Ween’s The Mollusk is the Perfect Soundtrack to Bloodborne: The Old Hunters

Hear me out

Not every game has werewolves and cosmic horrors and invisible demon babies and self-administered injections of what’s probably menstrual blood, so when a game does, it’s natural to want to dig into how they got there. Armchair Bloodborne theorists have drawn tired comparisons between the game and Kentaro Miura’s dark fantasy manga Berserk, but a lesser-known — though self-evidently much more important — influence can be found in American alternative rock band Ween. Like the Souls franchise, Ween transcended from niche interest to cult classic to genre-defining pop sensation through their masterful combinations of precision, variety, eccentricity, and humor.

But art doesn’t happen in a vacuum. One of these things came before the other, and in my book that’s plenty to demonstrate causation: Ween directly inspired FromSoft. For the unbelievers who need further evidence, I submit this definitive mapping of each song from Ween’s 1997 album The Mollusk to scenes from Bloodborne’s DLC, The Old Hunters.

Ween live at Blue Hills Pavilion, Boston, 2017

Track #1: “Dancing in the Show Tonight”

Scene: Opening Cinematic

An opening reminiscent of an orchestra tuning. Sets the stage, but for what? You can imagine the enormous Lovecraftian hellbeast carefully rehearsing cheery dance moves, if you like. The lights dim. The show is about to start.

Nearby message: “You must accept slimy thing”

Track #2: “The Mollusk”

Scene: When A Snail Person Drops Out of the Sky For No Apparent Reason

What did you think this DLC would be about? We’ve got some beasts running around, that’s on brand. Rivers of blood, sure. A smattering of beasts (but they’re scared of you so who’s the real beast hmm?). A Junji Ito-style snail-person inexplicably plummeting to their death mere feet in front of you? There’s the nonsense we paid to see!

Why wouldn’t this upbeat song about a child’s seaside discovery fit a horrific interruption of an already-grim environment? “Yes, I found it on the ground, emulating the ocean sound… Yes, it speaks of the trinity, casting light at the sun with its wandering eye.” Sometimes a casually-discovered gastropod is an ominous glimpse into the ancient, indifferent horrors of the abyssal ocean, and no more complex than that.

If The Mollusk and The Old Hunters paint an uncertain picture in their opening moments, this is their wink at you to relax. You’ve found your mollusk. You will be taken care of. We will all go to the beach together.

Track #4: “I’ll Be Your Jonny on the Spot”

Scene: Hunter’s Nightmare

The opening level is overflowing with eager hunters, and every last man of them fully qualified to be your Jonny on the Spot. But — if you’ll let me be your bloodthirsty-townsfolk sommelier a moment — I’d recommend the guy with the hammer that explodes when he hits you with it. He seems most likely to have a Chevy with a Mopar cam.

This is a person whose blood you’ll put into your body.

Track #5: “Mutilated Lips”

Scene: Blood Saint Adeline and the Research Hall

In the Research Hall, The Old Hunters takes a refreshing pause from drinking other people’s blood to spend a little time focusing on drinking good old fashioned seawater. This expands the mind (and also the entire head area, into a big gooey-looking ball) and makes it easier to hear the ocean, which is always nice.

“Mutilated Lips” is certainly a weird song and a little sinister, but it’s relaxing, and while some of the Research Hall’s patients are having a bit of a time of it, there’s also the patient (noun, adjective) Adeline, who gently asks you to bring her brain fluid from some other patients so she can see the shape of, you know, probably a god or something. Soulsborne games love putting very chill people in un-chill circumstances, and yes the research hall has tentacles and brain-licking and sassy frassy lassies, but Adeline’s presence softens the edge a little. Stay here, have a drink. Accept only fresh brine.

Alternate Ween song for Ludwig: “Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?”

Track #6: “The Blarney Stone”

Scene: Ludwig, The Accursed/Ludwig, the Holy Blade

If he pulls out the claymore, you’re shit outta luck.

Track #7: “It’s Gonna Be (Alright)”

Scene: Fishing Hamlet

The Fishing Hamlet is the source of the Old Hunters’ guilty nightmares: a village of innocents ravaged by the Hunters, its inhabitants vivisected in search of the telltale signs of an encounter with the Great Ones. From Lady Maria’s discarded sword to Gehrman’s broken sobs, we get the sense that — even in the moment of their violence — the Old Hunters understood that they were doing something terribly wrong.

There’s certainly an optimism to “It’s Gonna Be (Alright)”, a song about the moments just following a breakup, but it reads less like confidence and more like a person trying to come up with a post-hoc justification for his poor decisions.

In a way, murdering a village is like a breakup, probably.

Track #8: ”The Golden Eel”

Scene: Simon the Harrowed, Church Assassin Brador, and the Unifying Theory Clearly Explaining All of Bloodborne’s Lore Once And For All

I cannot reveal the worlds of the Golden Eel.

Pictured: girlfriends doing normal girlfriend activities.

Track #9: “Cold Blows the Wind”

Scene: Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower

Lady Maria, overseer of the Research Hall, is permanently stationed in the gateway separating the Fishing Hamlet from the rest of the nightmare. Her warning — “A corpse should be left well alone” — applies as well to her as to the beached god she guards.

“Cold Blows the Wind”, meanwhile, is bafflingly straightforward for a Ween song. Why, after a song like “The Golden Eel”, should we receive a straightforward ballad of desire for love lost? Why would this comedy romp slash slow descent into darkness take this moment to linger sincerely on regret, on the very human yearning to understand or even reclaim what we’ve lost? There’s a reason for Maria’s fan popularity despite her small part: the sorrowful tone struck by the smattering of details about her stands with some of the most emotionally-resonant moments of the series.

Track #10: “Pink Eye (On My Leg)”

Scene: Underground Corpse Pile

An interstitial scene for an interstitial song. Casual noodlings on an electric guitar. A pair of church doctors patrolling empty cells. In the distance, a dog barks.

If your leg is going to catch pink eye, it is going to be in a place called the Underground Corpse Pile.

Track #11 “Waving My Dick in the Wind”

Scene: Laurence, the First Vicar

There probably isn’t a name for Laurence’s (relatable) mood of endlessly pining after the last fragment of his humanity — which exists only in his nightmares — as his body and spirit are eternally consumed by the monstrosity he’s become. But “Waving [Your] Dick in the Wind” is as good a name as any.

He can’t really dance the way he used to. He’s an old man now.

Track #12: “Buckingham Green”

Scene: Living Failures

Occasionally in this game, it’s meteors.

The Mollusk has been by turns humorous, bizarre, and melancholy, but this is its most tense, almost violent song. It is confrontational in its weirdness; it demands attention.

“Why ask why” could be a throwaway lyric, but it’s also a terrific question to ask if you ever find yourself overseeing a sanitarium of screeching, malformed people traumatized by your blind, heartless pursuit of knowledge.

Track #13: “Ocean Man”

Scene: Orphan of Kos

We’ve come to the beach.

The “child-like man,” the “wizened child,” the newborn orphan of the ancient sea god murdered by the Old Hunters, beats you into the sand with its own placenta. If that doesn’t scream “enthusiastic ukulele ditty” to you, I’m not sure we played the same game.

The voyage to this corner of the globe was a real trip.

Track #14: “She Wanted to Leave (Reprise”)

Scene: Ending Cinematic

“For I’m not the man I used to be/Now I’m one of them.”

With the death of the Orphan comes the quieting of the nightmare that haunts Gehrman, the last of the Old Hunters. The terrible secret, hidden within dreams and beyond savage protectors, is not the knowledge of Gods, but the sins the Old Hunters committed for it: violence, cruelty, murder. Fitting, then, to end on a song that begins with an object of pursuit and ends with the cost of that pursuit.

Bloodborne emphasizes the desperate search for the next evolution of humanity, but this moment suggests that change already began when the earliest hunters made the choice to abandon what made them human in the first place.

Track #3: Polka Dot Tail

Scene: ?????

Not every theory is ironclad and fully supported by in-game context. I can conjecture that Hidetaka Miyazaki sings this song to himself in the shower, but no item descriptions expressly say so.