The Binding Of Isaac -Rebirth- Original Soundtrack

Binding of isaac rebirth Album Title:
The Binding Of Isaac -Rebirth- Original Soundtrack
Record Label:
Bandcamp
Catalog No.:
N/A
Release Date:
November 4, 2014
Purchase:
Download at Bandcamp

Overview

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a remake of the original The Binding of Isaac, which has been improved in almost every way.  The move from coding the game in flash to making it in C++ allows the game to run a lot smoother and in a much more polished overall package, and almost double the amount of content from the original game makes this a must buy for fans of the original game and a highly recommended purchase for newcomers.

The music for Rebirth is completely different from the original game, with composer duo Matthias Bossi and Jon Evans a.k.a ‘Ridiculon’ taking over from Danny Baranowsky.  The duo’s penchant for the strange and surreal (as can be heard in their other work in bands such as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) is brought forward in this soundtrack, with the potential for some very creepy music that would suit the gameplay very well. At points in the soundtrack it does exactly that, though unfortunately not all the time.

Body

The soundtrack opens with “Genesis 22:10”, the title screen music.  It’s a combination of guitar, strings, low bass synths and voices.  It certainly has some interesting ideas but doesn’t give much of an indication as to what’s coming and isn’t the most captivating introduction, the original game’s intro music is so much better.  The next track, “Diptera Sonata” kicks things off properly with its heavy drum beat and electronic sounds.  The best part of this track is when the echoing electric guitar like sound comes in towards the end of each repeating cycle.  Halfway through the track, the real electric guitar comes in, which happens in game when you enter a room with a lot of enemies.  This is where the track gets particularly good with the interesting patterns and sounds that will be familiar to fans of Matthias Bossi’s previous work.  Again, the best part of the electric guitar’s entrance is towards the end of the repeating cycle, where the playing becomes incredibly fast and solo like.  One of the strong points of this soundtrack is that the tracks end properly as oppose to just stopping or fading out (in game they repeat ad nauseum).  Overall, “Diptera Sonata” is a strong track that grabs the attention very effectively.

This is followed by “Crusade”, the basic boss fight theme.  This track combines rock instruments with choral sounds and electronic sounds.  The problem is the actual music itself remains fairly static; I wanted it to do more and progress, but as it is it’s just functional, nothing special.  Unfortunately this is a problem with a lot of this soundtrack.  “Sodden Hollow” has some interesting guitar sounds and random electronic noises with water sound effects, but without anything musically engaging to make it work.  It’s just a simple musical structure with no cohesive feeling or melody.  The same can be said for “The Forgotten”.  Compared to the original game’s secret room theme, which created a dark atmosphere and had a memorable melodic line, this track feels like it’s trying to replicate that feeling but with a much less engaging piano line.

It is particularly noticeable in similarly slower tracks that break from the norm, there’s no emotion.  The original game’s soundtrack made me feel fear, sadness among other things, whereas this soundtrack is more focused on trying to be  unusual, strange and surreal, and it doesn’t work as well for me.  “Acceptance” for example is a well made piano focused track, but it doesn’t grab me as much as it perhaps could’ve for the reasons above.  The same can be said for “Tome of Knowledge”, the original game’s “Tomes” is so much more memorable and engaging because, while both tracks are accomplished compositions, the original “Tomes” is consistent with the rest of the game’s soundtrack and contributes to the overall tone.

“Abyss” is an improvement. Although there is no melodic line to speak of, that doesn’t matter so much here as the atmosphere created is effective, with it’s bass heavy focus, bell like sounds over the top, and voices in the background creating much more of an atmosphere than before.  This is carried on in a very different way with “Matricide”.  The original Mom Fight theme kept consistent with the atmosphere of the rest of the soundtrack, whereas this one goes for a fast paced adrenaline rush.  Both work well in their own way.  “The Calm” follows, which more successfully recreates the dark atmosphere of the original game with it’s slow piano focus, interesting harmonies and definite melodic line.  The next few tracks keep a more consistent vibe.  “Viscera” is next, and moves into more ambient territory with a drum beat in the second half of the track.  This is carried over slightly into the rest of the stage themes.

The boss themes such as “Ventricide” and “Hericide” have a heavy beat.  “Hericide” goes into full rock band mode, which is effective for the Satan fight.  The tracks that come in to play from the angel elements of the game, “Everlasting Hymn” and “Empty Vessels” are what you’d expect, heavy choral elements and reverb.  They do a good job of conveying that religious sensibility and manages to bring out some emotion, making them stronger tracks in the overall package.

The tracks that follow are the themes for each alternative version of the game’s level.  “Periculum” is a very strong track with a heavy rock beat and memorable riffs, and the guitar that comes in halfway through adds to that.  I get the feeling that other tracks which have more melodic lines, such as “When Blood Dries”, could have been more effective than they end up being.  “When Blood Dries” is too repetitive and the string line is not explored further outside of a few interesting harmony changes.  Thankfully “Sketches of Pain” injects more drama and intensity into the soundtrack.  The following in game tracks provide a mix of ambience and fast beats, they manage to be somewhat interesting.

The bonus tracks are an interesting addition.  “Hush (Jesus Loves Uke)” is a creepy ukulele and voice song that mimics one of the original’s credits tracks in a very effects heavy track.  “Descensum” is a rock band track that will be interesting to anyone who has heard Sleepytime Gorilla Museum before as it is similar to their style of music, and is also a nice introduction to their style of strange, unpredictable rock music.  Then we have “He’s the number one”, a song about Isaac and God.  The happy, pop ballad nature of the song is pretty ironic considering the rest of the album but is a welcome change and a nice addition. 

Summary

The one thing that I prefer about the original The Binding of Isaac game is the music.  That’s not to say that this soundtrack is bad; it’s just I preferred the dark atmospheres that Danny Baranowsky generated over the inconsistent, weird constructions found in Rebirth.  The atmosphere of the original is more consistent and more suitable to the tone of the game.  I like the fact that Edmund Mcmillan and Nicalis took a risk in choosing new composers who could bring something interesting to the series, but this soundtrack, while containing strong standout tracks, is simply functional.  It gets the job done, there are some strong tracks and ideas, but the original game’s soundtrack is, in my honest opinion, much better.  Combine Rebirth’s gameplay with Danny Baranowsky’s music and you would have the perfect The Binding of Isaac game.

The Binding Of Isaac -Rebirth- Original Soundtrack Joe Hammond

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!

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Posted on April 10, 2015 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on January 19, 2016.

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About the Author

When I first heard the music of Nobuo Uematsu in the Final Fantasy series at about 17 years old, my love of video game music was born. Since then, I've been revisiting some of my old games, bringing back their musical memories, and checking out whatever I can find in the game music scene. Before all of this I've always been a keen gamer from an early age. I'm currently doing a PGCE (teacher training) in primary school teaching (same age as elementary school) with music specialism at Exeter University. I did my undergraduate degree in music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. My main focus at the moment is my teaching and education work, though who knows what will happen in the future. I like a variety of music, from classical/orchestral to jazz to rock and metal and even a bit of pop. Also when you work with young children you do develop a somewhat different appreciation for the music they like.



One Response to The Binding Of Isaac -Rebirth- Original Soundtrack

  1. Nice balanced review. Thanks so much Joe!

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