There are some soundtracks that I have always wanted to write a review about, but have never gotten around to actually doing it, and all the soundtracks from the game studio Supergiant Games fit that category. Up to now, the Supergiant team has made three different games: Bastion, Transistor and Pyre. Each of them was well received and praised for the superb music by composer Darren Korb. He is responsible for all the music and sound effects in the Supergiant Games, including their latest release Hades, which came out last month.
Each Supergiant game is unique, none of them are alike. Hades is their first so-called rogue-lite game, which means that when the playable character Zagreus – voiced by Darren Korb – dies, the player has to start all over again, but when that happens Zagreus returns a little stronger. When you are repeatedly fighting in the same areas after dying, there is always the danger of fatigue and boredom setting in, and one of the methods to counter that is by having magnificent gameplay and superb music, and Hades has both.
Writing music for games is very different from composing music for a movie or television show. At some point, the images for traditional media are locked, making it easier to write music that perfectly fits the images. This is a completely different story for games, since there are no locked images. The player decides where to go, what to do and when to engage an enemy. The music you hear on this album is perfect to be played in a loop over and over and to change based on the player’s actions. The reason why I mention this is the fact that Korb has chosen a certain collection of musical instruments for this game, which consists mostly of some synth percussion sounds used as the foundation, with a collection of regular and ethnic guitars played over it. To bind all the tracks together, each of them has some kind of wailing sound layered over it, sounding like the alien sound of old Sci-Fi movies.
When the player is still relatively safe, you will only hear a smaller set of instruments from a certain track on the album, for example only the synth bits. When the player is getting more involved in battle, the guitars join in. The problem is that Zagreus is fighting in the underworld, which is basically the Greek version of hell, and when the really tough enemies are trying to get you, the acoustic guitars don’t cut it. Korb has found a wonderful solution for that problem by throwing the elegant percussion sounds and the acoustic guitars out of the window and replacing them with drums and distorted electric guitars to create a glorious metal version of the same piece. The wailing sound is still present to help the listener to identify the piece. On the album you can find many of these half acoustic, half metal, tracks with “Out of Tartarus,” “The Painful Way,” “The Exalted” and “The King and the Bull” as my favorites.
Not all the tracks have received the acoustic versus metal treatment, though. “Primordial Chaos” is a bit of an odd track on the album as it comes with more ambient sounds. “Last Words” has more of a dance beat combined with the wailing sound. There are also tracks with only one of the two styles, but they are linked together since they have the same melody. In the first track, “No Escape,” you hear an acoustic version, and in one of the last tracks, “God of the Dead,” you can hear the metal variation. Another track worth mentioning is “The Unseen Ones” in which two Japanese guitarists, Masahiro Aoki and Daisuke Kurosawa, are jamming on their instruments, creating a marvelous piece. I do not know the story of how they got involved in the project, but it is awesome nonetheless.
Next to the wonderful musical tracks, the album also features several songs, as each game from Supergiant Games has a selection of songs by Korb. Korb himself sings, with a very high voice, on most of them. You can hear him sing in “Lament of Orpheus” and “Hymn to Zagreus.” For some other songs he is also joined by Ashley Barrett, with whom he has been collaborating since Bastion. You can hear them both in “Good Riddance.” They also sing together in “In the Blood,” which is a wonderful track, since it was recorded in Abbey Road with a small orchestra conducted by fellow composer Austin Wintory who arranged the orchestral parts. The recording was actually done while they were also recording the album Songs of Supergiant Games. This song stands a little apart with the orchestral sounds, but it is a beautiful piece nonetheless. These songs have always been special for me, especially with Barrett’s gorgeous voice. I hope I will get the chance to hear them play live in the near future. They would probably have attended the Game Music Festival in two weeks if the pandemic would not have messed that up.
When I hear game reviewers talk about Hades, I always see them speak highly of the game, and with every review that I hear or read, I also see them mentioning how superb the music is, and I totally agree with that assessment. Darren Korb knocked it out of the park with Hades. It is a fantastic new soundtrack worthy of Supergiant Games. Gamers are already looking forward to the next game from that studio. I am as well, only for different reasons. I am quite curious about what Darren Korb comes up with for the next game.
Listen or buy
- Buy this soundtrack from the Supergiant Games store, Amazon.com or Apple Music
- Listen to this soundtrack on Spotify
The highlights are in bold.
- No Escape (2:25)
- The House of Hades (4:52)
- Out of Tartarus (5:54)
- Wretched Shades (2:55)
- Lament of Orpheus (3:13)
- The Painful Way (6:53)
- From Olympus (3:11)
- Through Asphodel (8:42)
- Good Riddance (Eurydice Solo, feat. Ashley Barrett) (2:57)
- Final Expense (2:33)
- Mouth of Styx (7:46)
- Primordial Chaos (3:53)
- The Bloodless (2:27)
- Scourge of the Furies (8:26)
- Hymn to Zagreus (2:44)
- Field of Souls (8:47)
- River of Flame (9:37)
- Death and I (0:36)
- Rage of the Myrmidons (9:17)
- The Exalted (8:22)
- Last Words (3:04)
- The King and the Bull (7:42)
- Lament of Orpheus (Underworld Mix)(3:15)
- Gates of Hell (3:37)
- God of the Dead (9:01)
- Final Expense (Payback Mix) (2:37)
- On the Coast (3:20)
- In the Blood (feat. Ashley Barrett) (4:10)
- The Unseen Ones (feat. Masahiro Aoki, Daisuke Kurosawa) (4:18)
- Good Riddance (feat. Ashley Barrett) (2:58)
Total length: 2 hours and 29 minutes
Supergiant Games (2020)