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What Makes it Memorable? – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – “The Warg” (Oscar Araujo)

November 19, 2010

A few months back, I had lamented about how Castlevania: Lords of Shadow had a high-quality soundtrack, but one with hardly any memorable melodies. In fact, most of the music seems to maintain a tonic note that, in conjunction with the track’s rhythm, produces a dominant atmosphere for the area in which it is played (slow and reflective for “Waterfalls of Agharta” or intense for “The Warg”). This observation still stands, but the more I have played the game, the more songs become immediately familiar. This highlights another aspect of what makes a song memorable: repeated listening and melodic texture. Here I would like to illustrate what has become for me the most memorable song in the game, “The Warg”.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – “The Warg” (Oscar Araujo)

“The Warg” is a battle theme that occurs first in a boss fight in the village in the game’s opening with a giant wolf (wargs have been in Castlevania before, and serve as mounts for orcs, lycenthropes, and other monsters; the name is derived from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings). Anyway, the song also plays in other major confrontations, particularly towards the end with rushes of vampires. Dominated by brass, strings, and choir, along with a pounding drum, the track is perfect for building energy required for tough battles.

Earlier, I mentioned how music gains its memorability due to its connection with memories. While I think this is true of “The Warg” (recalling fragments of battles and the exhilaration of combat), there is also the fact that the song was repeated enough times to both a) coincide with moments that became memorable and b) find its way into the subconscious.

Of course, there are other elements here too than just the repetition. Unlike other pieces in Lords of Shadow, “The Warg” contains lots of texture. Texture returns to the idea of chords, which help define melody, but also the shape that is created by those notes, a “line” that rises and falls with the notes at a particular speed, creating mountain ranges of sound. Texture is here defined primarily by the trumpets, first at 0:24, but especially at 0:50-1:10, with its long, confident notes of bold brass  punctuated by rapid high notes from trumpets and flute and the background full of strings. These notes are echoed in the following segment by the choir, which serves as a more reflective response. This part of the piece is most defined because of that texture, which is drawn out further through repeated listening.

“The Warg” has some other interesting components. Like “Ice Titan”, the track moves between different emotions in the melody, taking a darker route at 1:50 to illustrate the ferocity of the battle, using lots of discord, especially with punctuations from the choir and lower brass, but also the rapid swirling of strings to evoke the circling movement of the combatants. In all, the piece must fit as many different situations within the area in which it is used as possible to help increase the connection between action and sound. After this dark segment, the song returns to the trumpets for a finale.

Another thing thing that can help define a song is if it has a strong opening and ending. “The Warg” has this to a certain degree, establishing its opening through the opening crash of drum and metal bars, along with an accompanying shrill from the strings. This is more to signify the sudden onset the battle to the player, a tone they will begin to recognize. However, the piece has a much stronger conclusion with an heroic build from the trumpets, the conflict rising up to the heights to a sustained finale that ends with a single beat from the drums. One thing that aids in a piece’s memorability too is this element that the end of the song has greater intensity than the introduction, and this is certainly present here.

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