Soundtrack review: Ori and The Blind Forest (Gareth Coker – 2015)
Ok so I love magic. I love fantasies. I love to dream and I love music that opens my doors of perception and brings me into this special world. That’s why I’ve always been more drawn to wordless music, to instrumental wonders that let me write my own words and place my own fantasies on top of this melodic canvas. Just because I prefer music without words doesn’t mean a voice shouldn’t be there. And when a voice is as divine as Aeralie Brighton’s, it’s the most welcomed addition. She is the spirit guide that welcomes me in the world of Ori.
Ori is a white guardian spirit who fell long ago into the forest and was adopted by a bear-like creature named Naru who raises Ori as her child. Something wrong happens and all but destroys the forest and leads to Naru dying, forcing Ori to explore the forest on his own. This sounds like my kind of game, I always loved discovery and exploration. It also looks stunning. I saw some screenshots and gameplay films and the world truly is magic. The score for “Ori and the Blind Forest” was written by Gareth Coker and it took a long time to develop. It was a labor of love and I can hear that in the music.
Last year my world was shaken by the amazing score for “The Elder Scrolls online” by Brad Derrick. I couldn’t dream to get to hear a magical score like that again, but the more I explore the world of “Ori and The Blind Forest” the happier I get. The music is gentle and covers me like the softest of blankets. I feel safe and enchanted and I am ready to take on my favorite activity in the world: discovery. Gareth Coker played hundreds of hours of the game to get a better feel and ordered his cues chronologically; in the order the player is most likely to explore them. For sure the experience of listening to the score will differ from the game play experience and it’s ok. Right now I only care about the music.
The world the composer created is as beautiful as I imagined when I saw the images from the game. I am like a baby in awe of the first time it sees the lights of his musical carousel. I could just lie in my bed and dream while the images that Gareth Coker projects dance on my imaginary sky. The music also makes me attentive when something happens. For example one of the most important events in the game is finding Sein, who will both guide Ori and attack his enemies. The music suddenly switches from dreamy to action but the transition is smooth and feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Then Aeralie Brighton returns… she is a spirit guide herself in this musical journey and “The spirit tree” instantly becomes my favorite cue so far. I can hear the wind chimes through this tree and I believe in it. This right here is the core of “Ori and The Blind Forest”. The stunningly beautiful music morphs with that angelic voice and they give me goose bumps. I have the impulse to stop and just listen to this cue over and over again but the wish for further discovery prevents me from doing so.
The flute couldn’t miss from a magical score like this and I welcome its every whisper. I think Rachel Mellis is the soloist and she does a wonderful job. Among the many treasures of the forest, the flute bits are among the most precious. “Riding the wind” and “Completing the circle” are the moments when Rachel’s “ethnic winds” silence everything else. I always associate the flute with Celtic music so this hits me even deeper.
On “The ancestral trees” the choir is so perfectly woven into the fabric of the cue that you can barely tell it apart from the music. “Restoring the light, facing the dark” (what a brilliant title) is one of the most action oriented piece from this score. It includes part of what I identify as the main theme on top of the percussion. It plays like a horseback ride and it made me remember some passages from “The last samurai”. It turns epic towards the end and it’s one of the best surprised the composer has in store for us.
“Ori and The Blind Forest” is all about the emotions it breathes into me. I cannot stay detached while listening to this score and I cannot write objectively. The music finds its way inside me and plays with my heart: sometimes it makes it beat faster, other times it silences it and almost hypnotizes me. Discovery is joined by anticipation because the way this score has played I expect a majestic ending. Freed from the idea of playing a computer game I feel as if I’m watching a show made of fantastic images that I project. All the soloists and their musical avatars are characters in it and I know somewhere behind the curtain Aeralie’s voice is warming up for the big finale.
“Fleeing Kuro” is where the finale starts. It’s action, it’s melody, it’s exciting and why does this score have to end? “The sacrifice” inspires and motivates me like the most wonderful of anthems. It’s epic and the goose bumps where there before the track reached the half point. The Aeralie returns… I am blown away. Encore please? Yes , in “Light of Nibel”… where the main theme returns in epic form and the voice and the music take a final bow together.
90 minutes wasn’t enough for this treasure. Please come into the musical world of “Ori and The Blind Forest”. You will be enchanted and it will leave something inside you. It’s the Avatar of game scores. No way doesn’t this score make my best of list at the end of the year. A deep bow and a round of applause for Gareth Coker, Aeralie Brighton, Rachel Mellis and everyone involved. Thank you!
Cue rating: 96 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 66 / 89
Album excellence: 74%
Ori Lost In The Storm (feat. Aeralie Brighton)
Naru, Embracing The Light (feat. Rachel Mellis)
The Blinded Forest
First Steps Into Sunken Glades
Up The Spirit Caverns Walls (feat. Tom Boyd)
The Spirit Tree (feat. Aeralie Brighton)
Kuro’s Tale I – Her Rage
Down The Moon Grotto
The Ancestral Trees
Breaking Through The Trap
Climbing The Ginso Tree
Restoring The Light, Facing The Dark
Lost In The Misty Woods
Home Of The Gumon
Escaping The Ruins
Kuro’s Tale II – Her Pain.Wav
Riding The Wind (feat. Rachel Mellis)
Completing The Circle (feat. Rachel Mellis)
Approaching The End (feat. Aeralie Brighton)
Racing The Lava
The Sacrifice (feat. Aeralie Brighton)
Light Of Nibel (feat. Aeralie Brighton)