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Darksiders 2 by Jesper Kyd (Review)

posted Oct 22, 2012, 7:58 PM by
Jesper Kyd is quickly becoming a household name for video game score enthusiasts, based on both the quantity and quality of his compositions. The Danish composer is best known for his work on the Hitman and Assassin’s Creed series of recent years, with his contributions to the Borderlands and more impressively (and with increasing capacity) Borderlands 2 scores rounding out his recent resume. Kyd had no involvement with the creation of the score for 2010’s original Darksiders, but perhaps that’s just as well, because not only does the Darksiders 2 score effectively taunt that of the original in superiority, but frankly, it easily trumps any of Kyd’s work to date of which I’ve heard.

The Darksiders 2 video game focuses on one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, as he embarks on a quest to clear the name of his forsaken brother War. As one can imagine given his moniker, Death utilizes various innovative and vicious tools to manifest his fury and desire for his brother’s repentance, so going into the score, I was expecting a bombastic, heart-pounding score reminiscent of the God of War series. To my surprise and elation, Darksiders 2 isn’t that at all, short of a few moments; it’s a melancholic, majestic blend of electronics and orchestral elements, with heaps of cello, flute, and delicately beautiful female chanting and choral arrangements in shifting amounts.

Darksiders 2 is not one of those oft-maligned VG scores where a short melody loops once before giving way to the next track; the 2-disc score spans nearly 78 minutes in length, a welcomingly monolithic work meant to be indulged upon rather than be used for background noise. Nearly every overworld and underworld theme from the game is featured here, from the familiar and calming melodies of “The Maker’s Theme” and “Into Eternity” to the profoundly melodic and emotive “The Floating City” and “Crystal Spire,” two personal favorites that incorporate orchestral beauty, ambient swathes of graceful awe, and the aforementioned female choral passages. “Stains of Heresy” has the epic quality of Nobuo Uematsu’s modern-era Final Fantasy boss battles, scooping up the listener in a wash of anticipation, and disc one closer “The Crowfather” remains a clear contender for best track on the album, incorporating ethnic guitar, choral foundations and build, and orchestral intrigue, culminating in Kyd’s answer to the song “Rise” from Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Rises. Things turn a bit darker for disc two, where opener “The Dead Plains” exhibits an immediately foreboding vibe, overtaking the listener with malevolent majesty. “Supernatural Desert” compiles slowly, but true to its name, is ghostly, ethereal, and purely haunting in nature; disc two highlight “The Crypt” portrays an alien world overflowing with keyboard and organ-based ambient laced with vocal chorus; and “Plains of Death” impresses with deliberate dread. Interspersed throughout Darksiders 2’s two discs are various battle and boss themes, much more quick-paced, ethnic- and foreign-sounding works than the other tracks, and are those clearly most influenced by Kyd’s past work with the Assassin’s Creed series.

All in all, I’m certain that both film score fans and video game fans will find something to adore on Jesper Kyd's Darksiders 2. Kyd’s compositional skills have never been more potent, and on CD, these songs truly take on lives of their own not realized throughout the video game. The amount of layers and quality of the sound therein is simply staggering. If, as a VG score collector, you had even a passing interest in the darker themes of Russell Shaw’s Fable scores, Grant Kirkhope’s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, or the quizzically underrated scores to the Drakengard series, Darksiders 2 is a mandatory release. For purely film score fans, simply based on a very slight lack of track continuity, I’d rate this a three-out-of-four, but as a VG score enthusiast myself, I’m rounding up to the nearest half. Well done, Jesper Kyd, and keep up the great work!