Slay the Princess Live


Review by · May 3, 2024

Prior to the release of Slay the Princess‘ upcoming Pristine Cut, the developers at Black Tabby Games released a content update patch that offers an extended “true ending” and some other small scenario additions/changes to the game. Alongside this update, they integrated some music that had been in the works and, to my knowledge, was planned to be part of Pristine Cut but has now come as an early surprise! This updated music was released by composer Brandon Boone as Slay the Princess Live, an eight-song EP of music recorded in Prague, featuring piano and string ensemble mixed with the original vocals recorded by Amelia Jones for the OST.

While I definitely enjoyed the Slay the Princess Original Soundtrack, one arguable weakness was just how clean and artificial the synthesized string ensembles sounded. These Slay the Princess Live recordings, to that end, are game-changers for the chosen songs. The songs selected for this recording session in Prague were excellent. Almost all of them are working from the game’s primary motif, “The Princess.” This, of course, is the first track on this EP! Upon first hearing it, I immediately recognized how the new string ensemble recordings would elevate the quality of the Slay the Princess listening experience: organic, dynamic timbre. The music comes to life so perfectly with these added instruments, and it feels like “The Princess” goes from being a concept on paper to a fleshed-out character just in the moment of me hearing the song. Composer Brandon Boone shared video footage of the Prague recording for this piece, and it’s definitely worth watching to get a sense of the intimate scope of the project: a conductor, a pianist, and a tight-knit string ensemble.

Three of the five “Shifting Mound” movements also benefited from the new string recordings, with Amelia Jones’ vocal recordings from the OST mixed back in. This required that the new recordings, I imagine, occurred with the conductor listening to a click track to maintain tempo. Given each of these Shifting Mound tracks clocks in at exactly four minutes, it makes sense to me that tempo had to be maintained. Fortunately, it still sounds very organic, with enough rubato to give the ensemble room to breathe.

Speaking of demarcations of rhythm, the tracks “The Apotheosis” and “Transformation” had to be mixed against the existing percussion from the OST, and they might be the greatest successes of this EP. The ostinato string patterns in “Transformation” sound so much more powerful in this form than the old OST version. As for “The Apotheosis,” the center stage on this track was always the vocal and guitar, so the trickiest part here must have been trying to keep the new string ensemble recording mixed low enough not to overpower these sounds. Ideally, Boone would be able to get all of the performers in one room to record this one in its own session. Fortunately, this new version still sounds excellent.

In early April, track 8 was actually added to the EP. This track, “The Unknown Together,” serves as a lovely capstone. It is the music scored in that updated “true ending” I noted earlier in the review. Musically, it is simply a softer, more ethereal version of “The Princess.” The simplicity of the piano and strings really draws out the listener at the end of this lovely EP, and, I suspect, draws out the player similarly at the end of a long journey … on a path … in the woods … et cetera …

And that leaves “The Damsel.” I have to believe this song was chosen for arrangement by Abby and Tony (the dev team/couple that is Black Tabby Games) because this particular path for the protagonist and the princess has quickly become a fan favorite, and it also serves as a kind of polar opposite to “The Apotheosis.” This one is very simple, and as much as I adore the strings here, the star for me is the piano, working its own ostinato pattern in the right hand, lulling me into a sense of soft, sweet comfort.

If this EP has reminded me of anything, it’s that even a brief bit of live recording can make an enormous difference when working with an otherwise synthesized, sequenced soundtrack. But you have to be careful. The sound engineering, both in Prague and in final mixing by Boone himself, was key to making sure everything would blend.

If you want to pick up this music for yourself, Boone has the album listed on his Bandcamp page, and it’s also available as part of the supporter’s pack DLC on Steam (in fact, if you already purchased that pack, surprise! You already own it!). As a final note, I have hopes that new compositions and arrangements are coming alongside The Pristine Cut later this year. But, more importantly, I hope to see Boone take on more game music projects in the future! He certainly has a keen ear for the work.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.