Hades’ Godly Soundtrack Is A Natural Evolution For Supergiant’s Darren Korb

Hades’ Godly Soundtrack Is A Natural Evolution For Supergiant’s Darren Korb

Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool sounds they make. Today’s cuts are from a game that has much of Kotaku’s editorial staff in a vice grip: Hades, the story-driven roguelike from Supergiant Games, set in the underworld of ancient Greece. Wouldn’t you know it, the game has incredible music.

If you’re familiar with Supergiant’s oeuvre, you’re familiar with Darren Korb. The genius multi-instrumentalist has scored every game to come out of the indie studio: 2011’s Bastion, 2014’s Transistor, 2017’s Pyre, and this year’s Hades (playlist / longplay / VGMdb). Plenty of video games have terrific music; a good soundtrack accentuates a scene or sets the tone for a setpiece. With Supergiant’s games, though, the music is always a character.

Just look at Transistor (playlist / longplay / VGMdb). In that game, you play as Red, a famous vocalist who, due to events in the opening moments, loses her voice. At any point, you can press a button and hum along with the game’s soundtrack. It’s a slight action, but a powerful one — one that cements the intimate relationship between the tunes, the gameplay, and the narrative. This all comes to a head when you hear Red’s vocals for the first time in “We All Become,” an uptempo track featuring the butter-smooth pipes of Ashley Barrett. (Korb and Barrett are frequent collaborators.) As of this writing, “We All Become” has 4,619,715 plays on Spotify. I am singularly responsible for at least a million of them. Why don’t you make it 4,619,716?

Supergiant Games (YouTube)

Hades is a natural progression for Supergiant’s gameplay, but it’s a natural progression for Korb’s musical chops, too. It’s all there: the industrial electric drums, the string instrument harmonies, the delectable crunchy tone that’s so baked-in you can practically taste it. Take, for instance, “Path to Glory,” the theme for Lendel’s team from Pyre (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) and one of the most popular songs from that game’s OST. Then listen to “Out of Tartarus,” the music that plays in Hades’ first level:

Supergiant Games (YouTube)

For the first few minutes, it sounds like something you’d hear roaming the streets of Cloudbank (in Transistor) or running the Rites (in Pyre). Then, at 2:59, the distortion kicks into overdrive, and the electric kit is swapped out for a live one, complete with some earth-shattering double-bass pedals. It’s unmistakably Darren Korb, yet still distinctly different from those previous games — thrilling for a longtime fan like me.

“Out of Tartarus” was released as a single in 2018, when Hades first became available in early access on PC, and has received much play on my Spotify playlists since, on account of it being an amazing song. Last week, I started playing Hades — I haven’t stopped, really — and heard it in action for the first time. The low-key sections play when you’re exploring or taking on low-level fights; the heavy stuff kicks in when you stumble upon a mini-boss or some other tough customer. It’s a seamless transition, and underscores the whiplash nature of Hades’ intense dungeon-crawling.

Hades is also another step forward for the Korb and Barrett power duo, and how their musical collaborations fit like a puzzle with the games they’re a part of. Here’s “Good Riddance,” one of a few Hades tracks that also features Barrett:

Supergiant Games (YouTube)

Because Barrett sings on the track — and because her voice cuts straight into my soul more than maybe any other vocalist alive — I’ve listened to “Good Riddance” a lot. It’s a good song on its own. But when it showed up for the first time in Hades, I was so blown away I nearly ascended to Olympus. Without spoiling much, the song is written and sung by Eurydice, the figure from Greek myth. How “Good Riddance” interweaves with the story is something you should experience yourself, but suffice it to say, I’ve a newfound appreciation for the song.

A ton of tracks from Hades were released as a drip-feed of singles prior to last week’s full release of the OST (and the game). In addition to “Out of Tartarus” and “Good Riddance,” I’ve burned a virtual hole in “House of Hades,” “Mouth of Styx,” “No Escape,” “The Painful Way,” and “Through Asphodel.” Maybe it’s because I’ve spent more than a year listening to these tracks piecemeal, untethered to any story or characters or what have you, but hearing them all show up in Hades has been a thoroughly transcendent experience.

That’s a wrap for today’s Morning Music. How have you been enjoying Hades? What musical cues blew your mind to hell and back when you first heard them? And of course, how is your day lookin’ otherwise? See you next time!

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