Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dragon Age... in a rap song?

Dragon Age Origins is one of my all-time favorite games. After playing (and loving) games like NWN and NWN 2, Origins felt like a grown-up version of those RPGs. Although I missed the character creation options of D&D-style games, the game made up for it by offering an absolutely amazing, immersive, epic story with truly heart-wrenching player choices. (Not all of them were equally heart-wrenching, though - I very much enjoyed punching Isolde in the face in my first playthrough of the game.) All in all, for me it was the perfect mixture of humor, tragedy, camaradery, mystery... and swooping.

I've heard it said that the soundtrack, composed by Inon Zur, is a bit of a hit and miss. If I regard the soundtrack as a standalone collection, I'd say this is true in part - while there are many absolutely beautiful pieces such as the main theme, Battle of Lothering Village, and Lake Calenhad Docks among others, the battle tracks can sound a little bit dragged. Furthermore, I feel that the best music gets very little listening time in-game, and many have wondered, for instance, why the aforementioned Battle of Lothering Village only plays to killing a few bandits and wild animals in a small area at an early part of the game. (There is no way to know, but perhaps the developers initially thought they would include the actual battle of defending Lothering from the darkspawn, and the track was composed along those lines?) On the other hand, many pieces accompany the game very well, and Zur is very good at conveying emotion.

Dragon Age Rap

A few years ago, I made an instrumental tribute piece to this game, but I always felt that it deserved more. So, when a friend of mine, Radek (who is a rapper) and I began talking about doing a collaboration, it was pretty clear that it should be tributed to Origins, seeing as it was a favorite of the both of us. The problem for me, though, was creating a background track that suited rapping vocals but still channeled enough of the spirit of Dragon Age to be recognizable. So, I decided to take the melody and chords from the game's soundtrack but add a modern beat with some modern instruments to accompany the strings and brass (it kind of is my style anyway). See if you can spot these themes in the track:

0:00 Main Theme / Ferelden at War (melody)
0:26 In Uthenera (ostinato)
0:32 Party Camp / Character Creation Theme (chords)
0:48 Battle of Lothering Village (chords and short french horn passage)
1:36 In Uthenera (melody and chords)


I knew I bit off quite a big chunk by attempting to do vocals originally sung by the amazing Aubrey Ashburn. I know I'm not a Great Singer and my voice is not necessarily suitable for such work - it's "cool" with a straight tone, and very different from Aubrey's rich, classical sound. But doing only instrumentals gets boring and I still like to challenge myself to get better at singing, as well. I'm actually quite proud of managing the beginning part as well as I did, even though I'm well aware that it is not perfectly executed. Besides, I absolutely LOVE composing and singing harmonies. This one has a four part harmony at the end.

Radek, of course, did amazing work as usual, creating a set of lyrics that convey the game's most important aspects, and then delivering them with such precision - I could not speak that fast even in my native language! If you're interested in rap covers and video game themed raps, make sure you check out Radek's YouTube channel!

A Word About the Future

In addition to this Dragon Age tribute, I have also been working on two more songs and one instrumental piece. Unfortunately, I have been suffering from a cold which has played havoc with my voice, preventing me from both practising and recording vocals for a track that is otherwise ready to go. In any case, I'm still hoping to upload a song tributed to Robin Hobb's amazing fantasy tetralogy, the Rain Wilds Chronicles before the end of the year. (More) dragons, how exciting!