This article contains spoilers for the game “Hollow Knight”
If you’ve played Hollow Knight in the past, you’re probably familiar with its iconic soundtrack, composed by the legendary Christopher Larkin. His masterful handling of the music really pulls Hollow Knight from a great game to an absolute masterpiece. The music in this game really tells a story, and I’d like to help you read along with me, as I cover one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.
Starting off the album is the song “Enter Hallownest”. It’s a light and yet slightly somber song, which is fitting for a new fresh-faced little bug knight starting his journey. From the incorporation of the string instruments, you can tell this is going to be a long and arduous task, and this little bug has a lot on his shoulders.
The second is “Dirtmouth”, named after the starting town in the game. It’s filled with sad strings and a backing piano, to give the feeling of loneliness the little town feels after all of its residents, except the Elder Bug, have fled to other places. The poor guy is there all by himself. I try to keep him company as often as I can and help save as many folks as I can to help him have company.
Coming up next in the song list is “Crossroads”. It starts off as a heavy piano piece to almost remind you, the player, of the weight of the journey that you are about to take. It amps up into almost something combative as it continues, showing that you’re going to have to fight to get through this. Don’t worry, little bug knight, we’ve got your back.
In the fourth spot is our first Boss song, “False Knight”. It’s a dramatic piece, starting with an intense cello part as the fight immediately kicks off. Flutes play a falling note scale as parts of the ceiling are brought down on you by the False Knight himself. The heavy hits of the orchestra are reminiscent of the cudgel strikes to the floor he uses to drive you back. The piece ends with almost a lighthearted ending as your heart lifts while you defeat your first boss.
(I’m going to start skipping around a bit here because I don’t want the article to be too long, but I want to at least cover the important pieces for you guys. I hope you’re okay with that!)
Next up is “Hornet”! A favored and beloved character by most of the community. By the almost exciting strings, you can tell Hornet’s fight is a very fast and exciting fight. She’s prone to jumping around a lot and is very light in her movements. The lack of weight to the piece helps correlate to the fact that she’s not fighting to kill you, just to test you, to make sure you can handle the road ahead.
The eighth track, “Mantis Lords”, is one of my personal favorites. Being another quick and fast-paced piece, it’s got more weight behind it than “Hornet”, because you’re fighting to gain access to one of the scariest and hardest (in my humble opinion) areas in the game. This boss consists of 3 people and I think that comes across well in the song, since the three pieces of the orchestra come together to form a wonderful cooperative ensemble, just like the fight itself.
A little farther down the list in the tenth spot is “Dung Defender”. An incredibly upbeat and noble horn part starts the song off. The music is perfect for this fight, as you learn the Dung Defender is more friend than foe. He’s enjoying the fight and the fierce competition you bring to the table for him. This piece really tells that he is an upstanding gentlebug who’s just looking for some good-hearted fun.
Skipping to the 19th song on the album is the track “Broken Vessel”. This entire song feels very heavy to me. There are lots of low strings and a very somber tune, heavily resembling the melody from the song “Enter Hallownest”. To me, the heavy resemblance in both songs say, ‘This could be you, if your journey goes awry,’ because it is a broken version of one of your many siblings that you’re fighting. It very easily could have been you in that position.
Coming in on track twenty-four is my favorite song on the whole soundtrack, “Sealed Vessel”. The story told in this song is one of violence, desperation, and tragedy. It starts almost calm, while the vessel is still in its chains, and as you break each one, the violins start to pick up into a tremolo, almost in anticipation of what’s to come. When the last chain is broken and the Hollow Knight is free, the music nearly explodes into an almost sad melody as you fight this monster, who has been overcome by the blight that has been spreading across the kingdom of Hallownest.
At the climax of the song, it devolves into a very sad piece. The morose hum of the cello playing the melody is then joined by a violin that brings it to an apex of a lot of feelings. It then ends with a very sad piano melody resembling the melody from “Enter Hallownest” and “Broken Vessel”, tying the three siblings together. This is a fight that you are doing, because you have to. This is not a fun adventure. You’re fighting the strongest of your siblings who, as it’s revealed in the true ending, was handpicked by the King of Hallownest to be the Vessel of this growing blight, which also brings us to the last song on the list…
“Radiance” is an Orchestral piece that starts out intense and keeps that energy going throughout the whole song. Radiance is THE final boss of the game. Her light is causing the blight plaguing Hallownest. She has corrupted your siblings and is fighting to stay in the minds of those in the kingdom as she becomes less and less worshipped by the people who began to follow the King of Hallownest instead. The shift in power left her almost defeated, but a small group of moths continued their worship of the deity, and she was able to remain. Then, slowly but surely, she spread her blight across the unsuspecting Kingdom. The piece ends with a huge climax as you climb your way up to her and finally triumph, ending the blight and freeing the people of Hallownest.
If you haven’t played Hollow Knight (or even if you have) and haven’t just sat and listened to the soundtrack, I highly recommend that you do. There’s even some for the DLC as well, and It is altogether such a wonderful and vibrant OST. Maybe give it a listen sometime, and we can talk about how Sealed Vessel makes me cry every time.