This week, Aion will welcome into the world a bouncing baby expansion: Dark Betrayal, aka Aion 4.0, on June 26th. While I don't play the game, I've been keenly interested in the soundtrack ever since first sampling its wares for the first-ever Jukebox Heroes column. There are several scores out for Aion now, and once Dark Betrayal hits this week, there will be yet another one.
Aion 4.0's score was handled by four composers: Jeon Byungkyu, Joo In Ro, Kim Won Ki, and Park Soyeon. There are action pieces, tranquil tunes, and even goofy medleys, but the theme that connects all of these composers' works together is a pristine beauty that is the hallmark of Aion's collective score.
So how would you like to listen to some new music? How would you like to hear six exclusive tracks from Aion 4.0? I know I was pretty excited when the team sent me the entire soundtrack and asked me to cherry-pick my favorites for this column, and I hope you enjoy what you're about to hear.
1. Song of Katalam (composer: Jeon Byungkyu)
Let's start with a bang, shall we? After a quiet build-up, Song of Katalam erupts with kick-ass guitars, angry Latin chanting, and percussion. What is it about Latin that makes choirs so angry? In any case, it feels as if the beginning of this track should be the end of the entire album, but that's not the case.
Actually, at 1:13 the track goes silent and then shifts into a much more subdued, sweeping soundscape that evokes feelings of pride, patriotism, and resolve. If the first part was a rock concert, this is a wordless opera (I guess that's just a symphony, but go with it).
Finally, the two come together and make an epic brew of escalating notes before rocking the world entire. It's just a tremendous track altogether and one of my very favorites from the 4.0 score.
2. Canyon (composer: Jeon Byungkyu)
It's almost impossible not to think "chase music" when you hear this theme. It starts fast, goes fast, and ends fast, but Canyon adds something a little beyond the generic beats of your typical movie chase tunes. What I like best is that a catchy melody kicks in at 0:23, after which I simply cannot hold my head still. It's also got a little bit of a western flair, particularly with the guitar in the way, way background.
3. Marks of Dark Wound (composer: Kim Won Ki)
Maybe it's me, but this track sounds like a cross between Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands) and John Williams (Harry Potter). There's the choir and piano of Elfman but the strings and horns of Williams too. It's a frantic composition that doesn't repeat the same verse over and over but instead weaves and bobs through a magical story of some kind.
As with many of these other tracks, it's weird to listen to this and realize that it's MMO music. Maybe it's for a cutscene of some kind, but I have a hard time imagining exploring a zone with this going on in my speakers. I mean, killing that rat was pretty epic, but there's no way it can live up to such marvelous music.
4. The Last Spell (composer: Kim Won Ki)
This piece begins more with noise than notes, but at 0:35 it launches into an organ- and string-frenzy. There's a lot of energy to this and the previous tracks that I've chosen, so I guess I gravitate more toward these action pieces when it comes to Aion.
This track does a few interesting things along the way. The piano solo in the middle is offset by an almost-impatient thudding that suggests that the action is just waiting to come back in. Then a little later the sound abruptly fades and whooshes back in as if to fill a vacuum. All in all, it's somewhat darker but a fun thrill to listen to.
5. Silus Mountain (composer: Jeon Byungkyu)
Silus Mountain starts with this somber piano melody that reminds me of pretty much every TV drama in which there is a life-changing montage juxtaposed to a simple tune. This track does add in a few layers of clanging and throbbing percussion as well as a wave of horns, but that doesn't change the overall feel. It's a track to be played at the end of a journey or as things are about to take a radical shift.
Also, how much do other MMOs hear Aion's score and just have to cry a little? I can't even imagine.
6. Endless Tension (composer: Kim Won Ki)
The percussion is really the star of this piece, although the slow, melancholy cello gives it a run for its money. There's a depressing atmosphere to this track, although it's not hard on the ears. I think it's because there's a lot of variety to it, plenty of instruments that tag-team in and out, and a spot or two where the tempo picks up.
I wish I could've shown you the rest of the tracks, but I guess you'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear them in the game! What do you think about these six, particularly in comparison to Aion's other scores?
MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Every Tuesday, Jukebox Heroes will check out a game's soundtrack and feature the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!