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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition
by Oscar Araujo

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition (Soundtrack) by Oscar Araujo
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition (Soundtrack) by Oscar Araujo











Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition (Soundtrack) by Oscar Araujo

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Ultimate Edition
Composed by Oscar Araujo
Sumthing Else Music Works (2013)

Rating: 10/10

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“It is truly saddening to think that OSCAR ARAUJO’S score for LORDS OF SHADOW is unlikely to find itself celebrated to the same extent as many other iconic, but arguably inferior video game scores.”

Highlights in Shadows
Review by Richard Buxton


It has been three years since LORDS OF SHADOW, a reboot of KONAMI’S classic franchise CASTLEVANIA, first graced consoles. Despite initial fan backlash against the game’s distinctly different style to its predecessors, LORDS OF SHADOW went on to become the most successful release of the long-running franchise. Naturally, in a generation of countless re-releases and updates, Gabriel Belmont is called upon to slay the dark lords once again in CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW - ULTIMATE EDITION. The timing of the game’s release has inevitably resulted in a lukewarm reception, as the gaze of the gaming world drifts on to a new generation of consoles. With the release of the ULTIMATE EDITION come new environments, weapons, and boss battles, but most interestingly for the musically-inclined, an extended release of Spanish composer OSCAR ARAUJO’S spectacular original score. Can you really have too much of a good thing? In this case, no, you cannot.

However, perhaps the most surprising target of the CASTLEVANIA fanbase’s ire was the score itself. Understandably, given the popularity of previous CASTLEVANIA music, fans had placed a certain level of expectation on the notably not Japanese composer OSCAR ARAUJO. Given the change in the game’s style, a distinct shift in composer and musical style was surely a given. The tremendously catchy, hook-based tracks of previous releases might have shone in years gone by, but would undoubtedly stick out sorely in a game-world highly dependent on a narrative structure such as LORDS OF SHADOW. One of the common criticisms leveled at ARAUJO’S score, before many had even heard it in full, was that it consisted of an “epic” genericism derived from countless Hollywood film scores of yesteryear. One can only wish that the average Hollywood score approached such a level as this though. Video game audiences are hardly known for their patience, occasionally lacking foresight and even hindsight should it suit their circumstances. Yet it still came as something of a surprise that such an outlook could come from a collective that spends much of each year complaining about the stagnation of major franchises whilst failing to back up their clamours by keeping their wallets shut. Apparently change is only acceptable with express permission. For many of those with an open mind, ARAUJO’S score was nothing short of spectacular, and to this day it remains one of the greatest scores composed for a video game. It may not have the infectious nostalgic hooks of “Vampire Killer”, “Cross Fear”, and the many other iconic themes of the CASTLEVANIA of old, but this is a score that rises above anything previously heard in this musically celebrated franchise. The release of this ULTIMATE EDITION is subsequently one that may interest fans of the score more than those of just the game itself.

Running for a total of one hour and forty-three minutes, ULTIMATE EDITION provides listeners with an extra thirty-seven minutes of OSCAR ARAUJO’S thrilling music to enjoy. The first half of the soundtrack is largely unchanged from the original score released with the game’s collector’s edition, with the track “Intro” (1) - a track that provides a summary of the score’s narrative elements with a sweepingly touching opening that dives into darker, grotesque depths - being the only difference. As is often the case with an extended score release, the additional material provided here is not quite up to par with the originally released content. That being said, ARAUJO’S artistry is so supreme that even the score’s weaker moments manage to impress.

What makes ARAUJO’S score so impressive, other than the truly beautifully developed themes, is a universal presence of purpose. Rarely will you find a moment wasted among the addition cues that make up the second half of the soundtrack, despite the obvious lack of central importance compared to the original cues. Cues such as “Pan’s Challenge” (27) and “Waking Dream” (33) admittedly provide little in the way of challenging music, but remain worthy of inclusion purely for the situational awareness - reestablishing the game’s foreboding atmosphere.

Some cues do manage to evoke the brilliance of the first half. The contrast of the understated but chilling use of choir in “Gabriel” (26) and “Marie” (32), and its imposing application in “Crow Witch Malphas” (34) demonstrates ARAUJO’S fascinating ability to evoke a powerful emotional response regardless of the demands and circumstances set upon him. This is asserted in the surprisingly upbeat “Quest” (38), a cue that is far too short, but one that establishes great scale in its playfulness nonetheless. The extended portion of the score ends on the resolving “Into Darkness” (42) that fades out on a curiously optimistic note despite its ominous title.

The decay of time has had no effect on LORDS OF SHADOW’S originally released material, with each moment retaining the glorious thematic momentum the score was originally lauded for. The main theme is as profoundly affecting as ever with its woe-infused opening three note descent that brings with it a beautiful sense of tragic inevitability. The opening salvo of action-scoring heard in “Besieged Village” (2), “The Warg” (3), “Hunting Path” (4) is electric in its combination of dizzying strings, propulsive brass, and stirring choir.

Composing for action sequences in video games continues to be a stumbling block for many composers, resulting in lackluster cues that often shrink in the shadows of the more narrative-dependent cues. No such trouble here though as ARAUJO’S action cues provide relentless thrills and adventure that never fail to excite. Despite such exemplary action scoring, LORDS OF SHADOW’S highlights are still to be found in the score’s story-driven elements. “Castle Hall” (13), “Laura’s Mercy” (15), and “The God Mask” (17) all weep with majestic tragedy, a tragedy that is stunningly constructed with a deeply satisfying and affecting orchestral performance. “Belmont’s Theme” (18) lacks the vastness of much of the score with its staccato woodwinds, but has an air of magisterial authority that is accented by the broad strings and brass that swell deliberately beneath. The score’s previously released content ends with the heartbreaking “Love Lost/Final Battle” (21), a cue that perfectly illustrates what makes LORDS OF SHADOW such an impressive musical endeavor . For such a brief piece, “Love Lost” bursts with emotion, its rendition of the main theme expressing an almost indefinable sentiment and an affection of grief, resolution, and despair that is deeply touching.

It is truly saddening to think that OSCAR ARAUJO’S score for LORDS OF SHADOW is unlikely to find itself celebrated to the same extent as many other iconic, but arguably inferior video game scores. Few video games before and since can boast a soundtrack that reaches such dizzying heights so consistently. The additional material found in the ULTIMATE EDITION does reduce the overall quality by a small degree, but the highlights to be found in this newly heard music arguably make this score all the more an essential purchase. LORDS OF SHADOW is a score as timeless as the prince of darkness himself.

Rating: 10/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Intro 2:41  *****
2 Besieged Village 4:15  *****
3 The Warg 3:21  *****
4 Hunting Path 2:22  *****
5 The Dead Bog 2:26  *****
6 The Swamp Troll 4:58  *****
7 The Ice Titan 4:11  *****
8 Labyrinth Entrance 1:28  ****
9 Waterfalls of Agharta 2:40  *****
10 Agharta 1:50  ****
11 Cornell 4:06  ****
12 Maze Gardens 3:10  *****
13 Castle Hall 4:03  *****
14 The Evil Butcher 4:01  ****
15 Laura's Mercy 1:451  *****
16 Carmilla 1:57  *****
17 The God Mask 1:13  *****
18 Blemont's Theme 2:45  *****
19 Final Confrontation 6:03  *****
20 The End 5:47  ****
21 Love Lost/ The Final Battle 1:28  *****
22 Ascension 4:05  ****
23 Dungeon 2:09  ****
24 Combat Cross 1:26  ***
25 Goblins 2:31  ****
26 Gabriel 1:29  *****
27 Pan's Challenge 1:14  ***
28 Vampire Throneroom 2:34  ***
29 Lycan Combat 2:26  ****
30 Underground Cave 2:29  ****
31 The Mausoleum 0:18  **
32 Marie 2:12  *****
33 Waking Dream 1:06  ***
34 Crow Witch Malphas 4:28  *****
35 Forest Dream 0:59  ***
36 The Abbot 1:58  **
37 Mausoleem Relic 0:48  ****
38 Quest 0:43  ****
39 Lake of Oblivion 0:50  ***
40 Fading World 1:25  ****
41 Bring Her Back 0:48  ****
42 Into Darkness 1:30 *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 104 minutes  


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