From the moment I first heard the soundtrack to Valdis Story: Abyssal City (composed by Zack Parrish), the sneaking suspicion that it would become my favorite album of 2013 lurked in my mind. With barely a scant detail on the game it was to accompany, I dove headfirst into this collection of over three hours of music, and, after listening for several weeks, have come away certain: this is undoubtedly some of the best music I’ve heard in 2013, and much like with HyperDuck SoundWorks’ Dust: An Elysian Tail, is single-handedly responsible for selling me a copy of the game. However, that statement doesn’t quite do justice to the music itself, which stands tall on its own.
Were this a four-hour collection of piano tracks or guitar-heavy melodies to accompany the plumbing of the titular abyssal cities, the music would run the risk of blending together and becoming indistinguishable. Instead, with nearly four hours of audio stretched across forty-five tracks, what is perhaps most impressive about this soundtrack is the sheer breadth. Some of the earlier tracks on the album lean toward the atmospheric (though unquestionably melodic) and piano-heavy, such as “In the Wake of Valdis” and “Down Here We All Have White Hair.” As one progresses through their auditory journey (and presumably, throughout the game), heavier guitar riffs flow into the tracks, with songs like “Mightier Than Thou.” The integration of the guitar work with the existing styles lends the music gravitas — I would be unsurprised to hear that many of them are combat tracks.
Songs like the epic, nine-minute “Primal Instincts” delve full-on into the rocking. Revisiting some of the earlier riffs from “Mightier Than Thou” gives the song the distinct feeling of being part of a whole, and indeed, this is the album’s other great strength. Even as one cycles from the more melancholic tracks to the hard-hitting battle beats, familiar motifs and riffs are frequently revisited, ensuring that the listener gets a true sense of place — that this music is definitely one cohesive unit.
There are also several bonus tracks not featured in the game, each tagged as “Lost in the Abyss.” These are equally well-produced songs that range from the goofy “The Culprit” (jam-packed full of what I can describe only as harmonious dog barks and funky backbeats) to the sparse and dark “The Pits.” While these tracks perhaps veer a bit farther from the style set forth by the actual in-game tracks, they’re still equally enjoyable listening and a great bonus for anyone picking up the album.
As I mentioned in episode 9 of Rhythm Encounter, I could choose nearly any song on this album as an exemplar of its many merits. Parrish’s work is atmospheric to the max, but never loses a sense of identity and never blends together. Each track builds on its predecessors, and by the time the listener is engrossed in the fourteen-minute “Ultimatum” (with over ten more tracks to go), it is clear that a great deal of care was put into every facet of this music.
And listen to “Thriven With Life.” Seriously, it’s amazing.