The three composers tasked with creating the main character themes alongside the Capcom audio team were Jeff Rona with the song ‘Crimson Cloud‘ for the character V, Casey Edwards with the song ‘Devil Trigger‘ for the character Nero, and Cody Matthew Johnson with the song ‘Subhuman‘ for the character Dante.
This article will begin with the structure of how the music themes work inside the game, examples from gameplay, and then interviews with the composers about their creative process and challenges with composing each one of the themes. The examples are music-only game captures in the combat sequences so you can hear how the interactive music works in the context of the game. These examples were played and captured by master game player and composer Arjun Nechiyil.
Verse of the Song
SS- Sick Skills
SSS- Smoking Sexy Style
|Chorus of the Song|
Each of the songs was divided up primarily into a verse, and a chorus. The verse would play when the player ranking was from D through A. The chorus would play when the player ranking entered the S levels. Since the music need to seamlessly go from one section to another, composers were required to format the music exports in a very specific way outlined below.
-played until character’s first attack lands
2. TRANSITION: Introduction to Verse
-when first attack lands to transition to Verse
4. TRANSITION: Verse to Chorus
-transition to chorus
-big pay off for players who play stylishly
6. TRANSITION: Chorus back to Verse
-plays when plays take damage while in the “Chorus” or S rank and above, moving them back down to A rank
7. OUTRO / ENDING
-used to end the song regardless of where music is
8. BUILD UP STEM (LAYER)
-cross fades and filters up as player ranks from D to A
-when about to change to Chorus you’ll barely hear the verse and just this pounding riser
Music-Only Gameplay Captures of the Themes
Example of Dante Theme with Stylish Play Through (Verse and Chorus)
Example of Dante Theme with Normal Play Through (Verse Only)
Example of Nero Theme with Stylish Play Through (Verse and Chorus)
Example of Nero Theme with Normal Play Through (Verse Only)
Example of V Theme with Stylish Play Through
Example of Nero Theme with Normal Play Through
Casey Edwards composed tracks The Duel, Silver Bullet and Devil Trigger. Devil Trigger has vocals though and he did the underscore and produced lyrics. Devil Trigger was specifically made with Capcom for the game.
Jeff Rona produced and composed Crimson Cloud. So he came up with lyrics and did underscore, the only thing he did not do was the vocals. CC has vocals too like Devil Trigger. These 3 songs are reoccurring throughout the game.
Creating a character’s theme is exciting. The idea of embodying a character’s essence into music can be the first challenge you come up to in a score. Devil May Cry 5 was no different. Capcom‘s approach was to create a strong theme for each character as embodied by a battle song, and then allow the rest the score to arise from adaptations of those battle themes. Which meant those themes needed to be strong and adaptable. It’s not a coincidence that Capcom chose three composers to each write one theme, as opposed to having a single composer develop all the themes. The idea was to allow for a high degree of diversity in musical approach.
The other two themes were for characters that already existed in the Devil May Cry universe. My theme on the other hand was for a new character who did not have an already established musical concept. On one hand that took a lot of pressure off of me to be a continuation of a character’s legacy. On the other hand it didn’t mean I was starting from scratch either. I knew both Nero and Dante had strong themes that came out of two different rock genres. The character I wrote for, V, gave me the opportunity to go in a different direction. So I made the decision to avoid electric guitars and focus on industrial percussion and very aggressive electronics. Capcom loved the idea. I think I allowed for all the swagger and quirkiness of the character’s personality without going down the same musical route, and I think it was a good idea.
Since my theme was in essence a song to be reworked into score, one of the first challenges was not so much the music as it was lyrics. I already knew the path I wanted to take stylistically, but lyrics function at another level. Hideaki Itsuno, the director, had sent me a background about the character V to understand his internal conflicts, traits and history. I sat with Rachel Fannan to work on lyrics with her. I had a few thoughts about it but she did the bulk of it. For me it was more of a visual poem then an actual description of character or story. Frankly, saying anything concrete in the lyrics about the character would end up being a spoiler. So we avoided that for the most part. Yes, there are some hints and clues about V’s story, but it’s really not what the song is about. Even the title of the song really comes from a visual element and not a character element.
The interesting thing about Crimson Cloud is as you play the game and get better at it the structure of the song changes – more of it is revealed and the lyrics change. So structurally that was a serious challenge. The song is made up of many many layers, and many many sections. And the sections can connect together any number of ways. It’s a very non-linear piece, although there was a linear version of it in my mind as I was writing it both musically and lyrically. Sort of a musical jigsaw puzzle!
Additional Links and Resources
About the Author
Over the past two decades in music Michael Sweet is an accomplished video game audio composer for more than 100 video games. Michael currently leads the development of the game scoring curriculum at Berklee College of Music and is the author “Writing Interactive Music for Video Games: A Composer Guide”. As a composer/sound designer, Michael’s latest games on PS4 include Walden, A Game about the life of Henry David Thoreau, and The Night Journey an experimental art game which tells the story of an individual’s journey towards enlightenment.