Ethereal soundscapes, ripping guitars and rhythmic harmonies that combine to capture the feeling of trying to survive on a distant planet. Today I’ll be going over Risk of Rain 2’s 20 official tracks and giving my reasons as to why it may be the best video game soundtrack of all time.
Through a Cloud, Darkly (01:59)
The album begins with a mix of industrial sounds that wind and pulsate, reminiscent of a heartbeat. A 9 note melody repeats, slowly speeding up as the pulsing rate increases as does the volume, incorporating more and more sounds until it climaxes late at 1:40. The track is short and sweet and serves as an excellent introduction to the work of Chris Christodoulou.
Risk of Rain 2 (05:22)
The song begins with a melodic syth intro that kicks into gear at 0:32 when the drums come crashing in. What appear to be bells faintly mimic the synth in the background as the drums subtly keep the rhythm. When the guitar comes in you know you’re in for a ride as it takes the lead but doesn’t over power the other instruments. This pattern repeats throughout the song as it ebbs and flows between chill and inspiring. The perfect song to take on an alien world.
A bass takes the lead on this track as percussion thumps and claps in the background. More alien synth sounds phase in and out. The tone of of this track is exploratory and captivating as the drums set the tone with strange time signatures giving the track a primal feel.
Thermodynamic Equilibrium (05:18)
More zany time signatures is the name of the game with this track as synth whines high and low over complex breakbeats. A funky reverse-section near the middle of the track mixes things up before the drums resume what they’ve been doing the entire time, somehow providing adequate rhythm and structure despite the non-liner beat pattern.
Terra Pluviam (07:41)
Claps and bells with a more traditional drumming, Terra Pluviam with its strange name fits the theme that has been established with previous tracks: The lack of vocals become apparent at this point but aren’t a negative, they instead allow the listener to really explore the space being created with the music. The synth and bass harmonize over the drums peacefully until halfway though the song with the lead guitar comes screaming in with that amazing Chris Christodoulou tone, sending the listener into the stratosphere as it wails through solo after solo.
Köppen As F*ck (05:48)
Crunchy synths and clean drums play off of eachother on this track. Making sure to include that deep bass guitar and high squealing synths to give the vibe of the dark unknown that is space. The pace of the song is awesome, being a slightly higher tempo than the previous track. The guitar joins in a bit chaotically here and there before going into a full blown Hendrix-inspired solo complete with whammy bar usage.
By this point in the album, listeners are becoming with familiar with Christodoulou’s sounds and formula, the best one can anyhow. Drums and synth are the stars of this mellow track. Mellow, that is, until the bass joins and the synth goes into overdrive with an amazing solo to close out the song.
Into the Doldrums (05:11)
The synth, guitar, bass and drums go all out on this track, each fighting to be the star of this 5 minute masterpiece that starts off slow in typical Christodoulou fashion before descending into a brawl for the spotlight. In the end the audience is the true winner.
A Glacier Eventually Farts (And Don’t You Listen to the Song of Life) (05:14)
This intro is similar to the very first track and marks a slight shift in the tone of the album. A slow-moving, hypnotic soundscape with chimes, snaps, ticks and claps. This is the first song to include vocals…well, not vocals perse but a person talking over the track. The talking doesn’t distract though, instead adding to the immersion of being expected to survive on a hostile planet.
Nocturnal Emission (04:52)
Once again the bass and synth kick it up a notch, dancing with each other to the rhythm of the drums. There isn’t much different on this track, it’s just very easy to listen to. I would say that around this track is where Christodoulou is at his most formulaic. Slow start, crazy synth/guitar and nothing too crazy from the drums.
The Dehydration of Risk of Rain 2 (04:58)
The followup to the second track of the album, the song follows in the original’s footsteps but “gets to the point” a lot quicker. We’re at the halfway point of the album and you can feel it. The song is slightly shorter and more predictable, even including a ripping guitar solo but overall still very enjoyable and it’s placement on the tracklist is perfect.
One of the few songs on the album without a solo, Parjanya is a short but sweet serenade from the synth giving off interlude vibes.
The first major departure from Christodoulou’s formula, this track has a very apparent heavy metal influence. A headbanger in every sense of the word, the drums and guitars steal the show with beats and riffs reminiscent of a Metallica or Panthera song.
Antarctic Oscillation (06:27)
Once again we get another more traditional rock song with bits and pieces of the earlier tracks synth tones harmonizing with the lead guitar. The familiarity ends as the song develops until the only traditional part is acting as an anchor for the rest of the song. Eventually Christodoulou dances over the scale with the synth, throwing all predictable aspects of the song out of the window. This continues until 3:53 when an amazing double bass drop kicks in accompanied by a squealing guitar solo. Here you can feel the entire breadth of Christodoulou’s talents as a musician as he seamlessly flows through different genres in this 6:27 masterpiece.
The Rain Formerly Known as Purple (07:55)
Although this track starts off sounding quite similar to some previous tracks, mellow drum rhythms mixed with organ tones but this time including a clean guitar riff, the first clean guitar we’ve heard all album. The clean guitar is misleading though and when a Christodoulou song starts off this clean you know you’re in for a treat and boy does he deliver. The guitar work on this track is legendary as the lead guitar kicks into gear, singing its distorted notes over the simple drum work. If the sounds of the song don’t tip you off to his inspiration I’ll give you a hint: it’s Prince.
The Raindrop that Fell to the Sky (11:38)
The Raindrop that Fell to the Sky is the longest song on the album and while length doesn’t always mean quality, the length of this song is almost twice that of preview tracks on the album. With a tone that is best described as uplifting, the listener can almost visualize the raindrop falling upwards, a path as unusual and unpredictable as the song itself. It is a slow build up but the payoff is worth it as the last two minutes are a treat from the Synth-master himself.
You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Ukulele (04:58)
A thrash metal influenced track begins with a frantic guitar riff played over a double bass drums beat that ends abruptly like a rocket breaking through the Earth’s atmosphere and finding itself in orbit. Chunky distorted guitars and high pitched synths are on the menu as the song decides which genre it truly wants to belong to.
…con lentitud poderosa (04:50)
For the first time on the album we are greeted with a clean piano introduction, almost like Guns & Roses’ “November Rain”. This is something unlike anything else we’ve heard up to this point and you can feel the change in the vibe of the album. The piano is joined by a clean guitar and together the two guide the listener peacefully until, in typical Christodoulou fashion, the piano transforms into a distorted synth as the drums kick in.
Petrichor V (11:27)
The second to last song on the album is also the second to break past 11 minutes long. It has a somber mood and is notably lacking the wild lead guitar/synth work found in every one of Christodoulou’s other songs. It’s almost like a long goodbye even though there is still one track after this one. Once again, the placement of the song on the tracklist is amazing as the tone of the track prepares the listener for the end of a great experience.
The sound of a thunderstorm kicks off the final track of the album fading out to the sounds of a clean guitar before a familiar tune takes over. If this were a movie this would be where the credits would roll as the song ends on the same note that the album began on: “a mix of industrial sounds that wind and pulsate, reminiscent of a heartbeat.”