The brooding introductory notes take me back to days of portentous rainfall and melancholy. The unique bond between music and memory makes listening a deceptively complicated act. There’s always something else at play: associations — where did the listener first hear this music, last hear this music? Was the listener content at the time, or anxious, upset, or even physically ill? These elements inform one’s experience of listening to music, and with video game soundtracks, this often comes down to whether one has played the game and whether one enjoyed it. With the Heavy Rain soundtrack in particular, those who haven’t played the game might find less to like in Normand Corbeil’s cinematic sound.
The Heavy Rain soundtrack might be a film score. Although truly cinematic and sonorous, the soundtrack isn’t listenable in the way more traditional video game soundtracks are. “Ethan Mars’ Main Theme” may have delicate strings bespeaking the fragility of life, but beneath that it’s all menace until the touching finale. “Norman Jayden’s Main Theme” is even more menacing, with quiet, but insistent string attacks. Each track is more dynamic than your average video game track, which makes them more compelling, but several of the lighter tracks (“Madison Paige’s Main Theme” and “Lauren Winter’s,” for example) sound too similar to one another. “Scott Shelby’s Main Theme” is one of my favorites, and one I remember fondly from the game with, I daresay, a driving madness at its heart. This is dark music.
“Before the Storm,” “Painful Memories,” and “Redemption” have less movement, perhaps, but provide a bit of contrast to the intensely dark character themes. These piano-driven pieces are pretty and delicate — the other side of life. After all, what is dark without light? “Last Breath” is like a dream turned nightmare as piano gives way to almost evil strings. In the end, the striking of a few final piano keys is like an awakening.
The series of “Action Soundtracks” that accompany the more intense scenes in the game aren’t the most original pieces, and certainly work much better in context. While they wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood thriller, all the boisterous brass and urgent strings don’t make a very compelling sound.
The recently departed Normand Corbeil was a credit to the industry. His work on Heavy Rain is impressive, and he went in a different direction than most video game composers. Although the soundtrack’s cinematic sound means a less accessible album, even those who didn’t play Heavy Rain can appreciate its fullness and the extent of Corbeil’s ability to make danger and darkness audible.