One of the most stand-out things since the very beginning of the Castlevania series has been its soundtracks. “Vampire Killer” is one of those tracks that is almost instantly recognizable, up there with the Legend of Zelda overworld theme and the Mario ditty.
Even though the series has spanned 10 composers, the music has a consistent sound and style—somewhere between epic, symphonic gothic and prog rock. Many fans of the series (and game soundtrack fans in general) consider the jewel in the Castlevania OST crown to be “Symphony of the Night,” but while I’m not going to argue with that, I want to point out the work of Óscar Araujo. Araujo is the composer behind the soundtracks for Lords of Shadow and Lords of Shadow 2, with the latter being the strongest of the two.
This man is clearly not a human. Or he was once and is no more, having traded his soul to a demon in some sort of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” scenario, because what this man does with music is nothing short of suspicious, awe-inspiring wizardry. The baffling part is that Araujo doesn’t have a thick stack of credits on his résumé—some film work, some gaming stuff. This guy could be doing Hollywood scores for AAA blockbusters if he wanted to. And we would all benefit from it immensely. Outta the way, Hanz.
Araujo moves away from the rock and focuses more on the goth in his Castlevania musicscapes. Even though it’s a departure for the series, it still feels like it belongs in the canon. His scores paints a grim, dark fantasy world as beautiful as it is bleak. There are soft, fragile moments that create a sad, lonely texture. But where he really shines is in the heart-pounding, hold-your-breath action tracks.
The single track that sold me on the whole “yeah, this guy is a genius” thing is titled, simply, “Satan.”
You know what? If you call one of your songs “Satan” there is a 99 percent chance it is going to sound like the Cookie Monster–vocaled garage band you had in high school. That is a loaded title. You just can’t live up to that. But Araujo grabs Satan by the balls and doesn’t flinch as he smashes them together into a full orchestra and comes out with one of the most powerful battle themes I’ve encountered.
As for the soundtracks as a whole, they suffer from the fatal flaw that most gaming soundtracks do: they are pared down and missing tracks. This is standard stuff, but some of the titles cut are really questionable. Luckily, the extended soundtracks can be purchased here. In the case of Lords of Shadow 2, even with the missing tracks (19 on the official OST), it’s an amazing score, atmospheric and exciting.
I gave both these albums 4.5 out of 5 Nobuo Uematsu bandanas.
Moods: Epic, Intense, Dark Action
Highlights: “A Man of God,” “Satan,” “Dracula’s Theme”