Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth Soundtrack, Peposoft, 2021
Few fantasy franchises have enjoyed the same longevity – and have produced as many media products – as Record of Lodoss War. First seeing the light of day as a series of fantasy novels published from 1988 onwards, author Ryo Mizuno’s creation spawned numerous mangas, animes and video games (not to mention soundtrack releases). At the time of writing, the still burgeoning franchise’s latest offspring was 2021’s Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth. Neither one of the two companies behind the game – Team Ladybug and Why so serious? – were particularly well-known. That being said, Team Ladybug’s previous two games (Touhou: Luna Nights and Shin Megami Tensei: Synchronicity Prologue) had been well-received. Using Touhou: Luna Nights’ Mogura engine, Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth clearly took its inspiration from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Upon release, reviewers found much to like about the Metroidvania-style gameplay and lovingly rendered 2D graphics.
Scoring duties for the Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth soundtrack went to Peposoft, who had scored Team Ladybug’s two previous games. Unfortunately, without Japanese language skills at hand, it’s hard to deduce much about Peposoft’s background (for example, whether a single artist or a collective of composers is behind the name). What Peposoft’s website does reveal are other projects that she/he/they have been working on since at least 2013.
Considering Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth‘s style, you would also suspect that Peposoft’s background lies in the doujin fan scene. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is not the first 2021 game score to emerge from this scene – take Touhou Kouryudou ~ Unconnected Marketeers or Rakugaki Kingdom, written mainly by former doujin artist Yu Shimoda. One of the problems often befalling these fan scene soundtracks is their inability to harness their myriad of influences and ideas into coherent compositions – manifest on Unconnected Marketeers, which abruptly jumps from one intriguing musical thought to the next, often in jarring fashion. Peposoft’s accomplishment on Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is to not just fire compositional ideas into the ether like a Gatling gun strapped to a spinning top. They also manage to consolidate such creativity in dizzying pieces that still serve their primary purpose: consistently building a particular mood and evoking the game’s world.
One of the guiding stylistic principles that helps shape Peposoft’s cues are computer JRPG scores of the late 1980 and early 90s, and their signature readiness to mix numerous other genres with the orchestral sound closely associated with the fantasy genre. “Prologo – Breath of the Labyrinth”’s regal opening strings show that Peposoft know how to write attractive orchestral material and clad it in skilful orchestrations. The following flute and violin soli, presenting alternately dramatic and delicate melodies, underline such credentials. What really helps “Prologo – Breath of the Labyrinth” stand out though are the wonderfully complex, funk-influenced rhythms on rock drums and slapped bass that underpin these melodies, while a synth choir subtly underscores the location’s mysterious character (it’s a labyrinth, after all). It’s a fantastic mix of classical and contemporary elements that has both the gravitas required for a fantasy adventure and grooves irresistibly at the same time.
Such awe-inspiring creativity and attention to detail are evident on the entire Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth soundtrack. There’s a ceaseless inventiveness to the music’s centrifugal forces that sees single compositions rushing through a jaw-dropping number of ideas. And yet, the music remains firmly in service of the game’s narrative requirements. On “Fiamma del Caos – The Cave”, classical, rock and electronic elements combine in similarly virtuoso fashion to “Prologo”. However, the orchestral overlays – while simple – effectively convey the immense, cavernous backdrop. “Nebbioso – Into the Fog” is an absolute head-spinner. It meshes together noisy guitars, pop-inspired piano melodies, reedy synth ostinato leads, majestic horn chords and a dozen other ingredients in a way that threatens to outdo Falcom’s genre classics from the company’s 80s/90s heyday. And yet, it all comes together seamlessly to convincingly communicate the will to push onwards while navigating the disorienting, mist-covered surroundings.
It’s no surprise then that once the Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth soundtrack switches to more extended compositions, things only get more dazzling still. “Contrattaco – Emotional Overload” starts with spacious synths that are more typical of classic shoot’em up scores, before a thin, fuzzy guitar enters the fray. Throughout the next six minutes, Peposoft get an astonishing amount of mileage out of the clash between chrome-polished electronics and smeary guitar tones. This stylistic collision only amplifies the track’s pronounced dynamic contrasts hovering atop constantly shifting electronic beats. A similar conflict plays out on “Cavaliere – The Proud Knight”, where broad, majestic orchestral synths battle eccentric, perpetually confounding rhythms – a combination that gives the music a fantastically sweeping, yet edgy sense of drama. And “Fine del Labirinto – Completion” is a dance-floor banger set in a crystal cave, with icy synths collapsing into spastic mixes of chaotic electronic rhythms.
“Fine del Labirinto” also highlights Peposoft’s willingness to let their sounds turn harsh and grainy, with samples that have audibly been crushed and frayed by digital compression. The constantly elevated gain levels do their part to ensure that the Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth soundtrack will never be an audiophile’s dream. But as with all other aspects of this score, there’s a method to Peposoft’s approach. The PlayStation 2-quality of the samples finds a comfortable middle-ground between the score’s retro inspirations and the life-like quality of modern-day game music. And by compressing the sometimes mind-boggling number of musical elements into a pushy, aggressive mix, the composers only further the music’s often manic, breathless charge.
Of course, it’s the action tracks that benefit most from an extra dose of abrasiveness. The manipulated violin overlays that sound like a squealing organ on the first combat cue “Conflitto – Into Battle” herald Peposoft’s penchant for gritty noise experiments. Even on a shorter track like “Arciere – Master of the Bow”, instrumentations take unpredictable twists and turns – sample the glockenspiel floating on top of meticulously layered electronic rhythms at the end of the piece.
Finally, “Potente Potere – End of the Line” and “Superare – Stolen Weakness” are non-stop assaults on the senses – as if someone had strapped a rocket onto Final Fantasy VIII’s final boss track “The Extreme” to utterly hyper-charge it and make good on its title’s promise. It’s wholly thrilling how the compositions completely exert themselves amidst the howling, crashing, jerky electronics – while still adding just enough twisted gothic grandeur to qualify as suitably towering end-of-game battle cues. If only more mainstream scores showed as much boundless ambition and creativity (and unwillingness to take any prisoners) as the Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth soundtrack.
- 01 - Prologo - Breath of the Labyrinth Peposoft 4:05
- 02 - Conflitto - Into Battle Peposoft 1:40
- 03 - Fiamma del Caos - The Cave Peposoft 195
- 04 - Vivere - Woodchuck's Invitation Peposoft 3:17
- 05 - Nebbioso - Into the Fog Peposoft 3:37
- 06 - Arciere - Master of the Bow Peposoft 1:48
- 07 - Contrattacco - Emotional Overload Peposoft 6:15
- 08 - Cavaliere - The Proud Knight Peposoft 6:28
- 09 - Potente Potere - End of the Line Peposoft 2:52
- 10 - Fine del Labirinto - Completion Peposoft 6:17
- 11 - Superare - Stolen Weakness Peposoft 3:16
- 12 - Cuore - Deedlit's Heart Peposoft 2:17