The Binding of Isaac is an indie darling with a bizarre premise that has players taking on the role of Isaac, a naked, weeping, little boy trying to escape his fanatically religious mother. Isaac flees into the basement only to face floor after floor of increasingly strange and horrifying creatures.
Each floor in the basement is a new, procedurally generated level full of weird and wonderful weapons, power-ups, and treasures. The game is as challenging as it is peculiar and for the last year Edmund McMillen’s gem has been a regular bestseller on Valve’s Steam service. Console gamers will soon also have the opportunity to face the dangers in Isaac’s basement as PSN and XBLA versions are reportedly in development.
With such a unique, creepy, and ultimately very enjoyable game, the immense task of writing music to match was no doubt daunting, but Danny Baranowsky (who had worked with McMillien on Super Meat Boy) rose to the occasion.
This moody, atmospheric soundtrack masterfully captures the tone of the game, but more importantly, stands alone as a quality album. Comparable to the great experimental Icelandic group múm, or Jimmy “Dntel” Tamborello, Danny B’s compositions feature a tasteful mix of electronic glitch beats, pulsing percussion, epic string and horn arrangements, the occasional growl of distorted electric guitars, and other subtle textures working together to create a solid lineup of tracks, top to bottom.
“The Binding of Isaac”
Title tracks are an important part of any album, and this one delivers. If you are a believer in the idea that a title track should serve as a representation of the album as a whole you will be pleased to know that “The Binding of Isaac” does just that. The haunting melody broken up by brief string-heavy interludes floating over a subtle, but driving bass line perfectly sets the table for what is to come on the remainder of the album.
The intensity and tension of this track does wonders for the white knuckle boss fights you face in the game. “Edge of your seat” doesn’t do it justice. The playful nature of the melody also stands out, as it almost teases “you’ll never survive!”
“Peace Be With You”
The name of this song is hilariously misleading. While it is probably the most mellow composition on the album, the melancholy tonal progression is far more unsettling than peaceful. This track is the very definition of atmospheric.
With an amusing title that plays on the biblical account of God’s appearance in the book of Exodus, “Burning Ambush” is anything but whimsical. Strings, horns, and electronic elements meld together seamlessly to form an anxiety inducing soundscape that would perfectly compliment a trailer for any Bond or Bourne spy thriller.
Venturing into the neighborhood of heavy metal, End Times is a fun rock tune that features industrial sounding electric guitars and a drum track that would make Tool’s Danny Carey proud. While the overall feel and instrumentation of the song is quite different than other tracks on the album, Danny B cleverly integrates musical references to earlier melodies to keep “End Times” from sounding out of place.
“The Clubbing of Isaac (Remix)”
One of the best parts of the Binding of Isaac soundtrack is the fact that it has a strong offering of bonus material. Some of these bonus tracks are simply songs from the game sans the voiceover, but others, like The Clubbing of Isaac are fun remixes. You will also get tracks that were added to the game via the Wrath of the Lamb add-on.
The Binding of Isaac Soundtrack is available directly from its composer, Danny Baranowsky, at his BandCamp page. Spending $1 on a soundtrack this solid (with 40 tracks to boot) is certainly a great bargain, but you can also pick up the package deal on Steam which will net you the original game, the DLC, and the soundtrack for a great price.