[An excerpt of my blog post "'Shadow of the Colossus: Roar of the Earth' Original Soundtrack"]
While many of these themes are fast-paced and pounding, such as A Farewell to Despair, others are slow and ominous, like the restrained and delicate Silence. With such a wide dynamic range in mood and volume, I personally group Shadow‘s battle themes into four categories, these being: 1) fight, 2) triumph/thrill, 3) horror, and 4) solemnity.
The first category of battle theme, ‘fight’ is characterized by a sense of Wander on one side and the Colossus on the other, both wrestling and countering each other. The original Japanese does better than the translated English “Battle with the Colossus” in that the original word ‘fight‘ conveys a more personal, physical challenge. 07 Grotesque Figures, 12 A Violent Encounter, 25 A Despair-Filled Farewell, and 28 Gate Watcher of the Castle Ruins are prime examples of this type.
The second category of battle theme, ‘triumph/thrill’ plays when Wander has solved the puzzle of a particular Colossus and is now able to scale the behemoth’s body and target its weaknesses. As the type’s name suggests, the tone of these themes are exciting and exuberant, musically emphasizing Wander’s gaining the upper hand. 13 Revived Power, 16 In Awe of the Power, 21 Counterattack, and the march-like 08 The Opened Way, all fall under this category.
The third type of battle theme, ‘horror’ is just like what it sounds. Unlike the triumph themes where Wander has the advantage, these themes alert the player that Wander may be getting in over his head. The Colossi with which they play are often violent, if not especially swift. 20 A Messenger from Behind and 14 Liberated Guardian are the most frantic but, in some cases (as with the sixth Colossus) track 07 Grotesque Figures counts toward this third variety with its slower tempo and feel of impending doom.
The fourth and final flavor of battle theme, ‘solemnity’ is unique as it musically bridges the mood between battles and storytelling. They are characterized by very slow tempos, a sense of swirling, rising and falling, and dirge-like chords. 15 Silence, 19 Creeping Shadow, and 30 Demise of the Ritual are beautiful specimens. Although 04 Black Blood is primarily used during the opening and ending cinematics, its single appearance with the eighth Colossus allows it to count toward this category.
A final element that is so unique to this score is how the themes build on each other and, how music during battle sequences make reference to motifs used during cinematics. My favorite example occurs through the three tracks, 07 Grotesque Figures, 16 In Awe of the Power, and 33 Epilogue: Those Who Remain. The theme heard between 00:13 and 00:45 of Grotesque is nearly identical to the theme heard between 0:12 and 0:37 of Power, and again between 3:40 and 4:00 of Epilogue. The first time you hear it, it is tense, dreadful and overpowering. The second time, in Power, it is heroic and trilling. The third and last time in Epilogue, it is mournful. This theme has gone through all four categories of battle themes, even making it into the game’s cinematic ending. Another notable example is between the thematic backbone of Dormin’s bargain, track 05 Resurrection, and the piece that serves as its apex, 30 Demise of the Ritual. These reveal the dark truth of what Wander unknowingly agreed to, featuring a rich choir, ominous bass line, crisp organ chords and clanging bells. They bring to mind the great, cavernous halls of cathedrals and, the spiritual weight of wrongs and transgressions. The very act of having entered the Forbidden Lands and the Temple seems sacrilegious.
To read more about the composition and utilization of Kō Ōtani’s score, please see the following page on my Blog Ueda's Trilogy: https://doppleganger2064.wordpress.com/roaroftheearth/