Paradox Interactive has revealed the official theme song for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, a dark, moody piece called Midnight that's really quite good. Also, I don't think I like it. Let me explain.
Written by Michel Zitron, Paulina Palmgren, and Jarly, Midnight is an interesting tune: Slow, electronic, forcibly gloomy. In many ways, that makes it at least potentially a good fit for Bloodlines 2. We don't know much about the game at this point, but we can be reasonably sure that it's not going to be a lighthearted, uplifting romp.
Here's my issue with the song. The theme from the original Bloodlines, performed by Ministry, is one of the greats. As a big Bloodlines fan I may be biased, but I'd say it's as much a genuinely iconic piece of game music as anything else out there. It doesn't so much set a mood as make a statement: Hang on to something heavy, because you're in for a ride. (And you should probably be a little worried about what's going to happen.)
Next to that, Midnight comes off as too restrained and cautious.
Dare to compare:
To my ears, there really is no comparison. This is Bloodlines—it's basically the videogame equivalent of Bela Lugosi's Dead, except that Bloodlines was commissioned specifically for the game rather than being merely a sharp bit of licensing. (I'd go so far as to say Ministry took great inspiration from that Bauhaus classic—I hear more than a little Bela Lugosi in Bloodlines.) You can see an aspect of that in the comments on YouTube as well. The reaction to Midnight is very positive overall, but more than a few people say that it's not really quite what they're looking for in a new Bloodlines game.
But a bit of introspection forces me to acknowledge that the real problem here isn't the new theme song, it's me. Bloodlines was a product of a very specific time and aesthetic, and I was there for it—but now the world has moved on. Things have changed, things are different, and all I can do is gaze at it all with a vaguely sad sense of bemusement, mourning for my lost youth as my slightly ratty Peter Murphy World Tour '92 t-shirt struggles to contain my middle-aged belly. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)
To be fair to all involved, Midnight isn't as much of a swerve off the Bloodlines track as it might appear. Ministry's banger kicks off the Bloodlines soundtrack, but there is also a separate Bloodlines score of original music composed for the game by Rik Schaffer. The score, which plays pretty much everywhere outside of the various goth clubs scattered throughout nighttime LA, is much more subtle and restrained than the soundtrack, and broadly speaking has a vibe not unlike that of Midnight.
Here's Schaffer's Bloodlines theme—it's not as immediately recognizable as Ministry's contribution, but as the saying goes, if you know, you know.
What we're left with is this: Bloodlines was lightning in a bottle, and it's not going to happen again. Bloodlines 2 will probably be a perfectly fine RPG and I'm genuinely eager to see what The Chinese Room does with it, but I don't think it's really going to satisfy anyone. The oldsters will want to know why it's not more like Bloodlines, and the kids still won't get why their dads won't stop going off about it every time Lacuna Coil comes on their favorite classic rock station. Or maybe—and this might be the real truth of the matter—like Bloodlines itself, I just got old.