Friday 11 September 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Dark Ambient Review: Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Review by Casey Douglass

Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Mortal Shell is a new grim fantasy RPG from Cold Symmetry that I’ve seen garner many comparisons to the Dark Souls series of games. When you have a game world that is so dark, the soundtrack is an important element in keeping the atmosphere and the dread going. As it turns out, Mortal Shell is certainly not lacking in this respect, as dark ambient artist Atrium Carceri is on hand to provide the extra dose of darkness that the game needs.

A dominant theme of the Mortal Shell Soundtrack is the use of dark choirs to build the sense of doom. While I couldn’t make out any particular words, at times the vocals seemed dirge-like and resigned, as if the choir itself is watching the character move towards their doom. The other prominent element in certain of the tracks are the various drum beats that punctuate the soundscapes. I liked these a lot as they lend a sense of forward motion to things, maybe again hinting at someone shambling towards their doom.

There are other sounds that might grab the listeners attention too of course, some of them enjoyably tricky to pin down. Fallgrim contains a bell-like resonance, but one seemingly without trace of an actual bell. The Tower includes a horse-like clip-clopping that could also be water, and Under A Broken Sun has a rattling alarm-clock beat. These are all interesting sounds, whatever they truly are, and they sit very nicely in with the drones, static and other shimmering tones that various of the tracks contain.

Sanctum is one of my favourite tracks, its wind and sighs, knocking and cries melding together in an echoing space. It also contains a kind of ghostly shimmer effect, and nicely conjured the feeling of being in some deep underground vault, but one that’s by no means safe. Another track that I really enjoyed was Ritual At The End of Time. It opens with a kind of grinding gears type feeling, with a lurching beat. It also features a kind of organ-like tone, one I described in my notes as “church organ blended with fun-house/distorted mirrors at the circus”.

The Mortal Shell Soundtrack is a fitting slice of the game’s dark world. Many of the tracks are quite brief, due to its nature as a soundtrack, but there are a few that are of a longer duration, and I found myself gravitating towards these a little more. The dark fantasy aesthetic shines through in all of them however, and as someone who has yet to play the game, I could certainly appreciate the tracks without much knowledge of the game’s story-line or lore. If you’ve already played the game, I can only imagine that you'll gain even more enjoyment from them.

Visit the Mortal Shell Soundtrack page on Bandcamp for more information. You can visit the Mortal Shell website to learn more about the game itself too. Check out Sanctum below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Mortal Shell Soundtrack

Album Artist: Atrium Carceri

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 25 August, 2020