American McGee's Alice is a horror game set in an alternative universe based on Alice in Wonderland. Chris Vrenna of Nine-Inch Nails fame handled its soundtrack and shaped it up to be as twisted as the game itself. Instead of using synthesizers or electric guitars, Vrenna chose to do his music in the most unusual fashion. He had spent several months on eBay buying musical and mechanical toys which would be the main soundscape of the soundtrack. Xylophones, clocks, bells, a cuckoo clock, and more are what brings his melodies to life... and yet he managed to give the music an evil/sinister/twisted flair to it with such an odd choice of instruments.
The first track that really made an impact for me was "Village of the Doomed". The odd soundscape — featuring sound effects, strings, eerie voice samples, and even a ticking clock in the background — all work as a whole to plunge the listener in the diabolical rendition of Wonderland. A slightly sinister and unsettling aura simply makes this track stand out for me. It gets even more interesting with "Wonderland Woods". While the xylophone, toy crank, and strings make up the melody, some "thumping" effect keeps on showing here and there, which adds to the general sinister feel of the track. It's easy to imagine yourself in such a hellish place with this sort of theme.
"Time to Die" helps to really embellish the scenario of the game. The melody itself almost sounds childish, yet retains the feel of horror, while the unusual instrumentation and creaking effects add to the haunting atmosphere. The Centipede" meanwhile sounds like a boss theme, but instead of being a pumped up battle theme, it's very subtle. It starts off by a ticking clock, and a repetitive, yet entrancing melody is played out. At times, you'll hear Alice literally crying, which adds more effect to the track.
The last track I'm going to describe is "Flying on the Wings of Steam". The vocal samples create a feel of despair while the xylophone helps in bringing a slight sense of mischief to the theme. The violin returns once more and augments the feel of despair. Overall, an excellent piece of music that still brings out the theme of madness which is presented throughout the entire soundtrack. Note that there is also an inspired remix at the end of the soundtrack of this piece.
In my opinion, the entire soundtrack is nothing short of a work of genius. While not exactly as unsetting as the Silent Hill soundtracks, it still ranks as one of the more experimental horror game soundtracks released as of late. We can only hope Chris Vrenna will return for the upcoming sequel. In my opinion, it's definitely worth buying from Amazon; you really can't go wrong with this unless you absolutely hate scary or experimental music.