It all started with a will to create something unique and own. Back in about 2014, Polish concept artist, Jakub Różalski, made his first sketches of the alternate 1920s in Central Europe. Beautiful digital yet classical, oil paintings filled with natural countryside landscapes and… big, military mechs inspired by first tanks during the Great War. It was folklore mixed with the dieselpunk.
Though the names of the countries are fictional, they still keep some qualities of each nation.
Soon after, his visions caught the Stonemaier Games studio’s attention an American studio. They wanted to make a board game based on Różalski’s 1920+ world and eventually they did – Scythe – a huge game driven by his concept arts and stories. It was a milestone in his career so that he became an artist known in some quarters. Image is a very impacting and vivid medium. Here comes a time for a video game and it leads us to Iron Harvest made by German studio, King Art Games.
Saxonian Empire, Rusviet Tsardom and Polania Republic between these two. That’s the setting of the 1920+ universe and Iron Harvest lets us choose which side we want to join on. Though the names of the countries are fictional, they still keep some qualities of each nation with which we can simply associate them.
Such sticking to details and trueness of archetypes is clearly seen in the music as well. The music was created by Polish composers – Adam Skorupa (The Witcher series), Michał Cielecki (Shadow Warrior) and Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz (Bulletstorm). The whole trio took part in creating each song in the game. It was a clever move to choose experienced musicians from a country which is a center of the game’s setting. They feel the story very well! So just like the developers set Różalski’s images in motion, the composers add another layer.
Rusviet sounds huge and pompous, blending gigantomania with nostalgia typical for Russian music. Despite the action taking place in the 1920s, in Różalski’s alternate history a tsar is still in power. In real life, during the leadership of Nicholas II (the last tsar of Romanov’s dynasty was killed in 1918) .The music in Russia was nicely developing its own character, although the style was created only a few decades earlier by five great composers (calling themselves The Mighty Five). At that time artists such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky influenced western popular music with their melodic style and vice versa, they were influenced by western artists like Franz Liszt. Only Soviet era forced composers to make more military scores and founded Alexandrov Red Army Choir.
In Iron Harvest tsar’s Rusviet is a bit more “red” then, but it fits perfectly to the character of the dieselpunk Rusviet Tsardom. All the male vocal choir parties in Rusviet tracks were sung in Russian by an orthodox group Katapetasma recorded in Juice Sound Studio in Warsaw. On the other hand, to add even more Russian flavour we can hear Aleksander Grochocki playing balalaika in Heinrich House Studio in Legionowo. Both, choir and the balalaika cooperating side by side can be found in Mother Rusviet, for instance.
Polania sounds more romantic and melancholic, almost like its music was a heritage of Polish aesthetic of the 19th century orbiting Mickiewicz’s poems and Chopin’s music – one of the main artistic icons of Polish struggle for independence in modern history. The music also shows the geopolitical smallness of Polania set between two empires. It often focuses on a person, not a nation and makes most of Polish folk music, especially while directly according to Anna’s story. Check out the song Butterfly – it contains it all.
As composers mentioned in one of interviews that their biggest inspiration for the sound of Polania was literally Różalski’s images of people working in a field with mechs in the background. To keep that character in the scores as well, the composers invited Trebunie Tutki, a Polish folk group, to perform vocal parties while recording in Chabacoovka Studio in Rabka.
The Saxonian Empire, on the one hand, is associated with military marches and this matches really good to steady steps of soldiers wearing the pickelhaubes. Although march as a music genre was invented in the late Middle Age and Renaissance in many countries, as a natural consequence of frequent wars, and later was used by a bunch of classic composers from Mozart to Tchaikovsky, it became really popular only in the 19th century – when brasses went on stage. German marches are particularly warrior because of their rhythm (2/4-beat, downbeat low sounds and off-beat snare or alto instruments). That’s exactly how Pride Of Saxony sounds in Iron Harvest – bombastic march played with a head held high.
On the other hand, Saxonian music uses accordion. It’s a really nice contrast to all the battle toms and brasses and it acts like a more personal and intimate opposite, still nicely collaborating with the former ones. It makes the Iron Harvest soundtrack very dynamic. It knows when to go hard with loudness and when to calm down. Last but not least, most of the tracks are not “clean” if it comes to the traditional style of each nation, but they’re mixed with electronic instruments in a very smart way. This stresses the dieselpunk factor of the 1920+ universe and makes it more complex at the same time.
It makes the Iron Harvest soundtrack very dynamic.
The original soundtrack album contains 22 songs chosen by the composers themselves, but there are over 60 created. There are even 5 main themes among them, so it’s a large material which we can listen to while playing. A little hint: if you’re going to play Iron Harvest, the creators recommend switching to a native language for each nation – it’ll make your immersion rise up a lot. By the way, that’s another example of how important a sound is in the game.