Grandia Online − Perfect Sound Library −
Noriyuki Iwadare's Grandia Online Perfect Sound Library is an enjoyable and mostly lighthearted romp, punctuated by some more dramatic tracks. It's populated mostly by original tracks, but features a few high quality arrangements of classic pieces from the Grandia series. Having not heard many compositions by Iwadare prior to this album, I was unsure of what to expect. Does the soundtrack succeed in establishing a worthwhile sound for the composer? Do the arranged tracks alienate the first-time listener? Read on for the thrilling answers!
Playful tracks certainly comprise the majority of the soundtrack here. "The Beginning Day" sounds akin to what one would find in a typical dating sim, with its jazzy backdrop and descending bell motif. Soon an electric piano takes the spotlight, and the result is quite delightful, as it dances around, changing places with the trumpets from time to time. It'd be an achievement (and not a worthy one) to not break a smile as this track plays. "Scenery Unchanged" is similarly styled, but much slower paced, while "Deep Down Inside" has a more dramatic melody. The standout section on this track is the piano solo that initiates about a minute in. The melody is soft and yearning, and when it is revisited soon by the rest of the instrumentation its full color is brought out.
"Harmonious Sylvan Village" is more laid-back, at least at first. At some point the beat picks up, but it melds into the general rhythm so well that it's hard to pinpoint where the change occurs. The melody on the harmonica and flute is easy-going, but borders on cheesy at parts. That doesn't necessarily work against the track though, and in all, it's good fun. The same cannot be so easily said about "Event on Holiday," however, a track that wouldn't feel out of place on a winter holiday album. The development of the frustratingly short melody is enjoyable to listen to, and to its credit, the melody itself is never grating to listen to; it's just a bit weak.
Moving on to some of the colourful highlights of the soundtrack, "Spreading World" starts off with a decently strong melody. Suddenly a bagpipe is heard, and the effect is astounding. The best description I can give of its unpredictable playing is that it plays all the proper wrong notes, giving a bit of a messy but altogether entirely sensible feel. It gives a nice touch of zest to an otherwise typical track. "The City of Gears" sounds exactly as its title would suggest; the addictive jazzy bass played on the electric piano meshes extremely well with the brass instrumentation, while the steel drums give off a playful air that entirely works. "Gorgeous World" is an absolutely gorgeous waltz that I could not recommend enough. Everything about the track, from the melody to the instrumentation, shines with a fluidity that certainly lends itself to dance.
There are also several vocal themes on the soundtrack. In particular, "The Benediction" is a beautiful, uplifting piece. The aria, sung by Grandia II returnee Kaori Kawasumi, gives off an ethereal feel, especially when paired with the violin. When actual vocals are added around the halfway point, a new life is breathed into the piece, carrying it gracefully to its conclusion. "Nymph in Arendt (arranged version)," at first a duet between an electric piano and Kawasumi's voice, delivers a poignant, touching melody. When the violin replaces the latter, the track starts to feel a bit stiff, but then Kawasumi returns briefly, leading to an ending that restates the introduction.
It seems that not all is happy in the land of Grandia, however. "Garden of Ether" starts off with a bang, and does not let up for a moment. The frantic piano and strings combined with the at times epic-sounding choir gets the blood pumping for an incredible encounter. "Run Through!" meanwhile is a tense theme that sounds proper to accompany a chase sequence. This track is a bit more techno-ish compared to others, and this serves to heighten urgency of the situation during which it likely plays. "Land of Heat and Dust" sounds perfect for the typical volcano dungeon, with its tribal beat and electric guitar. A more mischievous feel is given off by "Hoax of Dew," a piece that features quite enjoyable orchestration, between the trombone and bells, each perfectly placed to feature most prominently without disturbing the main melody.
Battle tracks are scattered throughout. Although an arrangement of a Grandia classic, "Battle #1" leaves me a bit unimpressed. The glissandos on the strings clash with the discordant melody at first. The brass saves the track as it progresses, but its beginning left quite a sour taste in my mouth. "Critical Encounter" fares far better. This track is rocking, and does quite a good job at it. The solos played by electric piano are excellently frenetic. "Approaching Danger (arranged version)" starts with the oppressive string glissandos again, but fortunately they are short lived, treating the listener to a rather engaging melody. The electric guitar makes a worthy return in "Ernest." If this is the final battle, then it certainly would make for an epic one, going by its musical backdrop. Its only flaw is its surprisingly short length, which stands out compared to the lengths of other tracks on this album.
The opening and closing tracks of the first and second disc, respectively, offer a bombastic and enjoyable introduction and ending to the album. "The Time of Myth", an arranged Version of the famous "To the End of the World", is exciting in places and sweeping in others. The main melody is fun to listen to and the track develops gracefully from there. It serves as a fitting entry. "Theme of GRANDIA (arranged version)" in general features an orchestral feel, but also contains some jazzy sections that meld in well with the rest. As with the original, it continues to be a hopeful, exciting track; the adventure might be over, but the characters' lives will go on.
The album generally delights, but not all of the tracks are impressive. The arranged tracks are a mixed bag, but I'm sure they will more than suffice for the long time fans they're intended for, and though said fans might appreciate more of them, it's nice to see so many original tracks as well. I also mention that I never want to have to visit Enjule, if the location is as repetitive as its themes. Regardless, I've developed a fondness for Noriyuki Iwadare, and while I don't intend to play Grandia Online anytime soon, I do now possess an interest in searching out other works by the composer. The majority of the tracks are very much a hit, and they easily illustrate Iwadare's competence as a composer.
Vocal & Chorus
Trombone, Recorder, Guitar, KENBAN-Harmonica, Tin whistle, Andes, Trumpet
The time of myth (the arranged version of "The end of the world")
The Beginning Day
Battle #1 (arranged version)
Harmonious Sylvan Village
Guild of Venturers
The depth of woods
Event on holiday
The First Gate
Approaching Danger (arranged version)
Garden of ether
The city of gears