Highly polished electronica with rock sensibilities and a sci-fi edge.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2010-02-02)
Let's begin with the disclaimer that this review is essentially a formality. The Shatter soundtrack is available for listening in its entirety on the official site at sidhe.bandcamp.com, as well as of course for paid download in a number of formats (even lossless). It's the sort of distribution approach that game soundtrack producers should have begun taking years ago, and I encourage anyone interested in the soundtrack to visit the site and have a good listen for themselves.
The first thing that stands out about Shatter Official Videogame Soundtrack is the professional and polished production, from the beats to the widely varied synth to the occasional electric guitar. It's not only about the presentation, however; composer Jeramiah Ross (aka Module) has quite a few good ideas to go around. The steady house beat in album opener "Kinetic Harvest" may not sound like much at first, but once some driving, funky bass and bright, crisp lead synth set in it's pure addiction. "Aurora" captivates from the very start with effervescent, floaty synth tones, even before a driving electro melody comes in for the chorus. (The piece sounds inspired by electronica mainstay Fluke, but with a dose of added funk.)
No doubt the most distinctive track of the album is "Amethyst Caverns", which along with the electro beats and synth bass found elsewhere in the album implements some psychedelic but soothing electrified female vocals for the lead. Beneath the interesting technological trickery is quite the catchy melody - I could easily see a remix version of this being a hit on the club scene. And though Amethyst Caverns is the only track with actual lyrics, many others have a lyrical quality, albeit relayed by expressive synth instruments in place of a human voice.
The tracks from the second half of the album aren't quite as memorable melodically but are more strongly aligned towards their various stages' atmospheres, leaning further towards sci-fi and full-on electronica. In "Xenon Home World" that entails dark sci-fi synth and no-nonsense electric guitar, in the Orbital'esque "End of the World" it's yet more grinding guitar followed by a very alien-sounding synth instrument. The hard beats and cold, aggressive synth of "Boss Music" most give the sensation of being in a dark smokey club with pulsing strobe lights. For the finale the album returns to its melodic focus - mellow synth tones and a pop-like melody in "Homelands" and energetic 8-bit synth in "Hyperspace" that could fit quite nicely in a Mega Man album.
My main complaint is that the tracks in general go on for too long. "Neon Mines" has perhaps the catchiest hook of the whole soundtrack but doesn't get into it until almost halfway through the track, following two or three minutes of a basic beat and nagging bass line. (The bass lines are another minor quibble - they sometimes sound more suited to gritty alternative rock than to sci-fi action, though to their credit they work quite well once joined by lead instrumentation.) "Argon Refinery" has some decent electro-funk and diverse electronic instrumentation, but not enough to justify a nine-minute running time. With some tracks it's just a matter of being patient until they hit their stride, but when less interesting ones go on for so long they make it difficult to take in the album in its entirety. Fortunately with over eighty minutes of music in all, even skipping a few tracks there's plenty left to enjoy.
With high production values, rock sensibilities and an occasional sci-fi edge, Shatter Original Soundtrack has merit for both electronica junkies and soundtrack seekers. Those with the patience for long running times may very well find it worthwhile to spring for the album as a whole, while for others there's the option of just selecting favorite tracks from the official download site. Personally I would choose the latter approach, but those four or five favorite tracks (Kinetic Harvest and Aurora in particular) I would certainly not want to be without.