Posted on May 20, 2006 by Flames
I’ve been picking up various motion picture scores (not soundtracks) and King Diamond albums (no kidding) for years to use as background music in my campaigns, but I’ve never been very impressed with any self-produced albums meant specifically to serve as roleplaying campaign scores. For the most part, I’ve found such efforts to be of an amateurish quality at best, often sounding more like a funhouse sound reel than a musical composition. Nox Arcana changed this by delivering a polished, professional and purely enjoyable product in Darklore Manor.
Darklore Manor is an independently produced compilation of traditional gothic music (i.e., the album is harpsichords and violins, not electric guitars or re-mixed dance music) composed specifically to serve as the score for a dark and mysterious roleplaying campaign. Marketed on a compact disc and consisting of twenty-one original tracks (only two of which contain vocals), Darklore Manor is devoid of the cheap sound effect shticks that seem to compose the bulk of similar efforts and, instead, is simply a compilation of haunting melodies.
What’s more, Darklore Manor isn’t merely music – it’s good music. Rather than a hastily compiled mishmash of random musical notes minced with substandard sound effects ripped from an amusement park ride (i.e., creaking doors, ghostly laughter, etc), each track on Darklore Manor is a carefully crafted piece of honest to god music that is not only evocative of gothic haunts, but is also easy on the ears. If more amateur musicians poured half of the time and effort into their campaign scores as Nox Arcana has into single tracks, I’d own many more such compilations.
Finally, the graphic design of the physical packaging and the disc itself is far above the standard that I’ve come to expect from self-produced compact discs. Indeed, having once worked for a multi-million dollar company that mass distributed media on compact discs, I can say that the production values of Nox Arcana are easily on par with those of much larger companies – from the full color, multi-page, insert (an insert that, incidentally, regales the reader with the tale of the titular Darklore Manor) to the high quality, full bleed, disc graphic (an ornate pattern of Victorian persuasion).
The Final Verdict
After listening to the disc a few times, I still like what I hear (and, ultimately, that’s the real test of a musical compilation for me). I like the haunting, purposeful, melodies of Nox Arcana, as well as their decision to regale me with music, rather than sound effects. I like the atmospheric graphic design of the packaging and the entertaining (if ultimately irrelevant) legend of Darklore Manor. If you run a regular horror campaign and find yourself wanting for atmospheric background music, I wholeheartedly suggest that you give Darklore Manor a listen.
Reviewer: James D. Hargrove