It is no secret that I loved the Aveyond games. Independently developed and full of charm, they found a special place in my heart, which is no small feat given my history with RPGs. My favorite aspect of the Aveyond games was the music, composed by Aaron Walz: an up-and-coming composer whose talents I would like to see and hear more of in video games, film, and other media. So when the opportunity presented itself to review Aaron’s latest album “From Another Shore: Aveyond and Beyond” I jumped at it.
The CD not only features pieces from Aveyond and Aveyond 2, but a few from non-RPGs Walz has composed for as well as a few unreleased tracks. The music presented here features live instrumentation with skilled musicians such as flutist Eva Maass and violinist/violist Krisha Montmorency, who are featured throughout the CD. Eva also lends her soprano singing voice to some pieces with Aaron himself doing some countertenor vocals. Her lead vocal on the penultimate track is excellent. The credits list includes cello, bass (upright and electric), oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, and guitar players. Nice.
The arrangements of the Aveyond pieces are both familiar and fresh. First impressions of the Aveyond pieces sound like they would in the game, but as the pieces move on, additional layers and parts are introduced that were not in the in-game compositions. Some of the new additions to existing pieces are instrumental, but some are vocal and the vocals lend themselves well to the classical feel of the music. A really cool addition is the vocal arrangement of the piece Mercenary Fort from Suikoden II. All the instruments mesh together nicely and the parts are layered well with no one instrument dominating over another. In other words, the production and mastering are excellent.
The music is soothing, ethereal, dreamy, evocative, sometimes playful, and complex in that subsequent listens can reveal something new. Given the nature of the places and events in Aveyond and Aveyond 2, those qualities are essential in the music. However my one caveat is that none of the battle themes are present, and those were personal favorites of mine. The battle theme from Aveyond 2 was excellent and I would have loved to hear an arrangement or re-imagining of it. I played some of this music for non-gaming peers and they liked it, proving that the compositions stand on their own nicely without the need for in-game context.
Take a listen to the samples and if you like what you hear, check out more of Aaron Walz’s material at walzmusic.com and if you’re curious about the Aveyond games, those can be found at amaranthgames.com.