BloodMasque Original Soundtrack
BloodMasque Original Soundtrack
December 4, 2013
Download at iTunes
BloodMasque was a smartphone action RPG featuring vampire hunters in a nineteenth century Paris. The game received a lot more international press than Square Enix’s other smartphone games, but was taken down from app stores a mere year or two after its release. The score for the title was written by one of the most underused talents in Square Enix’s team, Hidenori Iwasaki, best known for his work on the Front Mission and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles franchises. The soundtrack was released digitally for 12 USD at the same time as the game.
Hidenori Iwasaki sets the gothic tone of the soundtrack right from the start of the soundtrack. “A World Where the Shadows Reign” is a moody scene-setter featuring gothic staples such as pipe organ, ethereal strings, and children’s chorus. By contrast, “Thirst for Blood” and “BloodMasque” are epic orchestral and choral anthems that wouldn’t sound out-of-place in Bayonetta 2. All three themes are convincingly done, boasting convincing styling, rich development, and memorable melodies. The arrangements are a little too thin and stereotyped for the tracks to rival the best of the genre (e.g. Castlevania, Bayonetta), but they’re still very enjoyable. The production values aren’t quite on par with big-budget games, but they come close and are highly impressive for a smartphone game.
Plenty of other pieces in the soundtrack bring personality and variety to the scenario and soundtrack. “Paris in Crimson” is a great fit for strolling the streets of Paris. Written in the style of a valse-musette, the composition blends catchy accordion melodies with gallant orchestration in a triple metre. Iwasaki explores these elements further in “Those Who Serve” , an infectious folk compositions capturing Iwasaki’s flair from The Crystal Bearers. “Reigns of Blood” hybridises the influences from the soundtrack together. Much of the piece sounds like a gallant Parisian orchestration, but there are also strong gothic influences, particularly in the choral elements. Again, the use of a triple metre is particularly effective here. Other tracks bring emotional depth, such as the morose string-based “Twin Angels”, gentle piano arrangement “Father and Daughter”, or shimmering orchestration “This is My Family”.
Iwasaki keeps the compositional and production quality high throughout the score, partly with the help of arrangers Yoshitaka Suzuki and John Graham. Whether the haunting detuned piano passage of “Streetlights and Shadows”, the melancholic cello lines of “Chronicles of the Hunt”, or the enormous brass in “Tyranny’s Last Throes”, Iwasaki shows strong command of the orchestra and samples his instruments convincingly. Further examples of this include “Pure of Blood” and “Her Majesty’s Demense”, variations on the same theme convincingly written for different solo keyboard instruments, namely pipe organ and harpsichord. While he wasn’t afforded a instrument recording budget, he implements the tracks in such a way that this is rarely a serious issue. Even the most modest compositions here, such as “Reinforcements”, “Requiem”, and “The Hunt is On”, prove surprisingly intricate and reflect Iwasaki’s admirable perfectionism.
As with Iwasaki’s contributions to Front Mission, other tracks show a strong influence from Hollywood. “Night Falls”, “Sacrifice”, “We Are the Hunters”, and “The Blood Harvest” are darker soundscapes used during the game’s cinematic cues. They’re not terrible interesting on a stand-alone level, but have enough substance to still be decent stand-alone listens. More interesting are the hybrids “The Planetarium” and “Metamorphosis”. The former presents an interesting twist on the moody ambient piece with its Bach-influenced chorale use. The latter blends high-octane action scoring, anthemic RPG-style melodies, and gothic staples into a final product bound to tantalise most listeners. The gothic element comes back to the forefront on some of the most climactic pieces on the score, “Transcendent Power”, “Lords of the Night”, and “Unbridled Lust”, each as powerfully scored and intricately produced as the next. After an impressive culmination, the soundtrack closes with a beautifully-assembled credits medley.
All in all, it’s clear that Iwasaki wanted to take smartphone scores to a new level of excellence with BloodMasque. Despite lacking the budget to fully compete with AAA soundtracks, it easily outshines even most console soundtracks in both composition and implementation. The soundtrack consistently impresses for its memorable themes, stylistic depth and range, and intricate portrayal of the game’s scenario. Overall, a recommended listen. Having proved himself with all his assignments, from Front Mission to Crystal Chronicles to BloodMasque, it’s time that Iwasaki was finally given the big-budget solo project he deserves.
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Posted on April 19, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on April 19, 2016.