As video game environments continue to explore dramatic interaction within the gaming environment, the musical accompaniment begins to take on epic proportions. This latest entry from Atari, features the return of paranormal investigarot Edward Canby who launches into a series of journeys and thrills taking place in New York's Central Park as he tries to unravel the mysterious events there. The composer, Olivier Deriviere, is relatively new to the video game genre having recently composed music for the first and second Obscure horror games.
The music for the game features the addition of a rich choral component from the Bulgarian Voices choir. The full orchestral sound here, all high end sampling, is remarkable. The addition of the live chorus lends a warmer sound to the music here and often helps convince you the music is performed by live orchestra as well. As is often the case, brass sounds tend to sound a bit more fake, especially the trumpet lines, but Deriviere pulls those back often focusing on horn and low brass support balancing the sound with string tremolos and percussion.
In Alone in the Dark, Deriviere explores the horror genre sound lending a richer sound palette to accompany game play. Small motivic ideas are often employed to help address potential musical looping, but much of the narrative music has an epic quality that perfectly matches the topic matter of the game itself. In fact, fans of the music of Joseph LoDuca will enjoy the blend of Eastern European sounds with "orchestra" that he popularized in the Xena series. In many respects, the score tends to have a real gothic horror quality that stands alongside the music of Silvestri for more recent films such as Van Helsing, of which this score is easily a kindred spirit.
The opening track, "Prelude to an End," serves as a brief entry into the sound world which is then followed by a track of Edward Canby's thematic material. When things take off (especially in "Who Am I?") the music is quite thrilling. There are some moments of post-minimalist style that appear in places of the score (in alternation with more traditional choral segments in "The Final Gate"). The real strengths of the score are in its choral and large orchestral action cues (sometimes reminiscent of Philip Glass's Naqoyqatsi) and in the various colors that Deneviere is able to explore in the more static mood-setting tracks.
The action sequences work well for the most part. Each track tends to begin with ambient sound effects cast against a solo instrumental line or string flourish of some kind. These openings tend to be mostly static musically and do a great job of setting mood and elevating the level of creepiness ("Reception Hall" is a good example of this). Fortunately, the tracks are sequenced well enough to avoid hovering to much around static ambient sounds and pulling down the musical energy. The ethnic, almost medieval sounds of the chorus provide a nice coloristic change in the score and lend it a bit more warmth to the sound picture. It is also just so much better than a lot of wordless vocalizations that tend to plague film and video game music alike these days.
Milan Records has pulled together a generous disc of music here for fans of the series. Those who purchase the hard copy of the game also receive a disc featuring eight tracks from the score. However, this more elaborate release is the one to go for.