When a game is focused on conveying horror, it is very important that both the visual and audio component are convincingly executed. Music is perhaps the most fragile foundation of horror — if used properly, it can shock the viewer and instill with fear, but if not used seriously it can soon make scenes look corny or downright hilarious. With Obscure, Olivier Deriviere succeeded in developing a suitable atmosphere for the game's scenes and goes a step further by making the soundtrack worthy of stand-alone listening too.
The game's soundtrack features Deriviere's trademark choral stylings, provided in this case by the Children's Choir of the National Opera of Paris. While the timbre of this chorus alone is sufficient to give a surreal and chilling effect, this effect is enhanced by the use of Latin lyrics. Though now a dead language, Latin is the mother tongue for literature and so it enhances the narrative feel of the music. The most common words that will be heard in the soundtrack are Lumen, which is Latin for light, and Periculum, which is Latin for danger and risk. Such themes are a perfect complement to the imagery of the game.
Deriviere uses the vocals to yield a multitude of emotional effects in the game. For example, their use in "The First Queen" depicts the characters' insanity; if listened to with earphones on stereo setting, the use of left-right panning makes the vocals sound like maddening whispers in one's head. However, the vocals can also be highly appealing. For example, the more melodic vocals of "Who is Herbert" provides a brief moment of beauty and comfort, and is clearly influenced by the great romantics. Clearly Deriviere is very competent at vocal writing and the ensemble conveys his ideas wonderfully.
The other narrative aspect of the score is the elegant use of a range of woodwinds and strings. Although some tracks are creepy vocal solos, the tracks with orchestral instruments are more dramatic. For example, "Pure Suite" enhances the danger of the game with its violent-sounding brass, while "Empty School" introduces piano passages to mysterious effect. Though the instruments are generally sampled, their quality is astonishingly good for 2004. Finally, "Final Fight" is more grandiose with its blend of stylistic influences and ends the soundtrack with a bang.
Olivier Deriviere's score for Obscure is effective in achieving the desired horror atmosphere in the game. However, it also serves as a fascinating and emotional stand-alone experience due to its inspired use of orchestra and chorus. In fact, many pieces of the soundtrack are akin to art music and are a step above most game compositions. No matter how depressing the soundtrack becomes, it remains beautiful throughout. As the soundtrack is available for free on Deriviere's official website, it's well worth downloading and listening to.