Shovel Knight -Plague of Shadows- Original Soundtrack
Shovel Knight -Plague of Shadows- Original Soundtrack
Big Lion Music
September 18th, 2015
Download at Bandcamp
Jake Kaufman, we meet again. What a magical day and age we live in. Not only can a game like Shovel Knight receive a industry-grade amount of Free DLC with an entirely new campaign focusing on the knight-of-science Plague Knight, but have a new collection of original songs to boot. These ten new songs are 8-bit as brilliant as anything Mr. Kaufman has brought to the table with the original game’s OST. However, this album is fourteen tracks long, with it’s last four tracks being remixes. Previously, Kaufman had complied a collection of remix tracks together into one full album (Which I’ll get to some day), “Strike the Earth!”. Sadly, it’s these songs that present my most decisive opinion over Plague of Shadows (Sorry Jake!).
“Prime your Potions” immediately opens with a dramatic, curtain-raising flare that blares the familiar theme of the Plague Knight. An organ-like selection of chiptunes wails around in the background, adding to the foreboding atmosphere. This being the opening credits song it sets the stage well for what most of Plague of Shadows music is going to be. Whereas Shovel Knight had a very triumphant, empowering collection of themes to accompany you on your journey for shovelry, this is not the focus for Plague of Shadows. It’s less bombastic, more sinister and low-key. Like a creeping wave of dread that causes you to question the character your playing and his motives(Spoiler alert, this review is spoiler free!). Yes: the original level themes from the base game are all still here. Whatever is specific to Plague Knight has just been made deliciously so. “The Alchemist’s Haven” is a testament to this new musical direction. The original town themes were welcoming, warm and provided a happy little spot for Shovel Knight to interact with others. This is not the case with Plague Knight’s town. Like a Danny Elfman score via a Famicom, you’ve entered the science-knights realm. Yet, the song still manages to be somewhat inviting. Maybe it’s how it progresses into a more classically orchestral breakdown of chiptunes, sounding like the end of a dramatic Waltz. You may be walking through the underground lair of a madman, but it’s his lair.
How can you talk about Shovel Knight without mentioning the battle themes? “Battling the Burrower” is a frantic paced boss theme that would have fit right in for Shovel Knight’s campaign. It’s heartwarming that Jake could find the place to add another one of his memorable boss battle themes; they are one of my favourite elements from shovel knight. I especially love how this one incorporates, as do all of the boss themes, the titular knight’s main theme into the fight. “Disturbing the Peace” is another classic Kaufman battle tune. It’s more of a full on remix of Plague Knight’s level theme, incorporating nearly all elements of the song in new, interesting ways. It’s bouncier, sounding more like an escape rather then a journey to get to the end of the level. “Art Through Adversity” is the new song for the special room for the backers from the game. I won’t spoil what happens in the room; but I personally think this song is more fitting then the original one from Shovel Knight. While the situation is completely different, there’s more fun to be had here, which was missing in the original tune. It’s as if you’re having a blast blasting through all of the [retracted] terrorizing the art museum. The Final Boss theme, “The Battle Within”, is a song layered with dread and fear. There’s a droning bass-line that keeps the fast paced music from sounding too energetic. Something is wrong and the final boss is more then JUST a boss. Overall, there’s only a few new battle tracks, but they’re all just as great as the previous OST’s and fit right in with the Shovel Knight universe.
“Tango of the Troupple King” is, oddly enough, more of a dance song then the good kings original dance in the previous campaign. Unlike the frantic track that came before it, it brings to mind a fashionably dressed latino-lover with a rose petal in his mouth. It keeps the familiar style of tango intact, making good use of pauses and holding out on a note to get that: Hyaa, ta-ta. Hyaa, ta-ta, kind of sound. Another track perfect for the ballroom is “Waltz for One”, an elegant little ditty that plays in one of the most oddly magical moments in the game. Without spoiling (I promised!), it accompanies a single simple moment of character. It’s the kind of song where you want to just grab your partner and take her onto the dance floor hand-in-hand, swaying to the music. Chiptunes have never been more romantic. The same can be said for the final track of the album, “The Final Note”. Like a conductor readying his orchestra, it starts with a swell of Plague Knights theme, before going right into a tender, loving waltz. Whereas “Waltz for One” was romantic, “The Final Note” is cathartic. Like telling your love how you really feel, and receiving nothing more but her own love in return. Without sounding too weird: this is the albums “Bella Notte”. Nothing crazy, nothing overpowering, nothing in your face. Just a quiet, tender embrace of an ending.
I don’t think all the extra tracks worked this time around. It pains me to say this, because “Strike the Earth” was an expertly remixed and put together collection of songs from the Shovel Knight soundtrack. My expectations for the extra tracks were through the roof, and it’s disappointing to have them fail to reach the same caliber. They aren’t BAD per-say, “ALCHEMY” manages to take the top spot for best of the four, but it’s disappointing to hear how boring they are. Jeff Ball and Jake Kaufman’s “Le Bouquet Magicique” starts promising; it’s still a gorgeous rendition of “Waltz for One”. However, that’s really all it is. There’s no cohesion for how the song plays out, violin here, piano here, etc. etc. It never gets particularly louder, nor noticeably softer. It’s a remix that, while easy to listen to, never really does anything with it’s arrangement. Kaufman’s “Plague of Shadows Release Trailer” suffers from the “way too short to make an impact” syndrome, although, it’s still a much better arrangement then the previous track. Jake is in his own element when he’s working with speedier tunes, but the time constraints of working to compose for a trailer hold him back. You just want it to be longer.
Arcubalis’ “Village of the Damned” is arguably the biggest misstep of the album. It’s hard to describe just how boring this track is. It’s a remix of “The Alchemist’s Haven”, yet any semblance of the original song is hard to find. It’s very, VERY quiet and slow, rarely picking up in pace or adding anything new to the arrangement. You’re looking at stretches that go up to 30 seconds with dry, dry synth sounds. Mint Potion’s “ALCHEMY” is a very liberal remix of Plague Knight’s theme. It’s a vocal song, featuring Dale North on vocals and Jeff Ball on strings. There’s a 70s disco-like feel to this song, almost at times sounding like a modern-day James Bond number. Unlike the previous remixes, it doesn’t just find something new, it finds new ways to take it in different directions. It works wonders here, with the eventual addition of female vocals backing Dale being a nice touch. However, it does seem to end a little too early, fading out immediately after one of the chorus lines.
As an addition to the highly memorable (And recommended!) Shovel Knight Soundtrack, Plague of Shadows is a pitch-perfect addition. It weaves it’s own way into the chiptune sounds of the game with style and an extra heaping of grace. Rarely will you hear an 8-bit album have music so ready for the ballroom; you’d be temped to take your lover for a night out on the dance floor. It’s short length is never too distracting, although, it may leave some wishing for more. Rather then replace the original soundtrack, it simply adds to it. The extra tracks are sadly the album’s biggest disappointment, with one lone highlight in Mint Potion’s “ALCHEMY”. It pains me that I’m giving this album 4 stars; it’s easily a 4.5. But, as Jake Kaufman has packaged the remixes with the OST, I have to include them into the review. Regardless, this is a gem of a soundtrack. If you’re a fan of Shovel Knight, or you just loves the nostalgic sounds of chiptunes, Plague of Shadows is an steal. Jake Kaufman lets you pay your own price for his soundtracks on his Bandcamp. Even though I just said steal (Which I’m immediately regretting), don’t be afraid to send some money his way. Spoiler alert: he’ll appreciate it plenty.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on October 4, 2015 by Chris Hayman. Last modified on January 19, 2016.