Demon’s Souls Soundtrack CD
Demon’s Souls Soundtrack CD
October 6, 2009
Buy Used Copy
Demon’s Souls was originally released in Japan in early 2009, but only recently has it arrived in the United States. Bundled with the pre-order bonus artbook for the game was the entire soundtrack, consisting of 20 tracks composed by classically-trained freelancer Shunsuke Kida. Most of the themes accompany the various boss battles and events. This is since much of the exploration in the game is very minimal, featuring realistic sound effects by Yuji Takenouchi for atmospheric purposes. How well does the music fit the realm of the game’s world image?
The soundtrack opens with “Demon’s Souls,” which was featured in the debut trailer for the game. It is definitely one of the best themes on the soundtrack, perfectly capturing the bleak desolation and tone of the game through the use of haunting choir, organ, percussion, and strings. It really lends itself well to transporting the listener into the world of Demon’s Souls. “Tales of Old” is another theme that focuses on the bleak atmosphere set in the game. The string work is quite haunting and the addition of the harp manages to add a bit of magic to the composition. Although not elaborate, it is a very beautiful theme nonetheless. “Return to Slumber” combines haunting vocal work and beautiful strings and piano work to create a very fitting ending theme. It’s a departure from the more sinister and bleak themes on the album, signaling the future.
However, not all of the cinematic music is as successful. “The Beginning” features a sinister melody, successfully capturing the tone of the story, but at the same time, it suffers in the fact that it fails to draw the listener in with its minimal focus on melody and reliance on staccato string work. The melodic section, although brief, is quite captivating though. “Maiden in Black,” the theme for one of the more important NPCs in the game, is a very atmospheric piece that focuses on strings and harp work, but the lack of a strong melody and the reliance on fragmentation, although creating a very desolate theme (fitting for someone with no eyes), doesn’t really captivate as much. “The Nexus” is the only area with actual music and it serves as the hub in the game. Unfortunately, the sole instrument, the organ, while creating a fitting atmosphere, tends to get stale after awhile due to the lack of variation.
The rest of the music can be attributed to various bosses throughout the game. The first area, Boletarian Palace, features the most boss themes. “Phalanx” focuses on strings and brass to create a semi-action theme. It has a very sinister and haunting atmosphere, but the most striking thing about it is the melody in the B section. The strings and percussion manage to create a very beautiful theme that contrasts with the more frenetic approach in the A section. “Tower Knight,” on the other hand, is more action intensive, although still quite atmospheric. The combination of the choir and strings, with percussion and brass accompaniment create a very effective battle theme for a towering armor-clad giant. It’s one of my favorite themes on the soundtrack. “Penetrator” is a menacing theme that focuses on strings to help create the atmosphere and suspense heard in the piece. The brass cues give some contrast to the theme. However, the theme truly shines when the B section melody kicks in. Despite its brevity, this section of the theme manages to convey a more emotional side to the music. “Old King Allant” is a sinister theme that utilizes the organ rather effectively to create a melody that exudes both danger and atmosphere. The accompaniment of strings is quite beautiful as well. This is one of the top-notch themes on the soundtrack.
The second area, Stonefang Tunnel, opens with the boss theme, “Armored Spider”. The track is quite atmospheric, despite the fact you are dealing with a rather angry spider that has the capability of shooting fire at you. The pizzicato strings and bell tolls are the focus of this theme and help to exude the desolate atmosphere of the game, but I don’t find it a particularly fitting theme for the boss. The same problem happens with “Flamelurker”. Although the focus of this theme is definitely more melodic, the boss it accompanies is quite menacing and energetic. Sure, the theme manages to give this feeling of complete hopelessness, but it’s another one of those themes that doesn’t quite fit in with the role of the boss. Fortunately, “Dragon God” is the redeeming factor for the Stonefang Tunnel area. It’s a very intense theme, thanks to the successful implementation of some more exotic sounding percussion. The brass and strings also help to create a nice melody and atmosphere, respectively. It’s another one of the more interesting themes on the soundtrack.
The third area, Tower of Latria, opens with “Fool’s Idol”. The minimalistic piano, accompanied by suspended strings, helps give it a bit of contrast to the strings and brass heavy elements heard in a variety of other themes. It’s a very creepy theme to accompany a boss with the ability to form illusions of itself; however, I think it’d serve better as an area theme to the first section of this area. Traversing a prison to this theme would truly be scarier were this tune used. “Man Eater” creates a menacing and suspenseful atmosphere through the use of chaotic string passages and minimalistic percussion, but again, I don’t find this ambient theme particularly effective when you are going up against what are essentially two vicious chimeras. “Old Monk,” despite continuing the ambient approach of its predecessors, is a bit more effective at setting itself apart from them. The use of woodwind and harpsichord manages to accentuate this feeling of despair, but doesn’t really get the blood pumping, considering this boss may actually be another human player currently playing the game.
The fourth area, Shrine of Storms, opens with “Adjudicator”. The boss itself looks like a deranged version of Quina, from Final Fantasy IX, and trust me, is a pain in the butt! The haunting choir, harpsichord, and percussion are great ways to accentuate the atmosphere, but the ambient approach is hardly fitting for this boss. I do find the melodic strings work to be rather beautiful though. “Old Hero” is a rather short theme that creates a suspenseful atmosphere through the use of strings and brass. Unlike a variety of other ambient themes, I find this one to be a bit more effective. Considering the boss relies purely on sound, due to it being blind, it manages to keep the player on edge through the use of its atmosphere. “Storm King” features a very beautiful melody, attributed to the woodwinds and strings, and maintains the particularly suspenseful atmosphere heard in most of the battle themes, but unfortunately, doesn’t manage to capture the essence of battle.
The fifth area, Valley of Defilement, opens with “Leechmonger”. This theme is very atmospheric. Sadly, I don’t find it particularly entertaining. The staccato brass and strings work is used to exude this menacing sound, but the ambient approach here is one of the worst offenders on the soundtrack. Meanwhile “Dirty Colossus” sounds like a bad Sugiyama theme. The strings work gets rather old quickly, relying on staccato notes to create a sense of menace, but doesn’t really vary at all. The percussion and brass are the saving grace of the theme and manages to give it a nice contrast to the rather bland string usage. “Maiden Astraea” is a theme that gives off a bit of a horror movie vibe. The strings work alternates between melodic and staccato, with the melodic sections managing to create a strong melody, but even the staccato string work that accompanies it meshes quite well and enforces the atmosphere.
Lastly, the two presumed final battle themes, “The Old One” and “One Who Craves Souls,” finish off the soundtrack. “The Old One” is another effective theme and emulates the bleak and desolate nature of “Demon’s Souls,” particularly due to the effectiveness of the haunting choir work. The percussion and brass that accompanies the theme is particularly striking and heightens the overall experience. “One Who Craves Souls” is another standout theme. The piano and strings focus gives it a very classically oriented nature. It’s one of the most beautiful themes on the soundtrack, capturing both the menace of the battle, and a sense of heroism without opting for more traditional instruments, such as brass, to create this effect.
In the end, the Demon’s Souls Soundtrack CD is one that is going to be very hit or miss with people. Overall, Shunsuke Kida captures the bleakness and desolation of the world, not to mention the myriads of deaths that will probably befall you while playing; however, some of the cinematic and battle themes aren’t particularly effective. I think his compositions would be more suited for area accompaniment rather than boss themes. On a standalone basis there are a handful of themes that are worth listening to, but in the end, I wouldn’t necessarily seek this one out if you didn’t pre-order the game originally. Fans of ambient music might find this one worth their time, though.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.