Tag Archives: Rock

Review: Sonic Runners Complete Soundtrack

I’d heard great things about the Sonic Runners soundtrack, although I’ve yet to play it. The album cover is pretty snazzy to be sure, and I’ve been a fan of Tomoya Ohtani’s Sonic material for some time. As it turns out, though, Sonic Runners may be my favorite Sonic soundtrack since Sonic Generations and Unleashed. Ohtani provides a memorable blend of pop rock that sounds right at home in the Sonic universe, and thankfully omits the vocals, which can yield high rewards but are always a risk in my opinion. This does lead to a few tracks feeling like they are just waiting for vocals to be inserted, but I’ll take a great instrumental over a poorly executed vocal any day.

The album opens with the uplifting rock track, “Beyond the Speed Of…” with its doubled-up piano and guitar and an incredibly catchy melody that’s used elsewhere, including in my favorite track, “Going my Way,” which uses electronic filtering effects to great result. “Spring Emotions,” another favorite, is typical J-rock with beautiful strings and and the use of accordion throughout the chorus section, while “End of Summer” features pop piano, fluttering electric guitar, and a sweet atmosphere. From there, “Fly Away” sports some concerto-like piano work, “Power Ride” introduces shredding metal and pumping percussion, “Theory of Attack” offers some spunk, “Where to Today?” is a whimsical march, “Go Quickly!” is a lightning-fast flight with a carnival vibe, “Fiery Passion” is funky with rock organ and crazy rhythm guitar, “Strange Parade” is a dancey electronic track, and “Magical Snow Day” is a frosty tune with jingle bells and a jolly bass line.

There isn’t a ton of material here. Thirteen tracks, over 40 minutes of music, but it’s all fantastic. This is how Sonic music should be! Even better, this gem is only $12.50 on CD Japan. Get on it!

Review: VALKYRIE ANATOMIA -THE ORIGIN- Soundtrack

It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard new Valkyrie Profile music by Motoi Sakuraba. As it turns out, he missed writing music for Square Enix’s oft neglected series, and this mobile prequel serves up 20+ tracks that offer something new along with a boost of nostalgia by revisiting some of the most popular themes from the series. Expect Sakuraba’s signature progressive rock and orchestral offerings with a distinctly somber atmosphere throughout.

Right out of the gate, the haunting opening theme sports epic choir and string swells and a hint of tragedy. This continues through much of the orchestral and rock material, including the unsettling “Behave irrationally II” with its woodwinds and bells, the descending orchestral rock in “The maze of dungeon,” and the terrifying “Emotional upset #2” with its big brass and ominous choir. One track brings in a rustic vibe with the use of a harpsichord, while another is a slow and mellow lullaby. One of my favorites is a melancholy piece featuring harp and emotionally-tinged strings that would be right at home in a Dark Souls hub area, while another standpoint, “enfant terrible,” is equally unsettling with its use of woodwinds and a bassy string section. The album closes with a continuous mix that runs for over 20 minutes, featuring quick cross-fades between tracks.

In all, I think I speak for most when I say I’m surprised but also pleased to see this music released. There are many fans of the series, and even though this is a small offering of new material to satiate that Valkyrie Profile music itch, what’s here is quite good. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available at this time (it was released at the Tokyo Game Show store in September), so hopefully Square Enix offers a wide release in the near future.

Tekken Revolution Soundtrack (SRIN-1135)

More Tekken! SuperSweep is at it again, with both Tekken 7 and Tekken Revolution having recently been released. Expect more dubstep and electronic action from the Bandai Namco team and friends, including tracks from SuperSweep’s own Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso in addition to Yuu Miyake, Nobuyoshi Sano, and the rest of the gang. Taku Inoue handles the bulk of the music this time around, and as such, there’s a little pop mixed in with this dubstep.

He opens with the grungy rock/electronic “New World Order” with anthemic male vocals, and moves into industrial with “Blood, Sweat, and Fists.” There are laser-like synths in “Everlasting Heaven” and a distorted and searing soundscape present in “Self Destruct.” Yuu Miyake delivers “El Condor,” a trippy electronic track with an ethereal atmosphere and lots of reverb. There’s the dancey “Lunar fringe theory,” the pumping “Chopper” with its crazy slap bass, and even some flamenco flavor in “Bassamenco” and “Françoise’s Bassline.” Vocoder vocals are found in “Brasil evolution,” clean acoustic guitar in “lost in a station,” and Inoue’s uplifting rock in “Night rises” and “Kodama Starship,” the latter of which almost sounds like something out of Katamari Damacy with its vocal work.

Tekken Revolution is published by SuperSweep Records and is available for import from CD Japan if you’re interested.

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.