But perhaps the crowning jewel of the track is the choral work, which inspires memories of some of the best additions to the God of War universe. Bold, melodic, and polished, it's one the best tracks in this soundtrack.
As sound director of Vigil Games, Scott Morton takes plenty of time to develop the soundtrack thematically. In addition to the main theme, he offers the portrayal of the protagonist, "War's Theme". It's a suitable mixture of both dark and light, starting off with a faster pace that relates to the character's competitive side, while reflecting his more heroic qualities during its vast development. Further tracks such as "Well of Souls" and "Eden" also radiate with emotion. However, Morton's writing tends not to be as rich as his co-composers here and he mostly relies on predictable writing for strings and brass. Tracks such as "Strange Moment" and "The Council" work well in context, the former slowly building emotion, the latter generating suspense. However, they are likely to be too derivative to appeal to more artistic-minded score listeners out there.
Cris Velasco has scored the games suspenseful side with tense tracks such as "Battle with Silitha" and "Undead on Arrival". His tracks make use of everything that a classical suspense theme would need: slow percussions, screeching string work, and ominous brass melodies. Together, these forces make the world of Darksiders not only seem corrupted, but diabolical as well. Like most of the soundtrack, such tracks aren't particularly original, but are still very well done and work a treat even out of context. "Empowered" is one of his outstanding tracks as it sounds exciting, suspenseful, and memorable at the same time due to the ambiguous melodies presented on different instruments. However, the highlight of this track are the use of evocative vocals once more.
Lastly, Mike Reagen's themes are the fastest paced and bombastic. For example, he uses bold melodies and heavy percussion to score action tracks like "Battle with Greaver". Given the grand scale of his scoring, the action tracks are sure to remind his fans of his God of War work, which were also of similar style and quality. Another aspect of his scoring that might remind of God of War are the brief middle-eastern melodies heard in boss tracks such as "Battle with the Stygian". Reagan's tracks were largely left out of the digital release for the game and deservedly receive much more playtime on the Director's Cut soundtrack. The soundtrack is rounded off by the thematic centrepiece "End Credits", which assimilates all the moods and styles of the soundtrack together into a satisfying finale.
Truth be told, the Darksiders soundtrack is very derivative. But rather than rely on the typical electro-orchestral hybrids of today's blockbuster scores, it references the more traditional orchestral sounds of projects such as Conan the Barbarian and God of War. Such approaches will inspire much excitement in many score listeners, though others will be disappointed that Darksiders didn't establish a unique sound of its own. Regardless, this soundtrack screams hard-work. Through a combination of inspired composition and cutting-edge implementation, the ensemble team at the very least ensured the soundtrack could stand alongside those epics it imitates, even if doesn't quite exceed them. This soundtrack comes highly recommended to a certain type of score listener, especially the Sumthing Else release.
Overall Score: 7/10