Hunted -The Demon’s Forge- Original Soundtrack
Hunted -The Demon’s Forge- Original Soundtrack
Kevin Riepl Music
February 15, 2012
Download at Official Site
A hybrid of fantasy and horror elements, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge was one of the most unique titles released in 2011. Yet despite being published by The Elder Scrolls’ Bethesda, it underperformed commercially and received mixed reviews. Experienced composer Kevin Riepl (Gears of War, Crackdown 2) produced a score for the title dominated by dark percussive hybrids. His efforts went ignored by the mainstream media — the musicologists of IGN simply stating they “couldn’t care less about the soundtrack” — and ultimately no official release for the soundtrack was announced. Nevertheless, Riepl eventually made a streamed version of the soundtrack available on his official site. It’s certainly something worth caring about…
The main theme “Hunted” sets the tone for the title with the opening soundscape, a unique concoction of forces dominated by deep brass notes. With these tones, Riepl emphasises right away that Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is more dark and primal than almost all other games out there. As the composition develops, Riepl incorporates rich passages from a soprano voice and cor anglais — both giving a more personal, tragic sound to the music — before the force of a male chorus captures the brutality of the scenario. When blended together, these elements create a realistic and unique soundscape that could not be more fitting for E’lara and Caddoc’s scenario. The melody introduced in this track makes memorable appearances throughout the soundtrack, including the revealing “Catacombs” and decisive “Queen of Darkness”. But for the most part, melody is only a secondary feature of Riepl’s score…
The detail in the illustrations played a major role in inspiring the creation of customized sounds and instruments to enhance the dark unrelenting environments and eerie atmosphere of the game. – Kevin Riepl
While there is plenty of dark ambient material on Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, Riepl approached the soundtrack in a very different way to Gears of War. In fact, he rejects Hollywood’s predictable electro-orchestral hybrids altogether in favour of unique blends centred on acoustic and world instruments. On “Approaching the Minotaur”, for instance, Riepl eliminates melodic elements in favour of focusing on timbres and rhythms; the earthy percussion rolls build up to create tremendous suspense, while the overblown horn notes sound intentionally ugly and bizarre. Riepl takes a similarly percussive direction on “Mountain Ruins” to equally impressive effect. Even the more understated “Market” is highly effective in context — the hazy timbres and rattling percussion capturing an abandoned, corrupted location. But as with “Smithy” and “In the Depths”, the motifs in this one are a little detached and don’t come together convincingly as a whole.
Ultimately, this soundtrack is quite a dynamic one though. There are no pleasantries in the theme for the first area, “Town Center” — instead a relentless blend of percussion rhythms and choral chants that throw gamers straight into action — while “Dyfed Inn” maintains the pace while verging into horror territory with stabbing bass motifs and eerie treble wails. Other additions tend to evolve with the gameplay. Over its four minute playtime, “Town of Dyfed” undergoes an impressive introduction from its sparse percussive introduction into its dense guitar-driven climax; the soundscape evolves to give a more detailed and multifaceted picture of Dyfed, while ensuring gamers are kept immersed in the experience. “Pit of Doom” is equally spectacular for the way it builds choral chants into the established tribal approach. It doesn’t stray much from the tradition of Khazad-Dum, though the dashes of electric guitar work bring a novel dimension nonetheless.
Despite the soundtrack’s overall rawness, there are more conventional pieces on Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. Tracks such as “Seraphine”, “Power of the Crystals”, and “Seraphine Moves On” shift away from the dark horror-influenced textures in favour of a more traditional fantasy sound; the melodically driven former is especially effective — beautiful, alluring, but ultimately ominous just like the character herself. Another incredible entry is “The Infected”, which evolves from its ominous introduction into a fast-paced epic action theme featuring epic orchestration and chorus, and even some electric guitar riffs. Riepl reserves his most terrifying concoctions of all to “Queen of Darkness”; piercing strings, muscular brass, haunting chorus, and thrashing guitars all come together to create a momentous texture. The theme is recapitulated on “The Demon’s Forge” in a traditional Conan-inspired arrangement for orchestra and chorus; while one of the less original additions, it entirely satisfies as a finale.
On Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, Riepl refreshingly deviated from fantasy and horror clichés in favour of a rawer, denser sound. He brings so much to the in-game experience with his blend of ambient and dynamic pieces, and he creates incredible timbres and rhythms throughout. That said, the soundtrack won’t appeal to all — after all, it tends to be dark, abstract, and unmelodic — hence partly why it was ignored by the mainstream media. But thanks to its streaming download, many will be able to appreciate it for its creativity. Through Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, it’s become clear that Riepl — along with Tim Wynn, Jason Graves, and Garry Schyman — is capable of offering particularly creative approaches to game scoring in the future. Let’s hope his future projects give him the mainstream recognition he deserves.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.