Thursday, 20 October 2011

Review: Various Artists - Batman: Arkham City - The Album

 Now I'm not exactly the biggest gamer around, but I have very recently developed an interest in getting a Playstation 3 console, in the hope of getting better online play, and re-igniting my interest in gaming. Probably a bad idea during of my final year at school, but I can't help it. Video games are looking better than ever these days. And one game that I've really grown an interest in is the new Batman themed video game Arkham City. Taking the Batman franchise into a darker realm than ever before, along with the most recent Caped Crusader films, the mass open world environment and impressive gameplay has had me quite hooked amongst a large amount of other games.

In the meantime, one thing I can look at regarding Batman: Arkham City is the official soundtrack released to accompany the game's score, featuring a collection of exclusive songs from an eclectic selection of rock groups. I've never reviewed a various artists album before, so my best review format is to give a little review from of each song, since each artist has something different to bring to the table. So, will the music of this soundtrack be as gripping as the game itself? Let's find out. To the soundtrack! Danananananana! Sorry.

1. Panic! At the Disco - Mercenary I was quite excited to hear that Panic! At the Disco were appearing on the soundtrack, not for the reason of being a total fan or anything. In fact I was really quite disappointed after listening to latest release Vices and Virtues. I just had the thought that maybe appearing on a game with such a dark atmosphere might give them a chance to make something closer to their style of 2005. It's really not. With a surprisingly pleasant and quirky backdrop with a redeemably catchy chorus, this feels a little out of place.

2. Coheed and Cambria - Deranged This really introduces the dark and dramatic atmosphere I was expecting on this album. Presenting us with a melancholic and gripping style that matches the whole atmosphere of the game, it's every bit as chilling as it is engaging. Plus the vocals of Claudio Sanchez really suit the songs title making it all the more perfect for a song that he stated was intended to be all about The Joker.

3. The Duke Spirit - Creature Managing to stay catchy and chilling at the same time, Creature feels extremely fitting for such a dark action game and is pretty enjoyable otherwise. With their dark synthesizer lead indie rock and ethereal vocals of Leila Moss, it adds a sense of grace but remains a sense of grace that could be maintained while inmate ass is being kicked.

4. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Shadow On the Run The atmosphere of the synthesized led garage rock here is one that is much more psychedelic and trippy, like a more dramatic and haunting Oasis. There's an element of bleakness about it as well, especially lyrically.

5. Blaqk Audio - Afterdark Dave Havok and Jade Puget of AFI bring something more industrial and colder to the soundtrack in the form of their electronic duo, Blaqk Audio. Afterdark though a gentle and ambient soundscape has a very grim and bleak outlook carried within in it.

6. The Raveonettes - Oh, Stranger This track put a smile on my face. It was just so exciting. I often find myself complaining about the boring use of synthesizers in pop music. This song is an excellent example how how synthesizers out to be used more often. These dramatic synth beats hit you out of nowhere, before transcending into thrilling indie rock excellence.

7. ††† (Crosses) - The Years. I was astonished with ††† (Crosses), the synth rock group formed by Deftones' Chino Moreno and Far's Shaun Lopez when hearing their debut EP back in August. While The Years is a little more bleaker and chilling than the material heard on the EP, well it suits perfectly for the soundtrack, but has a sound as ambient and pretty as ever. Also Lopez's guitar solo comes out of nowhere and is awesome.

8. The Damned Things - Trophy Widow The reaction to a supergroup formed by members of Anthrax, Every Time I Die and Fall Out Boy certainly generated a WTF-type reaction from everyone. The actual reaction to the music seemed less positive. I thought it was okay myself, though it was nothing I hadn't heard before. Hearing Scott Ian's guitar thrashing accompanied by the wild screaming of Keith Buckley brings something a little more adrenaline fueled back to the soundtrack. While less dark, no action game should be complete without a little bit of metal around.

9. Daughtry - Drown in You Oh god, it's Daughtry. Does this game deserve radio-friendly grunge? Actually this is one of the better songs I've heard from this band by far. While it follows the pattern of a typical song, there's an extra emotional quality about it that makes it that bit more gripping. It's okay but emotion draining grunge isn't the type of hard rock that feels fitting.

10. The Boxer Rebellion - Losing You The international indie rockers present us with their darker and atmospheric take on the type of style of indie rock that would have given a band a number 1 album in 2006. With a prolonged feel of melancholy heard primarily in the vocals of Nathan Nicholson and the music sounding like a harder-hitting version of the Kaiser Chiefs' Love's Not a Competition, Losing You really manages to covey the kind of darkness and hopelessness that must be felt whenever Batman is killed and players need to restart the mission.

11. Serj Tankian - Total Paranoia The System of a Down frontman ends the soundtrack on a grim, mellow and haunting note. Even in this, there is a hint of eccentricity and craziness present that we've come to expect from Tankian, but on Total Paranoia, that craziness becomes genuinely scary and bleak. It leaves you feeling unsettled, but in a state of awe all the same.

 So, Batman: Arkham City - The Album proves itself to be a fairly diverse collection of rock songs, featuring pop-punk, heavy metal, indie rock and a large amount of electronic rock. All of these manage to convey something of a dark and dramatic atmosphere fitting the game's personality and the idea of the world of Batman as a whole. Certainly, the tracks have been made with the idea of a video game in mind, but I should of course mention that these aren't the songs that would be playing during the video game, however there's a feeling that if they were played during the game, they would help to bring around the feeling of adrenaline and excitement that the game would feature. My personal favourite from the selection would have to be the offering from The Raveonettes, as it best combines these musical features of being dark and atmospheric as well as adrenaline fueled and exciting.
 So, if the game itself is as exciting as the soundtrack, I'm sure my future as a gamer will be a fun one.

 Batman: Arkham City - The Album is out now via Watertower music. The game will be released on the 21st of October for PS3 and Xbox 360.

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