In the summer of 2011, Supergiant Games released the popular title Bastion which took place in a sci-fi/western world filled with lush environments and an engrossing story. It tells the tale of a young man who wakes up after the events of the Calamity, a cataclysmic disaster that destroyed much of his world. But that is not what we are here to talk about. Instead we discuss the soundtrack of Bastion, or to be more precise, the one track that best sums up the atmosphere and attitude of Bastion in its entirety. I am talking about none other than track number 11, Spike in a Rail.
Composed by musician and 2010 national Rock Band champion Darren Korb, Spike in the Rail can be described as a musical manifestation of Walker Texas Ranger. If you close your eyes while listening to Spike in a Rail, you can practically see Chuck Norris standing outside during the sunset with his signature shotgun and denim blue jeans. However, this simple comparison does not give the song justice without describing its actual sound.
Using an assortment of guitars along with a banjo, harmonica, drums, and other various "western" sound effects, Darren Korb single handedly delivers Spike in a Rail strongly from beginning to end. Within the first 5 seconds of the song, that signature harmonica whine plays its haunting tune inviting you in to a land of adventure and peril. The beginning acoustics and faded beat of the drums give off the impression of a town that is weathered yet deadly. As the middle of the song makes its way to your ears, the song begins to show off with every instrument in full gear.
It almost teases you saying, "Too late to turn around. You're here in my town to stay. There's no leaving now so you might as well get comfortable". In fact, the entire last half evokes a very similar feeling, but with the sound of the guitars and banjo taking turns in leading the rhythm of the music. The haunting wail of the harmonica plays every few moments to signal that it's the next instrument's turn. The ending is very similar to the opening but with the banjo and acoustic guitar working together in unison to say both, "Farewell" and "Get off my lawn".
So why out of countless video game compositions does this single track stand out from the rest? Because it successfully took a genre I sincerely despised, and made it pleasing to my ears. My experience with all things western or country was poor to say the least. No matter what I watched or listened to it always felt unoriginal, mopey, and bland. In fact, if I had known that Bastion was a "western" style game I would have never picked it up. But once I began the game, that single track revealed just how bad to the bone anything western could be. Each time I hear the opening to Spike in a Rail I imagine the protagonist alone, blade and gun in hand ready to face an army of critters that are about to meet their maker.
While the entire soundtrack of Bastion is excellent in both its quality and originality, none of the tracks quite sum up the atmosphere of Bastions like Spike in a Rail does. It captures the feel of danger and self-reliance that we often fantasized as young children. The professional use of instruments and sound effects are a testament to the talent and passion of Darren Korb. In the online world of video game music and fan-made remixes, Spike in a Rail sets a standard that cannon easily be met.