Soul Cradle ~Sekai wo Kurau Mono~ Original sound track
Soul Cradle is the latest strategy RPG for Nippon Ichi Software. As is the case with most of their strategy games, excluding Phantom Kingdom, Tenpei Sato is the composer for this score. Because the story focuses on beings called World Eaters, who, as you may have guessed, are capable of destroying worlds, the score for this game is a bit more mature than other Sato scored games, such as Phantom Brave and the Disgaea series. How does this jump in maturity translate for Tenpei Sato? Did he successfully capture the essence of the game? Read on to find out...
"Echoing Prayers" serves as the title screen for the game and gives off a few different types of emotions. There is a certain solemnity to it, but at the same time, the mysterious nature hints at foreboding doom. "Street of December" is an extremely good example of an excellent world map theme. It's undeniably charming, boasts an outstanding melody, and some lovely instrumentation. The fusion of East and West is also apparent in this piece. There are many styles mixed together in this piece. You have the traditional orchestral style heard in the brass sections of the piece, however, the more impactful of the themes seems to have a nice Eastern flair to them through the use of the strings and woodwinds. Definitely a beautiful world map theme and a gorgeous exotic composition.
Tenpei Sato's works seem to portray the events they are attached to to a tee. Without even seeing this scene portrayed in "Morning of Awakening", it instantly paints a picture in my head, which not many other composers can do. It's simplicity is what makes it so unique. "God's Reflection" is a slow piece that captures the feeling of water droplets with its intimate arrangement and subtle sound effects. A more abstract example, "Bad Boys" has a jazzy swing feel throughout the piece. However, the distorted instrumentation and ominous melody give an image of an evil being. While this sounds like a very strange combination it comes together rather well to paint a picture. In "Maize Forest", Sato pulls out all the stops again, giving us a very strange but very good piece to capture the unique location.
When I hear "Tears of a Cradle", the first thing that comes to my mind is one of those extremely sad scenes in a movie. There's such a sense of emotion behind this piece harboring some very deep and painful experience. The work of the strings is the highlight of the piece and truly brings these experiences to the forefront. "Seasons Past" gives me chills too. While it's mostly just a somber piano and acoustic guitar duet, it does incorporate some haunting strings that give it a creepy feeling. In "Love Letter", three of the most beautiful instruments in the world participate in one of the most emotional pieces I've heard. The violin, the acoustic guitar, and piano all play a prominent role in the success of this piece. They seem to complete each others melodic fragments to create an experience full of ever changing melodic patterns. "Gemini" and its requiem counterpart is a female choral piece that takes listeners on a very sad journey with its melody. This was something new for me from Sato, and I was anything but disappointed.
Serving as the first battle theme for the game, "RED BOOTS" really gets the adrenaline pumping. The mixture between striking percussion and frenetic strings help to create a nice tense atmosphere. However, the most striking thing about this piece is the contrasting brass line. It offers a sense of heroism and the woodwinds that accompany it display a sense of playfulness, one often associated with Tenpei Sato scores. "Escape Artist" has one goal, and one goal only: To pump you up for a battle. Frantic strings carry on the harmony, which is lead by a succession of lead instruments. Sato seems to throw a lot into his battle themes, as far as instrument complexity goes. "Speed Queen" meanwhile throws everything you've ever heard from Sato at you all at once. There is just way too much going on for someone to comprehend all at once. Take your time and listen.
As one might surmise from the title, "Cradle March" a marching tune that serves as a battle theme. It's quite heavy on the brass, but unlike some composers out there, I think it's done rather tastefully. There's a nice sense of heroism, mixed with a bit of an epic feel to the entire track, and the melody is rather strong. "Dragon's Eye" takes the standard form of Sato's other battle themes, making high emphasis on the percussion and dissonant melodic instruments, while the much simpler "Legends of the Exiles" uses a tribal drumbeat as the basis and layers a string melody on top of that. "Magician's Illusion" conveys a very carnival-like atmosphere combined with bit of sinisterness. Used as another battle theme, it utilizes a strong set of instrumentation with a heavy focus on brass and percussion.
In "Last Summer", Sato opts to take his road less traveled and drives the melody with chorals. The choral work itself is rather interesting. Shifting in tone and pace throughout the track, the dynamic flow of the piece never gets old. However, when the pace picks up, the intensity of the battle theme is heightened and the majestic yet dangerous nature of the enemy you are battling is apparent. "Crying for the Dark Cry" is the most unique piece on this soundtrack. It can essentially be described as a disconcerted composition... and to think, this is a battle theme. In fact, I really enjoy this one. It has a unique charm about it. The vocals are the focus of the track and carry a beautiful melody, full of accompanying harmonies. The rhythmic rock bass line makes for an awesome accompaniment giving the track a nice pace. The synth and violin instrumentals are rather interesting and help to convey a sense of quirky seriousness. Overall, this track is quite fun and quite a black sheep on this album.
"Crisis Climax" is very ominous track. This piece is one of the most effective mood setting pieces I've ever heard, punctuating string leads with random timpani strikes and piano passages. I just can't believe how complex Sato can make a piece, and not have it sound messy. "Magic Man" gives the feel of an evil circus, if that makes sense. The bouncy merry-go-round sound this gives off makes you feel like you're at a carnival... about to be killed by an evil clown. However, "Land of God, Drazil" is probably the most evil track here. The piano in the intro really accents a dark undertone, while the synth sound effects and strings do nothing but support the piano. About halfway through, vocal chanting is layered on top on the melody, slightly killing the mood.
"Desperado" is a funky piece of music and it's quite a strong one at that too. I love the saxophone melody combined with a groovy beat and some string accompaniment. There's just something about this piece that makes me smile every time I hear it. "Jazzy Glass" is an unexpected swing jazz piece later in the experience. Despite being out of place, I can't get enough of the piano in this piece. The melody, however, is being played by some very obnoxious brass instruments, which kill any potential the piano could have of recovering the track. Another deviation from the typical sound, "Wandering Phantom" is a particularly Arabian inspired piece. The strong use of the instruments from this region help to create a very wispy, yet playful, atmosphere.
"Flaxen Necklace" is easily one of my favorite Tenpei Sato battle themes. It has many strengths going for it, particularly the piano. The frenetic pace of the twin violins and their complementary parts really makes for a dynamic piece of music. "Crash Landing" is also incredibly enjoyable. Like "Flaxen Necklace", the violin holds the melody for the majority of the piece, and it doesn't have that typical violin sound to it. Sato again amazes me with his string work by blaring the violin's notes out with so much power, you can literally feel it. After some time with this, the distorted sax takes the lead and the piece quickly falls into a very evil section, with the vocals from the intro coming back, and the violin now taking up the harmony. The piece then "pretends" like it is going to repeat, but has to build that last ounce of suspense on us by repeating the intro, and adding a very short harpsichord section that totally changes the feel from it's counterpart in the intro. I really only have one way to summarise, and it only takes one word. Wow.
It is obvious when the final battle is near, as "The Distant Dream is Broken" is much darker than the previous tracks. It's a total orchestral track, with bell tolls layered behind the melodic instruments. The pace of this piece eventually picks up, placing heavy emphasis on the percussion. It is a great track mechanically, even if a little aseptic. "Drazil's Anger" thereafter has a very heavy focus on organ, piano, and violin. Unlike most of the battle themes on the soundtrack, this one is much more atmospheric and tense. The emotions in this one range from sorrowful to menacing. After a slew of violin based battle themes, Sato brings us a hard rock track for "Rock'n Rocks"! It's a very refreshing deviation towards the climax. Serving as what I assume is the final battle track, "Pugatory" follows a very familiar pattern with Sato final battle themes. The overall composition is extremely epic in nature, with a full range of instruments and a focus on chorals and brass. There are a lot of different moods to this game, from a very sinister sound to one that is a bit more exotic, and each one adds a unique flavor to the whole.
When I first heard "For the Glancing Smile", it didn't phase me one bit. As I listened further, I realized that this was an arrangement of "Flower Blossom Guide" from Phantom Brave. One of my favorite character themes from Sato, it described the carefree girl, Marona, perfectly. In this arrangement, there seems to be a much more playful atmosphere. The signature violin heard in the original is still ever present, however Sato added some brass sections and woodwinds to match the feeling of this soundtrack. Finally, "Cradle of the Ivory Moon" is the vocal theme for this game. As with Phantom Brave, Serena once again graces our presence with her voice. Her voice compliments the pure sound of the composition quite nicely. As for the composition itself, it has a very holy feel to it, but at the same time, a folky one. It's a rather nice combination. While the chorus is a big focus in the track, I find the instrumental interludes to be quite pleasing. On the whole, this is a fantastic way to end the album and Sato once again proves he can compose some beautiful vocal themes and have the correct singers to execute it marvelously.
Folks, you are about to take a trip into one of the greatest video game albums released in recent years. While the soundtrack is not entirely consistent, there is more than enough here to satisfy any game music lover. People who are a fan of Tenpei Sato will have no trouble taking this one in. However, I feel that this collection just as accessible to non-fans as well. With the inclusion of more violin than he has ever used before, several incredible rock pieces, Celtic influences, acoustic ballads, and several other differing styles, Sato has created a work that should be accessible to anyone a fan of music. I couldn't begin to recommend this album enough, aside from the fact that there are a few tracks here I don't really like. On that note, I can't give this a perfect score. What I can do, though, is tell each and every one of you to get it anyway. The American version, the Soul Nomad and the Soul Eaters Original Soundtrack, is available to purchase from Rosenqueen's website and is identical in terms of track listings to the Japanese original. I can promise it will be one of the best album purchases you have ever made.
Vocals & Chorus: Kaori (DISC 01 - 10, DISC 02 - 14)
Miki (DISC 01 - 23)
Tenpei Sato (DISC 02 - 10, 14)
Serena (DISC 02 - 24)
Included in the Limited Edition Game Package.
A Fragrant Prayer
The Legendary Wanderer
Morning of Awakening
The Last Supper
Will you dance
Crying for the Dark Sky