SHADOW HEARTS FROM THE NEW WORLD Original Soundtracks
|Composed by||Hirotomi Imoto / Ryo Fukuda / Tomoko Imoto / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / Yoshitaka Hirota|
|Arranged by||Akiko Shikata / Hirotomi Imoto / Ryo Fukuda / Tomoko Imoto / Yoshitaka Hirota|
|Published by||Team Entertainment|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Official Release|
|Format||2 CD - 64 tracks|
|Release date||August 24, 2005|
OK, so since this is my first real review, I thought I'd take a casual approach to looking at this Original Soundtrack. The Shadow Hearts series is my favourite series of games, and I have been impressed with the music of all three. There have been, of course, some tracks that didn't keep my attention, but there are also some very memorable themes that stick out as being unique and very fun to listen to time and again. Instead of providing a track-by-track review of this album, I'm going to split it up into sections, and talk about some of the tracks (both good and bad), and how they are used in the game. Read on!
Let's start with the obvious. The dominant theme of the series is the Icaro theme. First heard on top of a train in the first game, the Icaro theme was presented as an Asian chant. Female vocals were the only instrumentation, providing a rich backdrop to the first incarnation of Alice's power against Albert Simon. Since then, the Icaro theme has evolved to fit its surroundings. The first game (which took place in Asia and Europe) presented the Icaro theme first as an Asian chant, then as a beautiful orchestration melding into Alice's theme, followed by a techno beat version in the final dungeon of the game. In the second game (which took place in Europe primarily, and then Asia in the second half), the Icaro theme had evolved into a very European sounding track. The theme is presented as a march (to fit the military theme of the opening of the game) which is later presented on an even larger scale during Yuri's battle with Rasputin. Finally, we are treated to a rich full orchestration of the track (which doesn't appear on the soundtrack), followed by a piano arrangement during the ending of the second game. Now, in the third game (Shadow Hearts From the New World), the setting shifts to the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. The Icaro theme once again changes to fit the setting. In a return to its roots, the track is heard primarily as a vocal piece in "Et Unam -Chant of ICARO-" completing the transition from Asian, to European, to Native American.
Of course, multiple versions of the track are to be expected, and the next track on the soundtrack, "Great Ghost Dance (with ICARO)" delivers. This is my favourite rendition of the Icaro theme. Throughout the track, we're given small snippets of the theme before a full vocal and instrumental rendition occurs at 1:47. We are then given an acoustic arrangement of the theme at the beginning of the second disc, in "ICARO -acoustic arrangement-." It's a very beautiful track, combining the tell-tale violin on the higher melody accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Quite fitting, since this is the second last strong appearance of the Icaro theme on the soundtrack. We also get a small return to it during "Dream Catcher" and "Galvloi". "The Wheel of Fortune" gives us the final Icaro theme, through a nice violin and flute combo backed up by light percussion. Although I have my personal reflections on who or what exactly the Icaro theme is associated with, I have no doubt that it will appear again in the fourth addition to the series, if that game is created.
Another theme which is dominant on this album is Lady's theme. Throughout many tracks, we're given small snippets of her melody, which in my opinion is right up there with Icaro as far as musicality goes. "From the New World" and "Kiss of Malice" are some examples. Lady's theme has many similarities to the Icaro theme, but some very noticeable differences as well. In a way, the theme is much more melodic, but through its composition, sounds very sad; a nice contrast to Icaro which is quite uplifting. However, it is the perfect theme to accompany Lady's character, even though she is supposed to be devoid of all emotion. Lady's theme really comes into play during "Lady Tears I" and "Lady Tears II" which occur at the end of the game. The final battle theme of "Lady Tears II" really brings her theme out with rich orchestration in the piano and strings, backed up by vocals and strong percussion. The track "Much More Together..." provides the end of her theme, quite fitting for the final scenes of the game. Although it wasn't included on the soundtrack for Shadow Hearts From the New World, a full piano arrangement of Lady's Theme was released on an extra audio CD that was released when the game came out in 2005. The track is quite beautiful when you hear it the full way through, sadly I can't recall the name of the album its on.
As with any RPG, there needs to be a strong battle theme. The Shadow Hearts series has always preformed rather well in this area. In tradition, this soundtrack features a total of ten battle themes: two standard battle themes, two boss themes, one final boss theme, and five corresponding 'insanity' themes. "Dead Fingers Talk" is the first battle theme, and occurs in the North American battle locations. Its strong 6/8 time is split up throughout the track into strong two beat and three beat groups, providing a fresh rhythm to the battle. The orchestration in it isn't particularly strong, but the heavy beat and complex percussion makes up for it, creating a decent track that doesn't get old. Its corresponding insanity theme "Gestalt Collapse" brings in elements of "Dead Fingers Talk" and totally distorts them, something that is particularly effective at telling the player that one of the characters have run out of sanity points. Personally, the 'insanity' themes aren't my favourites, but they are certainly original in their overall sound. "Le Gran Luxe" is the North American boss theme, and like "Dead Fingers Talk," it provides a strong recurring beat and powerful percussion. Vocals come into play for long 'ahhh' sounds which help to form the melody of the track, and although they can get a bit shrill at times, they do a decent job at it. "A Silver Smile" is the corresponding insanity theme, and like before, distorts the original theme.
"Mauve" is the second battle theme, and appears in the South American battle locations. I'm not particularly fond of this one: it's faster, with an emphasis on rhodes organs, flutes, and strings to provide the melody. Musically, it isn't the strongest track, but it definitely suits where it is being used. "Bailar?" is its corresponding insanity theme, and as before, components of "Mauve" are twisted into something very new. However, with these insanity themes, they can get very repetitive and very annoying over time, which is good, since in the game you have no control over your character till you restore their sanity points. "Electric Hallucinations" is the second boss theme for South America. Like "Mauve," it isn't as strong as its north American counterpart. Repetitive rhythms and an odd use of some electronic sounds somewhat obscure the theme, and prevent it from being as clear as it could be. "Auditory Hallucination," the insanity theme, is equally as weak as "Bailar?" in that it's hard to determine exactly where the theme lies because of the distortions. I've already explained the final boss theme, "Lady Tears II". Its corresponding insanity theme, "Astral Tears", is just painful to listen to. It's the same chord on the piano blasted over and over again with an over-abundance of percussion and strange sounds. Although its purpose is clear, it really detracts from the beauty of "Lady Tears II."
The next set of themes I'm going to look at, are the fusion themes. The fusion ability of the harmonixer is a new battle class which was introduced in the original Shadow Hearts. Basically, the person can absorb the souls of monsters or spirits into their bodies, and summon their power. In turn, they 'fuse' into an image of that monster or spirit. The two most notable fusions from the past games are Seraphic Radience (the form of Yuri's father), and Amon (Yuri's form), both of which have been presented in FMV form. In Shadow Hearts: From the New World our new harmonixer Shania treats us to four fusions, each with their own themes and FMVs, although for now, we'll overlook the fact that for some reason she must be naked to accept their spirits. Go figure that one out.
The themes for each of the fusions and their subsequent transformations are very beautiful, and are suited to the spirits being absorbed. "Ala of Sacrum" accompanies Shania's first transformation into Thunder Bird (a sky spirit, comprised of mainly white with large feathered wings), although the theme itself is nothing like the fusion. The track is quite boring, with the same low set of notes being played over and again. A few vocals and some percussion near the end help to break up the low notes a bit, but in the end the track fails to deliver a good relationship with what's being viewed on the screen. "Ta Tanka" does much better, with the theme drawing on elements of the Grand Canyon (where the fusion is acquired). There's a real sense of ethnicity in this track, with the vocals, strong flutes and tribal percussion providing an excellent match to Shania's transformation into Ta Tanka, an earth spirit. "La Sirene" is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It starts out with a strong oboe and strings, merging into some decorative piano, harps, and vocal lines. A perfect match for the water spirit being acquired. "Tirawa" is the last of the fusion themes and is very eastern sounding, which suits the sun fusion extremely well. The beginning of the track starts with some light flutes, percussion, and bells leading into the dominant theme of the track, which uses heavy vocals and drums to drive the track. Again, this track suits the visual transformation perfectly. In case you're wondering, I didn't skip "Thunder Bird." This is the track that plays during battle when you choose the menu option to transform into one of the acquired fusions.
One clear thing about the Shadow Hearts soundtracks is that the music is always considered in relation to where it is being used. A South-American sounding track doesn't appear in Europe, and an Asian track doesn't show up when you're running around New York city. The pairing of locations and the corresponding music in Shadow Hearts: From the New World lives up to this standard. Some particular favourites of mine include "Pirates of the Caribbean," which plays as you may have guessed, in the Caribbean Sea where La Sirine is acquired. It's a very upbeat track, with rich orchestration covering many instruments: flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, strings, and percussion come together to create a lively and hummable tune. "Moon Shine" is a very jazzy tune which compliments your journey into Chicago extremely well. "Chichen Itza" and "Vilcabamba Ruins" give you a realistic musical accompaniment for travels that take you deep into ancient Mayan ruins in central and South America. And "Laboratory" couldn't be more appropriate for travelling around Area 51 with its very scientific but alien sound to it.
I'd now like to turn to the game's vocal pieces. Shadow Hearts didn't do extremely well with its vocal piece. Shadow Hearts Covenant hit the nail on the head, combining a rich rock sound with the soothing melodies needed to create a successful vocal experience. Shadow Heart: From the New World is on the fence. It does a good job in some areas with its vocal work, but has equally bad tracks. The most astonishing of these tracks is "Oh smania! oh furie! ~ D'Oreste e d'Aiace." Originally composed by Mozart, this track noticeably stands out on the soundtrack. It is the first track to appear on any of the soundtracks to use opera. It's almost a shame for all you hear it in the game. The track occurs at the start of the game in a theatre in New York, appropriately advertising The Phantom of the Opera on its marquee. As you travel up the floors of the theatre, this track gradually becomes louder, further giving you the feel that you're getting closer to the person that's playing it. However, because of the different levels of the theatre, this track always sounds out of focus and is distorted. When you reach your destination and the FMV occurs, the track becomes clearer, until it's interrupted by a monster's appearance. On its own though, the track is quite a joy to listen to if you don't mind opera.
The other vocal tracks on the album are "Et Unam -Chant of ICARO-" which I have already discussed, and "Um gemito dell'estinto" which appears on the game over screen. I highly suggest getting game over at least once while you play the game so you can hear this track. The melody is very haunting, and the vocals drive the song on with their rhythm, rather than the notes (since it's the same note). As you listen to it, you get the sense that it's gradually getting louder, which is a fantastic illusion. However, the entire soundtrack is overshadowed by one of the worst songs I have ever heard on an original soundtrack: "SPREAD MY WINGS". Why Hirota figured anyone would want to hear a rock/rap/country track by a Japanese rock band while they're reading the credits is beyond me. This track is an absolute travesty after what the album has offered. And after the success of "Shadow Hearts" and "GETSURENKA" (the vocal credit tracks on the previous two games), this is a real trade-down for the series. My advice is to mute your TV while the credits role!
And so, as I come to the end of my review, I feel I should talk about the final track on the soundtrack, 'SABBATH -Demon Banquet-." I love this track. It's just the right speed, with just the right instrumentation to pull off the rock genre without it being sloppy or corny. Guitars are the dominant instrument, backed up by a strong percussion and a lone tambourine. Later in the track, a piano comes in to deliver the Icaro theme one last time before fading out. It's a great way to end the album.
So there you have it. A quick and painless guide to some of the best and worst tracks to appear from the third Shadow Hearts game. Overall, it's a good album. Not great, since many of the themes have the potential to become very repetitive after repeated listenings. But there are some tracks that you'll find yourself listening to over and over again, which make it worth the price tag. If you're a fan of the game series, or if you've heard either of the other soundtracks and are curious about what you may find on the third, I would definitely recommend the album.
Yoshitaka Hirota used to be a Square employee who specialised in the sound effects department, and, with experience from games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger behind him, he soon decided to set out on a compositional journey as a freelance artist in 1999. Alas, he arrived upon the scene of the Shadow Hearts Original Soundtrack plus 1 in 2001 to compose an impressive gem whose epic qualities were only really noted upon its re-release in 2005. Hirota certainly gained a lot of popularity thanks to his efforts on this album, and so he was called back to compose for the Shadow Hearts II Original Soundtrack in 2004. Indeed, with such recognition in the game music world being received by the Shadow Hearts series, it was only natural that the games would become increasingly popular, too. Many fans found themselves buying the games solely to experience the soundtracks, which in most peoples eyes were amongst the most diverse scores to date.
Shadow Hearts II or Shadow Hearts: Covenant proved to be an excellent sequel to the first game, with its interesting gameplay and inspirational storyline sweeping the world. The soundtrack for the game was one of its best parts as it managed to mix so many styles and feelings that it became an invigorating experience. With Hirota being assisted on each of the scores, Aruze Corp decided that it was now the right time for him to now play an even wider part, composing some even more diverse tracks than he had on any prior albums. So, through ditching Yasunori Mitsuda and Kenji Ito, and introducing Tomoko Imoto and Ryo Fukuda, up came the marvellous epic known as the Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack. There is seemingly no decrease in variety with this soundtrack, but an increase in passion instead. Only recently released in August 2005, this album will be greeted by many as perhaps the greatest Shadow Hearts scores to date.
The album starts off with a typically awe-inspiring Hirota track. With a dominance of female vocals, a heavy guitar bass, and an invigorating violin line, "From The New World" turns out to be an inspirational composition. Soon to follow is an ICARO theme; ICARO themes are a signature track of the Shadow Hearts series, and "Et Unam -Chant Of ICARO-" proves to be no different in style to the others. This track enhances the soundtrack with its presence, and with this being the best ICARO arrangement to date, one can't help but feel that this album is going to be wonderful. Once again, it is the interweaving female vocal chanting that gives the track its edge, and with the singers doing the majority of the work, it's clear that melodic emphasis will grow to become a major feature of the album. The album begins to give intensify with the ominous "Ala of Sacrum" before the introduction of the main battle theme, "Dead Fingers Talk". On the whole, the opening tracks on the album are profound, leaving us in anticipation for the rest of the album.
Hirota takes the lead in the area of dark track with a great deal of rhythmically- and harmonically-profound tracks being featured. "Dead Fingers Talk" is a track that relies completely upon an aura-boosting drum line and an increasingly tension-emitting electronica melody. It proves to be one of the most impressive tracks on the album by retaining the bass guitar-driven feel of Hirota's previous main battle themes, but integrating all sorts of novel features to make it unique. Hirota uses similar techniques with "A Silver Smile" and "Kiss of Malice," too, and it is in these two tracks that harmonic diversity becomes evident. It is through other more complex tracks that any real tension and sense of action is brought about. The perfect example of this comes on the first disc, and with its swiping violin notes and a series of Psycho-esque chord strikes, "Muy Malo" ranks as one of the most inspiring tracks to date. "Le Gran Luxe" is another of these, somehow creating a smell of blood through its powerful harmonies and erratic rhythms, while "Malice" reflects Hirota's industrial rock flair wonderfully.
Tomoko Imoto's tracks are unquestionably the simplest tracks on the album. Tracks like "Pirates of the Caribbean," "By a Moustache Hair," and "Sneaking Heart" may seem feeble in comparison compared to others, but are enjoyable for their playful nature. One impressive gem is "Tirawa," a short yet extremely pleasing vocal track. Listeners easily come to understand through these tracks how Imoto loves making his melodies sing (no pun intended!). With this in mind, Imoto finally moves onto the ambient and wistful "Wheel of Fortune." Admittedly, the track takes longer to develop than others, but when it reaches some heartwarmingly gentle piano chords, a sense of purity like no other track before it is emitted. All in all, Imoto establishes herself as a capable composer with these tracks, surprising many with her melodies, though takes a subdued role that allows Hirota's to be emphasised.
The best relaxing themes comes from Hirota. It is through tracks like "Deposition Of Memories," "Whisper of the Wind," and "Talking About You" that Hirota gets his message of purity across as a unique image for Shadow Hearts From the New World builds — a spiritual one. With tracks like "ICARO -acoustic arrangement-" that these feelings are put into full effect. This track's heartrending melodies and passionate harmonies really give the listener something to think about, and with this mood becoming increasingly similar to the likes of the main theme from Mel Gibson's Braveheart, one can't help but adore and lay back to it either. He is also responsible for lots of light ditties, such as the percussive "Rum and Tequila" and "Garland Office," a jazzy reflection of Hirota's diversity.
Eventually, after journeying through fifty-five stimulating tracks, we reach the grand finale of the album. The first track is named after Bythos, the monadic first being and originator of the spiritual world of the Pleroma. "Bythos" proves to be an amazingly fitting track for this legendary beast, as, with its techno bass and intriguing timbre, a sense of enormous power is created. The next track after this is "Lady Tears I," a powerful and emotional pleasantry that explores a variety of instrumental techniques. Nevertheless, it hardly proves to be as impressive as the subsequent "Lady Tears II," a track built up on two parts. The first part of the track acts as a dark introduction, collating the ideas of a stage-by-stage battle. Never failing, in comes a wailing vocal line that is filled with raw emotion, and moreover, the introduction of a suspense-filled accompaniment. And so, with the majesty of "Lady Tears II" behind us, we are introduced to "Astral Tears," a brief intensification of the climactic experience.
So, with the album drawing to a close, we are introduced to the main vocal theme, "Spread my Wings." This rock and folk fusion from Takehara Tomoaki goes through a series of inspirational developments to give the album a well-integrated feeling of pride. So, this then leads us into the next track: the ominous "Un gemito dell'estinto," or "The Groaning of the Extinguished One." The best thing about this track is not its written music, but the array of sound effects instead. Hirota proves to be impressive in this area, providing us with many such examples throughout the score. This track reveals a sense of despair through its melodic falls, thus suggesting that the demon may still haunt the lives of the heroes. Even so, we soon reach the last track on the album. "SABBATH -Demon Banquet-" comes to pass as a very fear-inducing track, with the likes of a pulsating bass and a hardcore guitar taking over in the second section. It proves to be an excellent way to end the album, as, with the first section of the track being reminiscent of the first theme on the album, one can really reflect upon the emotions built up throughout the soundtrack.
Shadow Hearts From the New World has it all. With Yoshitaka Hirota again taking the front seat, creating his trademark battle themes, a number of industrial rock tracks, some unique spiritual theme, and a diverse array of other contributions, he proves as inspired as ever and offers both continuity and change to Shadow Hearts' musical franchise. The loss of Kenji Ito and Yasunori Mitsuda is certainly tolerable, since Tomoko Imoto creates a number of noteworthy themes and Ryo Fukuda makes a small but interesting contribution. From its atmospheric beginning to its intense end, the soundtrack fulfils all expectations and generally delights.
Yoshitaka Hirota (Disc 1: 1-9, 12-14, 16, 18, 21-23, 25, 27, 32-34. Disc 2: 1, 3-7, 9-13, 15, 16, 19, 21-29)
Tomoko Imoto (Disc 1: 10, 15, 17, 20, 24, 28-31, 35. Disc 2: 14, 17, 18, 20)
Hirotomi Imoto (Disc 1: 26. Disc 2: 2, 8)
Ryo Fukuda (Disc 1: 19)
W. A. Mozart (Disc 1: 11)
Akiko Shikata (Disc 1: 11)
This is not in the OST booklet but in the credits of the game.
Chorus: Ikuko (Disc1 - M1, M3)
Chorus & Chorus Work: Akiko Shikata (Disc1 - M1, M2, M3, M10, M20, M31, Disc2 - M14, M22, M23, M28)
Soprano: Akiko Shikata (Disc1: M11)
E.Violin, A.Violin: Akihisa Tsuboy (Disc1 - M1, M3, Disc2 - M1, M26)
E.Guitar, A. Guitar: Yoshiaki Watanuki (Disc1 - M1, M3, Disc2 - M1, M26)
A.Guitar: Kunio Iwai (Disc1 - M22, M35)
Bass, Pipes, etc.: Yoshitaka Hirota (TwinTail Studio)
Drums: Katsuya Takaboshi
Percussions: Genta Kudo
Spread my Wings (Disc 2 Track 26):
Composed by: Yoshitaka Hirota
Arranged by: Yoshitaka Hirota
Lyrics by: Takehara Tomoaki
Performed by: Takehara Tomoaki
From The New World (Advertise)
Et Unam - Chant Of ICARO - (Title)
Great Ghost Dance (With ICARO) (Opening)
Ala Of Sacrum (Sacred Power)
Garland Office (Detective Office)
The Mother Earth (World Map)
Delusion Of Death (Dungeon)
Dead Fingers Talk (North America Battle)
Gestalt Collapse (North America Berserk)
Thunder Bird (Spirit)
Oh smania! oh furie! ~ D'Oreste e d'Aiace (Mysterious Person at the Opera)
Le Gran Luxe (North America Mid-Boss Battle)
A Silver Smile (North America Mid-Boss Berserk)
Kiss of Malice (Another Encounter)
Professer Gilbert (Puppet)
Muy Malo (Confrontation)
The Land of Spirits (Grand Canyon)
Light Crossing Boder (Spirit Battle)
Holy Body (Spirit Berserk)
Ta Tanka (The Land)
Moon Shine (City)
Impatience Scale (Impatience)
Living Sacrifice (Sorrow)
Heat Haze in the Distance (Desert)
Laboratory (Research Lab)
Shinobi Heart (Ninja)
Pirates of the Caribbean (Pirates)
Close Call For a Moustache (Pirate Girl)
La Sirene (The Sea)
Whisper Of The Wind (Arkham University)
Heavy Density (Pressure)
Dry Flower (Edna)
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