Image Source- Track art for “October”.
Between Hiveswap Act One coming out a year ago and the Hiveswap Friendsim being well underway, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for the source material. However, since I don’t happen to have a few hundred hours to actually reread Homestuck in its entirety, I’ve been content just listening to the soundtrack again, and oh my god, I forgot how fantastic it was. Most of it falls under the broad umbrella of “experimental instrumental”, but within that are so many different subgenres, there’s bound to be something in there for everybody. Doing a standard “top 10” wouldn’t feel right, there’s no way I could pick a definitive “best” or rank my favorites, so let’s just run through a couple standout tracks.
- Let’s start early on. Albums 1-4 were all compiled into one, because they serve the general purpose of introducing the basic themes that would be reused later. These include the battle themes Showtime and Beatdown, which went on to be remixed within the same group as a haunting refrain and a second battle theme. Other important melodies like Skies of Skaia and the drums from Upward Movement were introduced here as well, which went on to feature in other tracks again and again. Three of the four planetary motifs appear here as well, those being Doctor, Endless Climb, and Atomyk Ebonpyre. While all of these songs are fantastic, my recommended track for this album has to be Sburban Jungle, the moment where shit starts to get real, although Explore and Black are pretty great too.
- Okay, I got a bit carried away on that last one. Maybe if I pick a later album, I’ll be able to focus a bit better. Let’s go with One Year Older. A majority of the songs in this album were written by Erik Scheele, a pianist, so this album is pretty piano heavy. As a result, there’s plenty of gorgeous tracks like Sunrise and Firefly Cloud. Negastrife, one of my two favorites, is a unique boss fight track with a sweet, sweet bassline and an ending that flows perfectly into Mother, one of the most emotional songs from the discography. It sounds both euphoric and crushing at the same time, and I don’t mean it has happy and sad parts. It uplifts you and drags you down with the same chord. Also Another Chance is another favorite, and— it’s about time to move on before I recommend the entire album again.
- Cherubim was the final album before the series of pauses, leaving the bandcamp silent for about 19 months. This album is interesting because it plays with a theme of duality because— you don’t care, do you? Anyway, all the odd numbered songs (except 11) are calmer, relaxing tracks that correspond to the even numbers, which are all higher-energy and more aggressive. I prefer the higher energy tracks just because that’s who I am, but Reverie is still pretty alright. Carne Vale and The Lordling are both great intense metal themes, the former a bit more focused and aggressive while the latter is more wild and unhinged. My recommendation from this album, though, is Eternity Served Cold, the final track from the album. It’s eight minutes of pure dark orchestral that samples a lot of other great tracks, all based around a remix of English from an earlier album.
- You all remember Megalovania? Final boss track from Undertale? Pretty great, right? Well, forget that, the real Megalovania was from a Halloween hack of Earthbound by Toby Fox (which is fantastic by the way). Forget that one too, because the one we’re talking about is stylized as MeGaLoVania (for some reason) and appeared on the Volume Six album. You know what, forget all iterations of Megalovania while we’re at it, the best song is actually a toss up between Gaia Queen and the fantastic mashup of earlier tracks that compose Umbral Ultimatum, but those are far from the only songs worth hearing on the album. It also features the final land theme Frost, elevator music for some reason, this monstrosity, and 3 in the Morning in case you wanted more of that sweet piano action from One Year Older.
- Just touched on Volume 6, might as well move onto it’s edgy sibling Volume 7. This one features a lot of darker tracks like Black Rose/Green Sun and At the Price of Oblivion before moving onto lighter songs like Even in Death. There’s happy tracks too, though, like Lifdoff and Play the Wind, as well as the heavenly Savior of the Dreaming Dead. My favorite, though, is Awakening. Loud and victorious, it’s arguably one of the best of the discography, and seems pretty underrated compared to some others.
- Maybe just looking through an album isn’t working, so let’s see if I can find the single best boss fight theme… nope, that won’t work either. Check out Strife!, every song except the first song and bonus track are boss themes. This is where we see Joren de Bruin’s mastery of symphonic metal. Heir Conditioning and Dance of Thorns are both heavy battle themes, but the former is lead by a piano and bolstered by raw brass, while the latter features a violin of all instruments; and they’re both all the better for it. The next track, Time on my Side, is a remix of the aforementioned Beatdown, and one of the best versions of the song. Moving on, [S] Collide includes all four songs that accompanied the final battle, starting with the intro to Creata (we’ll get to that later), Oppa Toby Style (composer Toby Fox allegedly submitted the song without a title, and this was what was chosen for him), a chunk of the aforementioned Eternity Served Cold, and the symphonic metal masterpiece Heir of Grief, again by Joren de Bruin, which just might hold the title of my personal favorite song in the discography. Each of these songs evokes a completely different set of emotions, the first filling you with trepidation as the battle starts, the second overpowering you with energy, the third making you feel trapped and alone as the battle swings out of favor, and the last an overwhelming sense of both loss and victory. Before moving on, I can’t possibly leave out the first song I listened to outside of the comic, Rex Duodecim Angelus, translating to “King of Twelve Angels”. It chronicles the battle of twelve heroes against the king, using melodies previously associated with each of them in older albums alongside a new, increasingly frantic melody for the king.
- Volume 5 is a bit of an odd album. After taking the previous volumes to establish the necessary motifs to continue on, the artists spent their time with this album to determine what direction to take the discography here. This leads to a big album with a lot of very odd tracks. Still, there’s some good picks in here, like a couple of decent Doctor remixes, some songs built on the Skies of Skaia motif, the Clockwork songs (that interestingly are built around Endless Climb), Lotus Land Story (which shares the name of a Touhou title my computer isn’t old enough to play), Underworld, Throwdown, and Valhalla, among others. There were also a lot of songs that would go on to be mixed later, like Anthem and Sarabande, which would later become parts of the Symphony Impossible to Play; An Unbreakable Union appears in the above Umbral Ultimatum; Crystamanthequins and Candles and Clockwork are great as they are but I’ll get to their later versions next; and finally, there’s Descend. Toby Fox was well known for his masterful use of leitmotifs when crafting the Undertale soundtrack, but none of those songs have anything on Descend, which mixes literal dozens of previous tracks into one cohesive song. Check it out.
- 9 comes after five, right? Volume 9 gets off to an absolutely fantastic start with an addictive Crystamanthequins remix, the undeniable bop of Anbroids, and Trepidation. It falls of slightly for a bit before winning us back with one of the greatest song names of all time, leading into Skaianet and Another Jungle. It’s not all high-energy happiness, though, as Austin, Atlantis is outright haunting, Lancer is slow and almost melancholy, and Three in the Morning sounds just like something that you’d hear in the cold, inky darkness of 3 AM. Getting back into the energy, we have irreconcilable— I’m sorry, iRRRRRRRRECONCILA8LE, Break Shot, and Portrait if the middle of the album was getting you down. Candles and Clockwork also gets a cover here, making it better than ever. Rounding out the album is Dogfight, which was written by fans who all had tracks on Colours and Mayhem- which i have to get on this list as well- and best of all, A Taste for Adventure. This last track can put some of the Legend of Zelda themes to shame, and that’s saying something. After a buildup of nearly a minute (long song, buckle up), an entire orchestra flourishes to life to deliver a near perfect sense of adventure and exploration, with each and every part serving in its goal.
- Breaking away from the volume albums, next up is Colours and Mayhem. We’ll put both versions in here, since we’re already on entry nine. These albums have two “character” sections each with songs based around their color scheme, as well as a “mayhem” section for anything else. All songs are made by fans, and chosen through a competition ran by Toby Fox himself, so there’s quite a few good picks here. Universe A (the first version) features more characters, so they’re heavier on the “color” side with songs like the eerie and trepidatious Gold Pilot, electronic Fuchsia Ruler, full-on metal Iron Knight, gorgeous Indigo Archer, and my favorite on this album, Violet Prince, proving once and for all that shit characters get the best themes.
Moving on to Universe B, there’s less characters and therefore more “mayhem” tracks here. That doesn’t mean the character tracks should be discounted, as they include some of the best mixes of Doctor and Atomyk Ebonpyre yet. My favorites here come in near the end of the album, including Checkmate, Rustless Fall, and the even better Clockstopper and Pipeorgankind. Because these are essentially fan albums, they make liberal use of leitmotifs, which certainly tickles me under the headphones, and makes some of these songs all-time favorites.
- One of these albums ought to line up with their place on the list, so for #10 we’ll look at Volume 10, the final volume album. They have a great start with Creata… kind of. We’ve already heard the first chunk of the song in the Collide album, and the second chunk is even better: a swirling orchesta combined with a booming, full choir cover of part of the beauteous Song of Skaia… but it kind of falls off after that. No worries, though, because it gets back on track with Of Gods and Witches, and a Princess Bride homage featuring dueling leitmotifs (The Ballad of Jack Noir and Showtime, specifically). It kicks into high gear with Freefall, one of the only songs to sample Cascade, and the motif train continues onto the much darker Solar Voyage, which takes pieces from Explore and Flare. Near the end of the album is Lilith in Starlight, taking from Black Rose/Green Sun, as well as themes relating to the romantic partners the song was written for. Cute! Favorite track of mine is probably the high speed electronic Feel (Alive), not to say that other songs here aren’t on the same level.
- We’ll close off with Volume 8, which hits you right off the bat with excitement, romance, tension, loss, and a gorgeous song that later ends up in the Symphony Impossible to Play. While all the albums have a sort of progression through them where the overall tone shifts throughout, it’s at its clearest here, and the eclectic mix at the start ends starts to fade into the middle with Terraform and the excitement of Unite Synchronization. Brighter songs like Galaxy Hearts, retro-style Arcade Thunder, and blissful Kingside Castle are the last light before the darkness as the album becomes overtaken with darker, eerier songs like Temporary, or tenser tracks Bargaining with the Beast. As you get closer and closer to the end of the album, though, Drift into the Sun turns the cold darkness into pure energy with one of the greatest song outros in the album, launching us into the final tracks like Infinity Mechanism and Judgement Day. My final recommendation is definitely going to be Cascade, a 13 minute epic weaving four very different songs into one, creating one of the most intense songs in the discography.
Well, this certainly got away from me. It appears I might have a fundamentally flawed understanding of what a “top 10” list is supposed to be. Or maybe I should just do an actual top 107 instead of trying to cram that many songs into 10 entries. I didn’t even get to touch on every album in this list, I’m sure plenty of fans are upset that I didn’t include Alterniabound or Prospit & Derse, so there’s plenty more here to discover that I didn’t manage to cover. No matter what your tastes are, there’s sure to be something in this 600+ song discography that you’ll be into.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.