Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to check out the soundtrack to a new game called Metamorphosis, with the soundtrack composed by Mikolai Stroinski (The Witcher 3) and Garry Schyman (BioShock). In this game, the player finds themselves transformed into a tiny bug and must navigate a suddenly unfamiliar world in that form in order to find out what has happened and how they can regain their former shape again.
Regarding their work on the game’s soundtrack, Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schyman had the following to say:
“This very unique game, inspired by Franz Kafka’s famous novel, takes place in a bizarre and nightmarish world inhabited by insects and a corrupt bureaucracy. The game gave us an astonishing opportunity to write music inspired by the expressionist era of art and music in the early 20th century. Composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, as well later composers such as Bernard Herrmann were inspirations. We incorporated techniques of the era such as Sprechgesang (half spoken half sung), 12 tone, aleatoric, tonal and atonal harmonies to invoke a past age that worked perfectly for the world of Metamorphosis.”
I knew going in that this soundtrack was inspired by the works of Schoenberg and Berg, that alone told me this was going to be an unusual soundscape. But I still wasn’t prepared for just how expressionist and atonal this music was. If you haven’t experienced expressionist and atonal music before, then the music for Metamorphosis is going to hit you like a bolt out of the blue. This isn’t like the rich, orchestral music that accompanies games like God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn. This is music that is eccentric, off-kilter, and will keep you constantly on edge from beginning to end. For any of my readers who may have studied music theory as I have, imagine a video game with the soundtrack of Wozzeck and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Metamorphosis sounds like.
It’s actually a really bold choice to go in this direction with a video game soundtrack. If you’re meant to go into this game feeling lost and unsure as to what’s going on (which is bound to happen if you suddenly wake up in the game as a bug), then the music is only going to help make that happen. I also really like that the soundtrack has Sprechgesang (speak-singing that sounds really demented when combined with atonal music). It’s a constant reminder that you are not in a normal environment. I would have to imagine that this music combined with seeing everything from a bug’s perspective would be quite the mind-bending experience.
I was also struck by how short some of these tracks are. In fact, some of them are barely 30 seconds long. There isn’t a set length for tracks in a score, for video games or otherwise by any means, but I’m more used to tracks being several minutes long at minimum. Having these tracks be so short is also startling, as they can end without warning and I can only imagine how that plays out during gameplay.
The soundtrack for Metamorphosis definitely ranks as the most unusual soundtrack (for film, television or video games) that I’ve listened to this year. And quite frankly I think that’s a good thing. It’s nice to listen to something completely different every now and then.
Let me know what you think about Metamorphosis in the comments below and have a great day!
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