Tag Archives: Rock

Review: Motoi Sakuraba Band Arrangement Album / STAR OCEAN & VALKYRIE PROFILE

While Motoi Sakuraba’s name isn’t as well known as many JRPG composers out there, he’s probably written more music than any of them. He’s composed all or at least the majority of the Tales series, Star Ocean series, Valkyrie Profile series, Baten Kaitos series, and numerous others. There were two separate years in the 2000s where he produced three separate 4-disc soundtrack releases. He’s a beast, and in recent years, he’s worked on the Dark Souls soundtracks too.

He’s mainly known for his progressive rock music, and has performed and recorded several shows over the years. This album is special, however, as it was his intent to focus on battle music from older titles to bring them to life with a live rock performance mainly performed by himself. He performed all the drums, piano, rock organ, and synths himself, and had a professional guitarist and bass player help out. This album should be intriguing enough just for that, but the music is some of the best from Star Ocean, Star Ocean 2, Valkyrie Profile, and Valkyrie Profile 2, so you’d want to check it out anyway.

Most of the tracks have never been arranged before (a few have been performed during previous shows, but not with Sakuraba on so many instruments). The twelve tracks tread on a lot of different territory, from the gritty “The incarnation of the devil,” to the unpredictable and unsettling “Dynamite.” One of my favorites, “The true nature of all” brings in harpsichord and a high-pitched synth with a strong fantasy vibe, while “Mighty blow+Shiver” gets a siren-like synth lead that hints at danger, “Never Surrender” is slow and melancholy with some heartbreaking piano, “For Achieve” sports lightning-fast percussion and guitar, and “Tangency” is classic crazy Sakuraba with explosive percussion and rock organ with a sweet breakdown about halfway through. The oft-arranged and performed “Unconfirmed God Fighting Syndrome” is uplifting and awesome as always, “KA.MI.KA.ZE” is a decisive and measured adventure, and “Confidence in the domination” gallops in with guitar shredding and non-stop aggression.

In all, the album is a real treat for Sakuraba fans and a nice introduction to some of his earlier work heard with a live band for those who don’t know his work as well. Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY -Arcade- ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

I remember when Dissidia was first announced. This was the fighting game Final Fantasy fans wanted (not Ergheiz!). The scores for the first two Dissidia games were fantastic, incorporating some lovely arrangements and original themes, so I was excited to get my hands on the soundtrack album accompanying the franchise’s first foray into arcades.

What you’ll find are pretty familiar sounds. Big, bombastic orchestral originals, and orchestral-rock hybrid arrangements of your favorite Final Fantasy battle themes. The opening theme takes a more melancholy approach with the series theme, but the glitchy “Prelude” will get the nostalgia and energy flowing pretty quickly. From there, the heavy metal flows, including a thunderous version of “The Rebel Army” from Final Fantasy II, which came as a surprise, a bombastic orchestral and synth version of the Final Fantasy IV final battle theme, the latter portion of “Dancing Mad” from Final Fantasy VI, and really cool spins on the main battle theme and “Fight With Seymour” from Final Fantasy X. “Flash of Steel” from Final Fantasy XII incorporates Hitoshi Sakimoto’s signature orchestral elements and adds in chugging bass and rock percussion on top, while *Eden Under Siege” from Final Fantasy XIII comes as a welcome addition, full of grit, wailing distorted guitars, rock percussion, and strings. “Antipyretic” from Final Fantasy Tactics also gets a slow and desperate arrangement with piano and sorrowful strings. The last track offers a remix of the Dissidia main theme, “Massive Explosion,” by SQ album series arranger Novoiski, bringing in synth sweeps, chiptune, and dub step elements.

There isn’t really anything groundbreaking here in terms of arrangements, but the rock-oriented takes on classic Final Fantasy tunes should please arcade-goers. Pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes Original Soundtrack (BSPE-1056)

Basiscape Records has released the soundtrack to the fifth game in the Metal Max series titled Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes (Metal Saga: Kouya no Hakobune in Japan). The Android/iOS title once again features RPG combat on foot or via vehicles, and Basiscape composer Yoshimi Kudo (Tekken 6, Muramasa, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir) provides an impressive metal-infused orchestral score. It’s always surprising just how well the team at Basiscape can incorporate Hitoshi Sakimoto’s signature sound into their work, so fans of his should also be pleased with this soundtrack.

The opening track, “Crack down!,” is pure metal with high productions values and English vocals. From there, “Mortal Engines” brings big brass and percussion to this upbeat Sakimoto-esque march, “Workaholics Jam” sports funky bass and rock organ, and “The Earth and the Wind” features a gritty Western sound with twangy electric guitar. Theres the playful “March of 65536 Steps” which incorporates Celtic instruments, “No Bullets, No Life” which is a cool spin on electronic-infused metal, and “Rhythm Show,” a loungy funk tune. There are ethereal pads in “Into the Silence,” drum ‘n’ bass in “On the Edge,” playful and silly dubstep in “Elegant Resuscitated Person’s Dance,” and industrial glitch rock in “Bolt and Nut Girl.” Finally, there’s the desperate “Moment of Truth,” the cheery electric pop tune, “Don’t Stop the Heartbeat,” the smooth electronic “Fragment 2 Fragment,” the explosive electronic “Giant Killer” with its massive choir and tension, and the upbeat and funky “Yesterday’s Friend is Today’s Enemy” with its lightning-fast rock.

In all, Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes offers an eclectic mix of songs, but it’s all well produced and shows of Kudo’s versatility and talent. Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: STAR OCEAN 5 -Integrity and Faithlessness- Original Soundtrack

Motoi Sakuraba has had quite a prolific career. At one point, he was chugging out several four-disc soundtracks per year, all with his signature progressive rock style. He took a break from it all to work on more orchestral and choral works with his excellent Dark Souls soundtracks, but I was certainly looking forward to a return to his roots with Star Ocean 5, and the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint. There’s all the space fantasy rock you can handle, and even a few tracks that sound like they’d be right at home in Dark Souls. Expect chugging guitars, laser-like synths, and tons of rock organ; Sakuraba is back!

Four discs of material is a lot to wade through, so I’ll try to call out my favorites, which include “The Fecund Plains of Resulia,” an epic and bombastic fantasy track with a powerful and uplifting melody, “Central Resulia, The Capital” with regal strings and harpsichord, lending a rustic feel to this beautiful symphonic piece, “Spacetime Chaos” with its layered and mesmerizing pads, the horrifying “Flabbergasted” with its shrill strings atop a bed of deep brass and scattered percussion, “Cruel Fortune, How Your Wheel Doth Turn” with its heartbreaking string swells and woodwinds, “Over the Planet” with its tense and determined melody, “Lakes and Marshes With Doubt” with its layered bell tones and ethereal ambiance, “Silk Road in the Sky II” with its trippy space synth leads and Jean Michel-Jarre-esque pads, the dangerous march, “Event Horizon,” with its buzzing strings and terrifying brass swells, “Uncontrollable Anger” with its ominous and mysterious strings and bass that is reminiscent of Jaws, the tragic and sinister “Tears in the Sun Make a Rainbow,” “Mission to Deep Space” with its jazzy saxophone and electronic elements, and “Do Evil” with its beefy synth sweeps and dissonant strings.

That classic Sakuraba prog rock sound? It’s heard everywhere, but some of the standouts include “Wild Fight, No End in Sight” with his bizarre time signatures and explosive battle stylings, “Under Pressure” with a funky bass line and ominous strings and pads, and “Mortal Combat” with its lightning-fast guitar work and intense builds. In terms of channeling that dark and bombastic Dark Souls sound, look no further than “Hour of Judgement,” “Kronos,” and “Powerbroker,” all of which are tense, grandiose, and awesome.

Sakuraba fans like myself will definitely have the nostalgia flowing by the time this album is through. Newcomers will benefit from hearing Motoi Sakuraba’s classic rock stylings through the lens of his extensive experience working on more orchestral compositions over the past several years. In any case, it’s awesome, and fans of RPGs and rock music will want to pick it up on CD Japan.

Review: Xenoblade Chronicles X Original Soundtrack

The announcement that anime and film composer Hiroyuki Sawano would be working on Xenoblade Chronicles X was met with a lot of excitement. The team was going all out with the score, and for anyone who’s played the game, the vast landscapes that are at the same time primeval and futuristic are captured perfectly in Sawano’s blend of epic orchestral, electronic, rock, hip-hop, vocal and piano ballads, and more. There are sleek production values throughout, and while the track titles are often unreadable (presented as alpha-numeric gibberish), making it hard to find your favorite moments, listening from start to finish will present numerous outstanding moments.

Many of the in-game themes have been spliced together and shift pretty dramatically in mood over the course of a single track, so it’s hard to describe individual tracks, but the variety is pretty staggering. The four-disc collection begins with a bang, with the epic choir and strings of “CODENAMEZ” and the uplifting main theme, “THEMEX.” “LP” presents a soundscape that’s exotic and alien, complete with pretty bell tones, while “MONOX” sports a smooth electronic vibe before hitting the powerful main theme again. The ethereal “Nemousu” is beautiful yet melancholy with its use of choir and bells, while the tracks from the central hub city, New LA, include hip hop elements mixed with rock and electronica. The battle themes, “Black Tar” and “Uncontrollable” are both great at building tension and getting you pumped with their heavy electronics and hip hop vocals in the former and male/female duet in the latter. Other areas of the game feature funk, blues, and even tread on Celtic territory. One track even makes use of phone noises and scary screeches to create a tense atmosphere, while another brings in ethnic instruments that are perfect accompaniments for an arid desert. Anyone who’s played the game will also know the music featured in Primordia, which has a distinctly prehistoric sound with rock elements, heavy string stabs and a driving melody that will leave you wanting to explore every nook and cranny of this foreign world. There are also some nice solo piano tracks tucked away on the last disc.

I mentioned vocals earlier, but in addition to the battle and New LA themes, there are a number of other vocal tracks. “You Voice” is a grungy pop rock track, “Wir fliegen” is a pumping electronic piece with German vocals, and “By my side” is a sweet pop rock ballad with cheesy lyrics reminiscent of the GENKI ROCKETS. “Don’t Worry” also stands out with its 80s synths and sticky sweet electronic synth pop vibe. The star, however, is “In the forest,” which is featured three separate times on the album, featuring an epic orchestral and choir backing alongside spoken narration-style singing.

In all, fans of the game should enjoy what’s on offer here. While it’s not organized in a way to find your favorite tracks, you’ll be right at home with all of the music here. It’s epic, it’s well produced, and it’s memorable. Grab the four-disc set at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Muramasa Rebirth Genroku Legends Original Soundtrack (BSPE-1054~5)

Do you love Muramasa? The game is gorgeous, and the soundtrack by Basiscape has also received high praise. Muramasa has seen several album releases with a soundtrack and arrange album to date, but this latest collection from Basiscape Records brings together new music created for the PlayStation Vita port Muramasa Rebirth DLC packs, composed by the Basiscape team.

Fans of the original score should feel right at home. Lots of beautifully-layered Japanese instruments abounds, complete with rock and orchestral backings as appropriate. The opener, “Strike the Four Strings,” features studio head Hitoshi Sakimoto’s memorable theme and other standouts include the contemplative and sweeping “Mountains and Rivers,” the decisive orchestral piece “Perseverance,” and healing “High-Rise Buildings,” the lovely vocal theme with piano accompaniment titled “Rice Flower,” the gorgeously flowing strings of “Astonishing Sight,” the cool jazz fusion of “Solid Fortress,” the super serious espionage-esque “Pursuit,” the pop-tinged “External Traveller,” and the mischievous “Extraordinary Talent.”

While the physical two-disc set is available in Japan and is covered in artwork by Vanillaware, the album is available on the iTunes US store if you’re interested.

Review: TREE of SAVIOR ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK Vol.1

As a huge fan of SoundTeMP’s work on Ragnarok Online and the varied contributors to Granado Espada, I’ve had my eye on Tree of Savior for a long time. From IMC Games, it’s been touted as the spiritual successor to Ragnarok Onliine, which is apparent in the visual presentation and the musical talent assembled for the game. It features audio lead Sevin (S.F.A) along with new contributions from SoundTeMP and Questrosound (aka Nikacha, formerly of SoundTeMP), and artist Kevin. In all, the music is amazingly well-produced, and I’d describe it as a happy medium between the poppy sound of Ragnarok Online and the classical/trance sounds of Granado Espada. There are many great moments throughout, and I’m definitely curious to hear this music in the context of the game.

It all starts with the Celtic-inspired main theme, “Tree of Savior,” which also gets a piano and live version on the album. Some of my favorite contributions include S.F.A’s “Due Solo” which combines orchestral and electronic elements into a classy and somewhat desperate soundscape, Questrosound’s “Forest of Shadows” with its dangerously dark strings and funky bass line, and SoundTeMP’s “Red and the Sun” with its gothic rock elements that makes it feel like a poppy version of Castlevania. There’s also Questrosound’s “Moonlight Walk” with its huge strings and brass that make it epic yet cool, SoundTeMP’s “Topaz” with its slow somber take on trance (one of my favorites on the album), and S.F.A’s “Pristinee” that stands out for its melancholy female vocals added to an electronic backing. SoundTeMP’s interestingly-named “Woman Peeling Potatoes” is the most metal of the tracks, with a great galloping rhythm, and their nine-minute-long “Angelus” features spooky electronics and piano. Finally, S.F.A’s grungy rock “Tori March” closes out with attitude.

Many of the other tracks here are equally brilliant, but I don’t want to spoil all of it. The set spans two discs, containing 33 tracks, and comes housed in a nice DVD-sized package with a magnetic latch to keep it closed. Unfortunately it’s only been distributed as a promotional item at events in Korea, but I imagine the music will make its way out into the world someday, and given that this is Volume 1, I’m sure there will be more. In the meantime, head over to the SoundCloud channels for both DESTRUCTOID and GamesRadar for some exclusive samples.

MASAYA GAME MUSIC COLLECTION VOL.1 ~LANGRISSER I-II-III~ (SRIN-1129)

Noriyuki Iwadare fans rejoice! SuperSweep Records has done it again. While publishing rare and and sometimes never-before-released soundtracks has been the norm for Shinji Hosoe’s SuperSweep Records, fans of the strategy RPG series Langrisser (the original was released as Warsong in North America) will be pleased with this six-disc collection. It starts with the original Mega Drive version of the first Langrisser, and is followed by the beefier PC-Engine port that will likely be the highlight for many. It’s then on to Langrisser II, where listeners can take their pick from the Mega Drive or Super Famicom versions. There’s also a presentation of the music of Langrisser and Langrisser II as it appeared in the PlayStation remake, which spans two discs, and includes bonus tracks. Fans of Iwadare’s 32-bit era work on Lunar and Grandia will find this version much to their liking. The final disc features the Langrisser III soundtrack in its original previously-released form.

While various ports were handled by different artists, Iwadare’s thumbprint can be heard throughout. Wonderful synth work and driving rock tunes reign supreme, from the bold and adventurous “Story” and the guitar chugging “Knights errant” to the regal and sweeping “The Legend of Sword” and the prehistoric cave man rock in “Enemy 3 – Morgan” (one of my personal favorites). There’s a lot of great material here.

Fans of Iwadare, SRPGs, and specifically Langrisser will want to import the collection from CD Japan.

Review: Kaku-San-Sei Million Arthur Original Soundtrack

Last week we looked at Kenji Ito’s battle themes from the Million Arthur series. I referred to producer Hyadain’s original soundtrack, which we’ll take a look at now. The mysterious Hyadain had made a name for himself in the doujin scene producing excellent music and arrangements, and was later revealed to be artist Kenichi Maeyamada. His production values come through strongly in this album, featuring a blend of pop, rock, and fantasy goodness.

The first track, “Faction Selection” starts right in with some wonderfully produced J-rock and a descending bell tone melody that offers something unique. “Footsteps to Fortune” is a laid back overworld-esque theme that starts off strictly fantasy before introducing electronic elements and percussion to lend the track a cool edge. “Round Table Congregation,” one of my favorite tracks, opts for intense militaristic electronics, percussion, and strings, while “Welcome Back, Lord Arthur!” is a super cute and upbeat pop tune with Rhodes and strings that sounds like it ought to have vocals. I also love the octave-jumping bass in “Faerie Sighted!,” the ominous dungeon-sounding theme, “Wait, Could it be?,” the dark and sinister “D-O-U-B-T,” the regal and beautiful “God Save the King” with its melancholy harpsichord, swelling strings, and bell tolls, and the silly “Pumpkin Soup” with wood block and chip tones. “Sadness Shall Someday Fade” is the obligatory sad theme, “Morgan Fay” offers catchy gothic rock, and “Won’t Say Goodbye” is a glitchy upbeat electronic outro that ends on a positive note.

Hyadain didn’t disappoint, and I’d love to hear more collaborations between the artist and Square Enix in the future. If you want to pick up the soundtrack, it’s available on CD Japan.

Review: Kai-ri-Sei Million Arthur Original Soundtrack -Battle Collections-

The Million Arthur series  offers some great music. Square Enix has put out a couple albums over the past two years from this series, with the score for the main title composed by Hyadain, and now this battle collection composed by Kenji Ito. You’re going to find your typical Kenji Ito rock here, which fans will appreciate.

The tracks range in style from the aforementioned rock, which falls in line with the SaGa battle arrange albums, to pop-infused electronic rock, and one track, my favorite, which sports bumping electronic beats paired with beautiful piano work. There’s a dark and mysterious track that comes in about midway through that features some great string work and a bell melody, while things get a little dancey towards the end of the album with an octave-jumping bass and gorgeous crystalline melody. The last track takes a more traditional Japanese instrumental approach with some lovely woodwinds and a ninja-esque vibe.

In all, this is a fine showcase of the Million Arthur series. I think fans will be pleased to see Kenji Ito working on the franchise, and his fans will enjoy what they hear on this album. It’s currently available on CD Japan for those who are interested.