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Darklore Manor
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/17/2013 10:29:28
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 tale or a horror roleplaying campaign. 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.

The Final Verdict

After listening to the collection 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.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Darklore Manor
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Transylvania
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2011 12:48:48
I'm never quite sure how to approach reviewing something like a soundtrack like this, but it is an impressive piece of work. I would gladly use it as "mood music" for any gothic horror type game, or for Halloween-ish music in general. For me, the moment I knew they had a hit on their hands was when I fired it up for an amateur musician friend of mine who was enthralled and asking me where it came from. I went through a sampling of tracks and he was very impressed. Great work here.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Transylvania
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Necronomicon
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/23/2011 19:23:42
Nox Arcana delves headfirst into the darkness with its musical tribute to the Cthulhu mythos. Creating a haunting festival of sounds to this is a challenging feat—every day that passes Cthulhu transforms into more of an icon than a mere concept of Lovecraft’s imagination. Nox Arcana delivers its tribute in a jarring way; this is not a collection that should be idly played in the background, this is a performance that demands your attention.

It is crystal clear to me, as a listener, that this has a different purpose than other instrumentals—the composition of this collection is not meant to be subtle, it is both bold and artistic. Drums are the heavier brush strokes in many of the songs, like “The Stars Align”. Filling in the details is a symphony of strings, a blend of ghostly voices, and the gentle stroke of well-mixed woodwinds. Pacing and timing varies, to outline the faint footsteps of the summoner arrogant enough to raise “The Great Old Ones.”

The music in Necronomicon tells the story of an arrogant sorcerer acting out his evil designs. Accompanying him are disembodied voices both warning and approving, as well as an orchestration of unseen hands playing various instruments. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the occasional gong of death tolling. The music is true to Lovecraft; harmonic melodies seem to be inspired from folk music from all over the world. “Cthulhu Rising” borrows notes from eastern Europe as the thing’s tentacles creep from murky, watery depths; thin strings whine of Arabic deserts and northern Egyptian breezes in “Temple of the Black Pharaoh.” Pieces like “Eldritch Rites” and “Nyarlathotep” are more theatrical than they are musical; a twisted sorcerer breathes life into ancient rituals through powerful chants and Lovecraft’s words. The musical talent put forth comes from a variety of sources—however to my trained ear I couldn’t tell if the elements were entirely synthesized or if they were performed in a studio. Translation? No note was off-key, no mistake was made (that I could tell); the performance was flawless, a occult mosaic planned and executed with rhythmic precision.

One of the unique things about Nox Arcana is the way they tie in an artistic vision to their products. Necronomicon is a shining example of this. The cover is a picture of a bony, wooden face that reaches out to its viewer with swirling tentacles—a subtle play on the concept of “the green man”, perhaps? I took the liberty of picking up some of Monolith Graphics’ other products, like the Dark Realms magazine. The art, created by Joseph Vargo, is gothic in a way that leaves more to the shadowy imagination through its simplicity than any photograph or pen and ink etch. The style is clean, simple and consistent; shades of a color with subtle accents. These are pieces you’d hang on your wall—images that you’d swear were looking at you in the dead of night.

Nox Arcana’s Necronomicon is a masterful blend of dark desires and the Cthulhu mythos. This collection is an impressive tribute; to appreciate the sum of its parts it should be played as a stand-alone piece replete with candles, cobwebs, and musty books.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Necronomicon
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Phantoms of the High Seas
by Robert L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/16/2011 18:42:53
This 21 track album fits well into any gothic/eerie nautical adventure. The tracks all have the feeling of foreboding or horror and are then spliced with the mood of the track. whether that be rolling over the waves of the high seas or engaging in a fierce cannon battle all the way to a simple, yet ominous jig. The album is too dark for a generic or heroic naval campaign but many tracks are great for a sinister twist for adventures on the waves. A great, if very specialized, soundtrack for a role-play.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Phantoms of the High Seas
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Zombie Influx
by Bill B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2010 09:40:11
Zombies: the kids love ‘em. Now you can have your very own zombie film soundtrack album thanks to the good folks at Nox Arcana; their Zombie Influx album is just the ticket to put a person in a brain-chomping mood.

All kidding aside, Nox Arcana has done some great work producing albums of evocative background music suitable for gaming and often inspirational for writing – whether fiction, gaming adventures or scenarios, or what have you. With Zombie Influx, Jeff Hartz of Buzz Works and Joseph Vargo of Nox Arcana explore new musical avenues of horror.

There is a fairly solid level of cohesion at work on this album’s 19 tracks; however, many of the cuts do not necessarily evoke zombie sort of horror. Most evocative here of a mob of zombies wandering aimlessly in search of food are the tracks “Ground Zero” and “Flesh Eaters,” with a chorus of hoarse, moaning voices winding through the opening strains of both. The title cut, last on the album, seems to contain some sound sampling – from, among other sources, the film “Night of the Living Dead” if I’m not mistaken, and does so to good effect, though the choice of looping phrases to repeat them several times in quick succession is more annoying than effective here.

A number of the cuts – notably “Satellite Radiation” “Post Mortem” and “The Pain of Dying” – would be highly suitable as background for any sci-fi situation, including Space Opera. In fact, I found them reminiscent of the incidental music found in Sci-Fi televisions series like Babylon-5. Likewise the track “Armageddon” reminded me of music from John Carpenter’s feature film “Big Trouble in Little China”

There was one aspect of the album that bothered me: Several tracks – “Defcon Six,” “Warning Signs,” “The Panic Spreads” and “Ravenous” – use a voice reading an emergency broadcast-type message over the top of the melody. The voice sounds hollow and echo-y, more like some random guy in a studio rather than an official person making a statement over the airwaves. The wording of the script seems to invoke fifties emergency alert broadcasts, but the quality of the sound mixing doesn’t compliment that effect. For this reason, these cuts fall flat.

Several tracks are ones I would be happy add to mixes or playlists regardless of the situation: “Creeping Death,” “Doomsday” and “Dead Run” can all stand on their own musically without needing to exist within the framework of the overall album’s theme.

This is a solid album even if the title isn’t catchy. Most of it wouldn’t stand up to listening as other than background/mood music, though some cuts are strong enough to hold their own. A couple of tracks seem a bit too long, and a few just don’t stand up to much scrutiny. Taken as a package, this album achieves what it sets out to: being a decent soundtrack for gaming other other pursuits, and being interesting and varied at the same time. At a $10 price tag for the download, it’s a decent deal, and one I would take gladly.

This review originally appeared on Flames Rising.com

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Zombie Influx
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Shadow of the Raven
by Alexie R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/11/2010 18:59:56
Shadows of the Raven grows on if you give it a chance. I must admit I did not like it very much when I first bought it and it languished in the bottom draw for months. However when I sat down and really listened to it, I was blown away. This Album has some very atmospheric tracks, especially if you have decent speakers/headphones. I cherry picked the best and put them in pleasing order on my playlist and now I listen to it every other day when working.

I recommend.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Raven
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Transylvania
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/19/2010 15:33:49
I'll add my quick 5 cents and say this is a very good soundtrack for your next CoC session. Very well done. Only complain is that it was relased nearly 3 weeks after Halloween.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Transylvania
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Transylvania
by james e. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/18/2010 22:38:10
21 tracks of good creepy music. it is good music that really sets a tone without getting in the way, and there is enough variety that it doesn't feel like you are listening to one song for 45 minutes. There are pretty strong melodies and i actually hum along with some of these tracks without thinking about it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Transylvania
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/18/2010 19:35:25
Decent creepy music.

My main gripe with it is that while it's all good, at times I couldn't tell which song was which, unless it was one of the ones with exposition mixed in.

Sometime I'd like to see a pack of short musical tid-bits mixed in with one of these things, with little 15-second motifs that you could intersperse dramatic moments with. But that's just me.

It's a lotta music for $10, and it's all good, though some of the bits with exposition may not be suitable for every game.

Get it if you need vampire-themed music for anything, because it really is top-notch value, but it's a little niche.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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01 Transylvania Overture
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/30/2010 14:52:32
Track 01 Transylvania Overture is the first piece of music from the album “Transylvania,” by Nox Arcana and published through Monolith Graphics. Just under two megabytes in size, the sound file is 2:01 long and downloads as an MP3 file.

The Transylvania Overture opens with some very gothic organ music, to which violins act as a softer accompaniment. Roughly the first half of the piece contains an ominous message from a sepulchral-voiced narrator talking about how the dead are restless and those who heed the dark call of the night are damned. After that, the second half of the track is then filled with a choir of people with similarly-deep voices echoing, like a gothic Gregorian chant.

My major problem with this track is that, while the music is done well, the tone of the whole thing feels too overt in nature. I was expecting this to take a more background flavor, in that this would be mood music to set a creepy atmosphere – the sort of thing you wouldn’t consciously pay attention to, but rather let it set a spooky air.

However, the speaking narrator demands your attention, which undercuts using this as atmospheric music. Moreover, his message is fairly nonspecific in nature – yes, the dead are rising and those with dark hearts might be swayed, but presented by itself the lack of context makes the message lose a lot of its impact. This is mitigated somewhat if you take the title (and the theme of the album) more literally – that this is a night in Transylvania – but even that only helps a little.

The chanting in the second half of the track suffers from the same problem, though not quite as bad. Rather than being a soft, wicked humming that makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise, the visceral nature of the chanting is so in-your-face that it makes you want to look around for where the monks in black robes are. Once again, it’s so overt that it bypasses the understated nature of being merely spooky, forcing closer examination that doesn’t lend itself well to an eerie atmosphere.

Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder if this track is meant to act as a prelude; that its short nature and opening narration are meant to introduce the rest of the CD to us. If so, then this would be forgivable in the context of the CD itself – but standing on its own, this single track fails to impress very much. This is what you’d play for someone when you want it to be made as plain as possible that “this is a haunted house” or “here come the supernatural monsters” with no chance of misunderstanding. It gets the job done, but there’s no finesse to it, and that’s a shame since the potential is quite clearly here.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
01 Transylvania Overture
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Carnival of Lost Souls
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/22/2010 12:44:28
An excellent and very atmospheric soundtrack- it definitely has a dark, gothic, horror type feel to it. While some of the tracks are clearly very "carnival" oriented, others would work for any genre. The overall sound quality is excellent and you get a good number of tracks which are of good length (2-3 minutes each).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carnival of Lost Souls
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Carnival of Lost Souls
by Devon K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/10/2010 13:13:37
The music is very good and seems to fit a "carnival horror" or an "elegant horror" setting. I only found a couple songs I could use to set the mood for a modern horror game. It's all creepy music with good sound quality.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Carnival of Lost Souls
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2010 12:35:32
Nice atmospheric music. A lot of it is pretty good, and it'd set the feel. My only gripes are that there are a lot of shorter songs, which wouldn't always last for terribly long in terms of play time, so if you were running a campaign, you would have to constantly fiddle with the music player. My second gripe is that a lot of the music is pretty much carnival-only. Some could be applied more liberally to other creepy mood based settings, but a GM would have to get players to a carnival, and looking through the mass of settings I have, the only ones that work with that are Spycraft (gimmicky), Shadowrun, d20 Modern, and maybe (very gimmicky) Heavy Gear or MechWarrior as a side-plot (though this may be somewhat due to my lack of knowledge of carnivals and how to work them into other settings).

Oh yeah, I have another gripe: The laughing samples: No subtlety. It's like the music is saying "Be scared!" rather than "Big bad things lurk here!".

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Carnival of Lost Souls
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2010 04:04:40
The Good: Some really nice tracks on this album with some very atmospheric music. The Bad: A few of the tracks kinda ran together on me, and not in the good, thematically connected way. Still, some of the better game atmosphere music I've heard.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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REMOVE THIS [BUNDLE]
by Nathan T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2009 07:21:36
This excellent album isn't as purely nautically-themed as you might expect from the title. Yes, it can definitely be used for any maritime campaign, with the expected haunting hornpipes and ghostly gallows jigs, but it can also be used as atmosphere for more than just that.

An excellent long (total running time 1:07:12) compilation for DMs who want to add a little salty sea-dog to dockside or oceanic encounters, this also includes tracks of epic or suspenseful music, "Racing the Wind" can be used for epic chases, and "Lords of the Deep" for the advance of a huge enemy army, for example. "Maelstrom" is probably my favourite of the sound-effect tracks that Nox Arcana puts on each of their CDs, being an eerily perfect rendition of a sailing ship fighting through a storm at sea (I know, I've been there!).


I often complain about Nox Arcana's vocal tracks, but these are perfectly suited to the material, being ballads about ghostly pirate ships lost at sea; think "Pirates of the Caribbean" for grown-ups...

Liked: High-quality recordings, great epic music, powerful nautical themes without being narrowly restrictive to sea imagery.
Disliked: Lack of downloadable/printable cover art orCD notes.
Value for money: excellent.
Rating: * * * * 1/2 stars

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
REMOVE THIS [BUNDLE]
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