Skullgirls Original Soundtrack
Skullgirls Original Soundtrack
April 24, 2012
Earlier in 2011, an independent 2D fighting game from Reverge Labs, titled Skullgirls, was announced for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. However, what was more surprising than the charming illustrations of the characters and backgrounds was the fact that Castlevania veteran Michiru Yamane would be contributing to the score. In addition to this powerhouse composer, Flower‘s Vincent Diamante, Retro Remix Revue’s Blaine McGurty, and Brenton Kossak also contributed. The soundtrack for the game will be available for $10 through iTunes and other digital retailers. Read on to find out if this collaborative effort is worth a listen!
The main theme of the game, composed by Vincent Diamante and Michiru Yamane, titled “The Legend of the Skull Heart,” is quite a creative tune, despite its length. Kahori Yamane, known for her contribution to the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night soundtrack, lends her operatic vocals to the tune, giving it a bit of a gothic tone. As the theme progresses, it definitely gets much more energetic and Castlevania-esque with pumping synthesizers and wailing guitars. However, I think the moment that made me smile the most in this piece is how it opens and closes as if being played on a film reel. Diamante’s “Forgotten Moments” is an instrumental arrangement of the main vocal theme, “In a Moment’s Time,” that gives it a bit of a solemn tone with its slow tempo and brass focus in the melody line. While I prefer the vocal theme, this is a beautiful take on it.
Before moving onto the majority of the soundtrack by Vincent Diamante (event themes) and Michiru Yamane (stage themes), there are a few tracks by Brenton Kossak and Blaine McGurty that help set the tone of the majority of the album. The first, “Pedestrians Crossing,” is used as the main menu and has a loungy jazz sound, with lots of saxophone work, bass work, light percussion, and piano. But at the same time, it doesn’t really develop much over its play time, at least rhythmically, so I find it a bit hard to enjoy. Those who like free-flowing brass work will definitely appreciate the melody line. The second theme, “Pick of the Litter,” is used as the character select music and, of this duo’s more substantial themes, it is definitely the one I prefer. It has a wonderful jazz influence, but doesn’t dominate the track. Instead, the majority of the theme focuses on some light drum n’ bass work with ethereal piano and synthesizer tones, while incorporating some great keyboard work in as well. They are also responsible for some very short event themes that range from mysterious to jazzy.
Of all the themes, I find myself enjoying Michiru Yamane’s themes the most, mostly due to their substantial length and her ability to fuse a variety of styles into a single tune while making it sound quite lovely overall. “Learning One’s Craft” serves as the music during tutorials, while in the set training room, and in the Class Notes stage. It’s an extremely intriguing theme, combining beautiful jazz tones with electronic accompaniments, but probably her weakest on the album. More impressive is the jazzy “The Seat of Power”. In particular, the percussion will get you grooving while the brass and keyboard work that comprises the majority of the tune only help to solidify the infectious nature of the melody, and if that doesn’t get you, the piano solo will certainly help! One of the more contemplative stage themes is “The Lives We Left Behind.” It’s an intriguing theme that features Kahori Yamane on vocals, a Japanese-inspired melody, and some uplifting, yet solemn, strings work that provide the majority of the melody. There is also some Castlevania influence as well, but it isn’t as prominent as in some of the other themes, as well as some beautiful jazz piano and brass tones that really help give it a lounge feel.
Back when Michiru Yamane was announced as a composer for the game, Reverge Labs posted a sample of the music for the Streets of New Meridian stage, which is titled “Moonlit Melee” on the soundtrack. It was at this precise moment where I became extremely intrigued by the final outcome. Many different images floated around in my head upon hearing it; however, the idea that stuck out most in my head was “Jazzlevania.” The strings accompaniment sounds like something straight out of Symphony of the Night and really sets the tone for the piece of music. At the same time, the jazzy piano that dominates the majority of the track’s melody is what truly makes this piece of music shine. It’s so upbeat and jovial that I find myself uncontrollably dancing in my chair as I write this. This is one of the defining pieces of the soundtrack. “The Fish Man’s Dance” is another amazing piece of music, featuring Castlevania tones combined with that of an Arabian influence. While the album opens up with some beautiful Arabian rhythms and instrumentation, the portion of the tune that I find most satisfying is the B section that oozes a gothic sound, due to the lovely strings melody and accompaniment and the choral harmonies. The interlude section is also quite lovely, featuring a much more mysterious and ominous atmosphere, complete with mysterious piano and operatic vocalsk.
The last three stage themes I’ll mention definitely have that pure Castlevania sound to them. The first, “Dirge of the Divine Trinity” is absolutely stunning. The sinister organ and synthesizer, funky rhythms, and ominous choral tones make for an excellent combination while the changes in tempo help control the tension in the theme as well as keep it interesting as it moves along. “Paved with Good Intentions” is another winner in my book. This theme is pure Castlevania and is sure to please fans of her work for that series. From the sinister glockenspiel work combined with haunting synthesizer and choral tones, to the semi-heroic strings work and the pulsing rhythms, it’s a thrill ride from start to finish. The last stage theme, “Skull Heart Arrhythmia,” once again features Kahori Yamane on vocals as well as the main theme motif. Her operatic style really fits with the sinister organ work. Similarly, there is some semi-heroic strings work helping to brighten up the track a bit, but for the most part, this is a very intense theme full of dark energy and is sure to please most fans. Most intriguing in this piece is the section that reminds me Motoi Sakuraba’s percussion and bass guitar rhythms. The operatic vocals and these elements make for a delightful treat that really helps break up the more structured sections of the piece.
The rest of the event themes are composed by Vincent Diamante. “In Rapid Succession” is smoky jazz theme featuring percussion that gives off a sense of omen and oddness, particularly due to the combination of manipulated synthesizer in the B section of the tune. “Whiling the Hours Away” is a lounge jazz tune that gives off a tropical vibe and a 1960s vibe, while “Shenanigans and Goings-on” features a upbeat, jovial big band sort of sound, full of catchy piano accompaniment and joyous brass tones. Similarly, “A Return to Normalcy” is upbeat jazz piano tune that will definitely have you tapping your feet. “Fugue in Three Goddesses” features sinister organ and brass playing an interpretation of the main theme of the game, giving it a very Baroque style sound and one that would fit quite nicely in a Castlevania game. Both “Daybreak” and “The Lives We Tried to Reclaim” are more peaceful in tone. The former conjures up images of a sunrise in the countryside. The beautiful woodwind, acoustic guitar, and cello work well together to provide a very relaxing sound. The latter is a contemplative pop ballad inspired instrumental with a stunning piano melody that features a jazz sound at times, before ending with the main theme’s motif. This is definitely my favorite Diamante tune.
Like many games these days, there is a vocal theme featured on the album. However, unlike many, which adopt a pop ballad approach, Yamane opts to tie her theme in with the jazzy tone of the majority of the soundtrack. “In a Moment’s Time” is one of the catchiest vocal themes I’ve heard in some time and is done in a lounge jazz style. I really enjoy the playful lyrics, suggesting a sort of love story, and how well Geila Zilkha’s vocals work with the jazz tones. While it’s not the most complicated piece of music in terms of instrumentation, the fact that I could see this being played in a lounge jazz bar — whether it is in the current day and age or even one from the 1950’s — makes it a very successful theme in my opinion.
The Skullgirls Original Soundtrack is one that is quite intriguing. Relying primarily on jazz for the majority of the album, with Yamane’s contributions adding some gothic Castlevania elements into the mix, it manages to create a very satisfying listen from start to finish. Compared to other fighting games currently on the market — with their fast, energetic, and mostly electronic/rock oriented soundtracks — the more subdued and organic flavour of Skullgirls may seem out of place. But while it may not fit the standard genre of fighting game music, it is quite enjoyable in context and is satisfying as a stand-alone listen thanks to its beautiful, well-crafted themes. For fans of the in-game music, as well as fans of Vincent Diamante or Michiru Yamane, I highly recommend this soundtrack. Look out for it on iTunes soon.
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.