[Twinfinite's Endless Playlist counts down to Dark Souls II with the music of Demon's Souls]
I always wondered why they replaced Shunsuke Kida, the composer for the music on Demon’s Souls, with Motoi Sakuraba. Having gone online I see that Kida hasn’t done any video game projects in the last three years, which might be the reason for the replacement. Still, I found his work on Demon’s Souls much more enjoyable on its own than Sakuraba’s work on its spiritual sequel, which almost requires the game to fully enjoy (if at all). While Sakuraba’s Dark Souls OST is a cacophonic attack on the senses, Demon’s Souls is its more symphonic predecessor.
I mentioned this last week, but I actually listen to the Nier soundtrack when playing Dark Souls. I find it more suitable (and with better uses of Emi Evans’ amazing talents) for the atmosphere. Not so much with the soundtrack for Demon’s Souls which, hopefully evident by now, is my preferred of the two albums. Still, I don’t want to spend the whole time comparing and contrasting two different albums that, much like the games they’re for, are only spiritually related to one another. As such attempt two very different things, and it’s immediately apparent in “The Beginning.”
The song never does what it’s supposed to. It never reaches a certain climax that’s anticipated. Throughout it’s relatively short length, it keeps to the same tempo and pitch, instead even dipping lower before returning again to where it started. And it’s so amazing.
The music of Demon’s Souls is deceptively simple. Austere in its production, I can’t imagine the original game could afford sweeping orchestra ensembles. However, what Kida does with a few strings and a game so rich in detail is create a score that’s as layered and intoxicating as the game’s dense fog. Much like the game, the music alludes to a menace lurking behind a thick layer of smoke. The way he takes simple melodies and pulls them together to create melodies that build, collapse, and rebuild again. It’s reasons like that why “Tales” is probably my favorite track.
Also, take the theme for “Fool’s Idol” as a perfect example of this lurking menace. With a handful of keys and a stirring set of strings, you just feel it; below the surface, something is wrong with everything. If you’re not saddened by defeat, you had better be scared for your life.
Let me just up the pretentious level by about 30% (Safe bet: 70%) and say that I find the music in Demon’s Souls to be really theatrical; almost like an old stage play. At least that was my thought when listening to tracks like “Storm King” or “Leechmonger”
You hear those horns? Think about how eccentric they sound when compared to earlier string tracks. For some reason or another it completely grabs your attention simply because of how weird the whole thing sounds. Yet it’s completely suitable for the grotesquely baroque horror of a giant flying stingray or leech mass. Demon’s Souls finds a strange sort of evil in its world, and the music perfectly reflects that.
I think what I appreciate most about the soundtrack is that almost all the tracks are dedicated to a single boss. It was like this in Dark Souls for sure, but each boss in Demon’s Souls is unique to their collective worlds which allows for a greater diversity in sounds. The demon’s here are so unique that Kida, even with his limited orchestra, manages to capture something so individually primal to their characters. Whether it’s the classical tastes of the “Old Monk,” the oppressive fear in “Tower Knight,” or the bittersweet theme for “Maiden Astraea.”
And we return, as we all do when playing Demon’s Souls, back to the Nexus. The theme is actually for the Maiden in Black, but even then it’s a theme that’s almost immediately recognizable to anybody who’s played Demon’s Souls. Whether you win or lose, you’re back again to where you started, only everything’s changed, for better or worse.
Demon’s Souls is a game that only grows stronger in hindsight. It’s not a game that can’t be described entirely as grand as Dark Souls. Instead, it creates unique nightmares for your champion to fight against, and the music helps to individualize these fears.