Composed by
Olivier Deriviere

 

Published by
Milan Records (2008)

 

Tracklistings
1) Prelude to an End
2) Edward Carnby
3) The Fissure
4) Collapsing Floors
5) The Facade
6) Reception Hall
7) The Humanz
8) Who Am I?
9) Central Dark
10) Crying New York
11) Loneliness
12) Bethesda Fight
13) Killing the Fissure
14) No More Humans
15) Truth
16) Niamam
17) The Light Carrier Test
18) Shto Li (a capella)
19) The Final Gate
20) The Choice
21) An End for a Prelude

 

Availability
- Amazon.com

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn


Alone in the Dark

After the hugely popular Japanese franchises Silent Hill and Resident Evil it’s hard to imagine that the genre of survival-horror was actually introduced by a European developer. In 1992, French developer Infogrames published a video game called Alone in the Dark that would intrigue gamers with its fine combination of gothic storytelling (inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s novels), haunted environments, a heavy dose of puzzle-solving and the frequent encounter with creatures of the underworld. More that ten years and three unsuccessful sequels later, Alone in the Dark is yet again tackled by developer Eden Games. Eden Games doesn’t change the formula much, but modernizes the game’s setting and characters for today’s audience. Consequently, the new Alone in the Dark isn’t set at the beginning of the 20 th century, but in the New York of today or more specifically in and around Central Park. While the atmosphere and fresh gameplay ideas add to the game’s unique feel, cumbersome dialogue and frustrating game mechanics led to only average reviews, some being so low as to suggest that the utter frustration of the reviewer due to clumsy gameplay had dragged down the game’s rating more than it deserved.

When it came to choosing a composer for their ambitious title, Eden Games apparently shied away from taking risks and hired a composer well established in the survival-horror genre. Composer Olivier Deriviere successfully expanded on the sound he had created for Obscure 1 and 2 and therefore managed to give Alone in the Dark its own identity. What he did take over from his previous work is the musical texture of the choir. This time around, Deriviere would work with the award-winning Mystery of Bulgarian Voices choir. The distinct qualities of a full choir in a horror setting have long before been explored of course, perhaps with Jerry Goldsmith’s academy-award winning score to The Omen as its most prominent example. Yet, Deriviere’s writing for choir holds enough potential to stand on its own. The importance of the voices as a central texture in the score is exposed immediately. The opening cue on the album poetically entitled “Prelude to an End” features the new main title melody performed by solo voice and later reprised with full choir and sparse orchestral accompaniment. It’s a dark yet adventurous theme with a definite east-European touch to it. Over the course of the album, Deriviere often refers to it as the central melodic point for his soundscape. The fact that his theme is very changeable is a great asset and is made use of extensively. From the heroic arrangement in “Edward Carnby” to the tender rendering in “Loneliness”, the composer always interjects his thematic material into the ambient underscore and thereby prevents the music from becoming generic or ambient without focus. The voices also remain the most prominent idea besides the performance of the main theme. “Crying New York” draws much of its emotion out of the heavily melodic choir performance and an occasional timpani roll at the right moment, and “Niamam” impresses with a subtle layering of voices. In the many choir dominated cues, the traditional orchestra often takes the backseat. There are some purely orchestral moments in the score too, though, and they primarily carry the game’s specific underscore. The writing is generally well done and exhibits an impressive use of the orchestra’s dynamic range: low bass rumblings, high string lines and a number of percussion instruments condense to frightening and evocative orchestral clusters. Unfortunately, it’s also here that the score loses some of its appeal due to unconvincing synthesized instrument samples. This is nowhere near as apparent as in “Who Am I?” that would’ve benefited greatly from stronger or even live brass instrumentation. In regard to this, the sweeping musical texture of the choir adds much to the epic feel of Deriviere’s sound canvas. Indeed, it’s the engaging orchestral underscore in conjunction with the impressive choir arrangements that results in a survival-horror score that’s much more musical than the genre might at first suggest.

However, Deriviere’s strongest accomplishment with Alone in the Dark lies neither in its compositional quality nor its engaging use of voices, but rather in its in-game interactivity. The score triumphs over much of its game score competition that more often than not struggles in getting the score to work properly in its environment. Alone in the Dark is amazing in its split-second integration into the action on screen. Cues like “Collapsing Floors” or “The Facade” develop their full potential in-game: they dramatically escort the player’s movements in great detail. The score’s flexibility and adaptability go a long way in setting the game’s unique atmosphere and in that respect, Deriviere’s work is an exceptionally strong effort.

Alone in the Dark excels above all in its game context, but also offers plenty of enjoyment as a stand-alone listen. The intricate combination of dense orchestral underscore and expansive vocal performances warrant more than one listen; and those who have played the game and experienced the score first hand will certainly agree that the genre of survival-horror has seldom been scored with more finesse.