Just as the developers of "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow" made a clean break from series history in most aspects of the game, so composer Oscar Araujo crafts a score completely different in sound from what many know the series for. Gone are the distinct, upbeat melodies so often reprised in the series' early days, and in their place is a more atmospheric, more cinematic focus and an entirely orchestral-choral presentation. Every series needs a change eventually, so the absence of the traditional Castlevania sound - as much as I enjoy much of it - is fine by me. The question is whether Araujo offers something as unique and memorable in its place. In that regard Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition Soundtrack comes up a bit short, though taken purely as a cinematic action-adventure score it's a solid effort.
The score gets off to a strong start with the battle pieces "Besieged Village" and "The Warg", both of which feature powerful orchestral and choral performances and dramatic arrangement. There isn't much distinctly Castlevania about them, nor even particularly Gothic, but they accomplish the epic orchestral sound well. Subsequent battle themes like "The Swamp Troll" and "The Ice Titan" maintain the high production values, and often show traces of a main adventure theme, however they're so similar in their epic orchestral sound that the impact begins to fade. In fact more common than any Castlevania or Gothic qualities are similarities to film scores like John Powell's X-Men: The Last Stand and Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings. Fortunately in the latter part of the score the battle themes return with a vengeance, with "The Evil Butcher", "Carmilla", and "Final Confrontation" showing signs of what will become a much more intensely evil sound in the battle themes of the sequel, Mirror of Fate. In fact it was only after experiencing the more striking battle themes in that sequel score that I came to appreciate these earlier pieces (and is one reason I more strongly recommend that score over this one).
Solemn yet pretty pieces like "Waterfalls of Agharta" and "Cornell" make a nice respite from the epic battle tracks, and comprise a good part of the score's middle portion. Still, the beauty in these pieces lies more in atmosphere and arrangement than in melody. The only piece to make a strong initial melodic impression comes near the end of the score, and ironically it harkens back to the series' history - Araujo's noble "Belmont's Theme". On the whole, though, as with the battle tracks, the tranquil selections present in Mirror of Fate make a stronger impression than the ones here.
Note that two commercial releases of the soundtrack are available (in addition to a bonus soundtrack that accompanied the limited edition of the game). The "Ultimate Edition Soundtrack" includes 22 tracks for 70 minutes, and is available on CD as well as digital release. An "Exclusive Director's Cut" is available digitally for purchase exclusively through Sumthing Else's website, and features 20 extra tracks for 33 more minutes of music. I don't find much need-to-hear material in the extra tracks. By no means are they throw-aways - the production values and arrangements are right up there with the main Ultimate Edition ones. But they're similar in sound to the rest of the album and offer little notable new thematic material, so except for completists who are fine with MP3s and fans who experienced the soundtrack in-game and loved every minute of it, the Ultimate Edition should suffice.
There isn't a single bad track in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - the production values are consistently great, and Oscar Araujo is clearly a skilled composer who knows how to score for orchestra. However neither are there many tracks that really come out and grab you, and of the ones that do, several sound more similar to a typical Hollywood epic than you'd hope for in a Castlevania score. There are hints of a more unique Castlevania sound in store, and indeed those are realized in the sequels Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2. I recommend giving those stronger sequel scores a listen first, after which the less pronounced qualities of the original Lords of Shadow soundtrack may well become easier to appreciate.