Xenogears Original Soundtrack
Following the release of Square's classic Final Fantasy VII in 1997, the company was pressurised by fans into making a new game of the same standard in regards to storyline and music. Xenogears was the product of that pressure — the next game to be released, just before the following Final Fantasy instalment. Understandably, Square's flagship composer Nobuo Uematsu was preoccupied with his score for the eighth Final Fantasy, resulting in the employment of composer Yasunori Mitsuda for the Xenogears soundtrack. Renowned for his work on the popular Chrono Trigger soundtrack, Mitsuda, at the time, was probably the best choice for the job.
The game itself was a traditional/futuristic hybrid featuring pirates and castles alongside advanced technology and battle mech entities known as 'gears'. Relying more heavily on symbology and religious overtones than in any RPG before it, coupled with its medieval come technological nature created a daunting task for the composer. Yet, even today, the Xenogears soundtrack is heralded as one of Mitsuda's finest works.
For its time, Xenogears was an innovative game. It was one of the first of its kind to incorporate anime cut scenes, instead of the traditional FMVs and it supported a well-layered science fiction story that was as deep and complex as many novels. "The Light From the Netherworld" is the very first piece on the album, and it accompanies the opening sequence of the game. Although the track isn't orchestrated, Mitsuda has made use of some recorded Bulgarian choir chants, which help to create the ominous opening atmosphere. It is interesting how well the techno instruments actually work with the choir, and while it might not be the easiest track to listen to outside of its context, the futuristic and religious overtones are made apparent in the score from the very beginning. As the game progresses, you learn how important the scene was, and that the themes conveyed by the music (as well as the on-screen imagery) are very appropriate. Some might argue that it has suffered since newer, more original introduction themes have followed it rendering it obsolete, but I think that no track could have suited the cutscene better, so it deserves at least a little credit for that alone. The best part of the track is the haunting choir solo at the 3-minute mark and the introduction of the main theme; unfortunately, many may find themselves skipping the track before it gets that far. The track that follows is "Stars of Tears (Out Take)," a vocal piece that was not actually in the game itself. It was an unusual choice to include the track here, as the transition between it and its atmospheric predecessor is not particularly smooth. While it does introduce the main overworld theme, as an out take it might have been better placed at the end of the CD. The track itself fails to appeal to me as I have never relished the contemporary pop ballad styling, but Joanne Hogg's voice adequately suits the melody and the lyrics are interesting and symbolise events and characters in the game.
After the two opening tracks the main game soundtrack begins with the magical "Bonds of Sea and Fire," which is mainly used in the game to show characters experiencing sadness as well as retaining a heroic determination, though it sounds like it could have been used to accompany a forest setting as well. If the track had not looped so quickly, it probably would have been even more successful. The town themes on the soundtrack are generally not bad, but I personally find "My Village is Number One" quite annoying. Something about the instrumentation and the choir orchestra hits(!) is unpleasant to listen to any more than once and while the piece itself is actually quite well composed, the synthesizers and poor choir samples let it down a lot. Luckily, its rendition on the Xenogears, Creid: Yasunori Mitsuda and Millenial Fair arrange album is a lot better and is much less grating on the ears.
The first disc is populated with what you would expect from any traditional RPG soundtrack, from battle themes to mood setting pieces. Genuinely speaking though, the first is the lighter of the two discs. "The Valley Where Wind is Born" is an example of the simple but effective light-hearted pieces on the album. It is a remix of the "My Village is Number One" theme, and creates a nice welcoming feel to the early location it accompanies. Mitsuda has, on more than one occasion, created an arrangement of the main theme with a music box, which he later renders in a grander more epic style. "Faraway Promise" is that track on the Xenogears Original Soundtrack, and certainly has a nostalgic air about it; although simple (as many pieces using the instrument are), the track manages to show off the memorable main melody that is used throughout the soundtrack.
"Steel Giant" is a surprisingly effective theme that is used in conjunction with many of the enemy gear battles throughout the game. Its first use is when Fei's village is under attack near the beginning. With its harsh military drumbeats and powerful instrumentation, the piece succeeds in inducing a sense of panic and still works quite well as a standalone piece. Contrastingly, the following dungeon track "Forest of the Black Moon" is bland and uninteresting after the discordant string passage closes. It is used well within the game, but lacks the interesting composition that makes tracks such as "Steel Giant" successful by themselves.
A marginally weaker area of the soundtrack is the main battle and boss themes. Mitsuda has never been very good at composing interesting battle tracks, and his attempts on Xenogears are, while good by his standards, as mediocre as ever. The main battle theme (Disc 1, Track 19) is actually quite good, but it still lacks an interesting bass line and is not really the type of piece that you would want to constantly hear if you were stuck in the game. Some of the later sections of the track sound similar to some of Mitsuda's work on Chrono Trigger — it develops well, but doesn't seem to quite fulfil its potential. "Knight of Fire," the boss theme, is similar in the way that it certainly isn't badly composed, it just doesn't quite sound fitting. It's as if Mitsuda tried hard to make the battle themes good but ended up compromising in their effectiveness; unfortunately, it loops far too quickly, and the most interesting part is the inclusion of some voices speaking as if through some kind of transmitter. It is very much a militaristic track, and doesn't always seem to fit the boss battles it accompanies.
"It would be wonderful if those who develop an interest in the traditional music on this CD have their eyes opened to music from around the world. It's a dream I hope will come true." - Yasunori Mitsuda
In the album Xenogears, Creid: Yasunori Mitsuda and Millenial Fair, Mitsuda has arranged many of the tracks from the original soundtrack and given them a more effective 'worldly' feel, in the sense that he has taken inspiration from music from many different cultures. Although it is perhaps not quite as obvious in the original tracks, the town themes in the game seem to reflect this sense of ethnicity. "Dazil - City of Burning Sands" uses the Arabian-inspired sound that has become somewhat of a predictable interpretation of a desert scene. It's distinctive use of choir, flute and percussion create a sound you might attribute to Egyptology, and while it is hardly the most original idea when compared to pieces for similar settings, it works perfectly well in the game. Similarly, "Aveh, Ancient Dance" effortlessly manages to depict a bustling, festive city with its fast paced use of the harpsichord. Once again, Mitsuda chooses to use choir chants as a part of the piece — I think this helps to make the score feel more coherent, as not only does it symbolise religion, but tribalism as well; it makes everything sound connected.
"Thames, Men of the Sea" utilizes similar ideas like the area themes before it. However, since this one is used to accompany a ship setting, its purpose appears to be a little more directed towards an epic, sea-faring feeling. The choir sounds make an appearance once more, this time used in a way that makes them sound like sailors grunting as they work. "Singing of the Gentle Wind" and "Shebat - The Wind is Calling" are quite similar in their calming intent. I personally find the latter track more effective as the melody seems particularly soothing, and it could represent a small town in the snow as well as it does a city floating in the sky.
It seems rather ironic that the final town theme on the soundtrack, "Solaris, Eden of Heaven," is so cheerful — Solaris is the city in which Krelian resides, and is essentially thought to be an enemy stronghold within the game. As such, you might expect a militaristic or atmospheric piece with lots of religious overtones, yet Mitsuda surprises us by providing quite the contrary. Instead, we have a track that could have been used in many other situations. It actually manages to work well in the game however, and I consider it to be one of the best developed of its kind on the soundtrack.
It is, perhaps, the emotional themes that are the strongest on the soundtrack. "Shattering Egg of Dreams" seems to be primarily used as a love theme. The melody is nice, but I can't help but feel that the accompanying harmony really lets the piece down as a whole, and makes it seem a lot more run-of-the-mill than it should do. The theme's second rendition later on the first disc — "Lost... Broken Shards" — improves on the original by using just a piano and a violin. Its simple instrumentation is a better way of conveying the theme itself, but it would have been more effective it had developed a little more. "The Treasure Which Cannot Be Stolen" is a beautiful track that corrects many of the shortfalls of the aforementioned tracks. Although it still does not develop very much, the instrumentation is perfect and the composition is more sophisticated, creating one of the highlights of the first disc. Another lovely track comes in the form of "The Wounded Shall Advance Into the Light." This emotional choir piece progresses wonderfully and is used to great effect within the game itself. Firstly, it is used as a hymn sung in a church, and it evidently represents that scene very well. It is also applied to a battle scene later on in the game, where the sorrowful melody really shines, and it feels as though you are fighting to purify the part of Fei that is Id. By this time, the female lead Elly has become somewhat of a religious icon, which makes the piece seem even more appropriate in its context. It is this very piece that was arranged as the title track of Creid, where it benefits from being sung by a real choir.
The second disc begins with another very nice piece for a church setting through "Ship of Regret and Sleep." This time, Mitsuda uses a harpsichord melody with a choir that interjects on its second loop. While it is not as moving as the last religious track, there probably could not have been a piece that fit the setting any better than this one. "June Mermaid" is one of the most highly acclaimed tracks on the soundtrack. Though simplistic, the tune perfectly depicts the mysterious Emeralda, and conveys ambiguity as well as sorrow. I think its development is quite unpredictable especially at the transition to the calmer part of the melody at around the 1:30 mark, which adds to the effect of the overall track; I think the only problem I have with the track is the choice of a woodwind instrument to accompany the vibraphone, when a violin probably would have suited the piece better. The next character theme is "Gathering Stars in the Night Sky," which is a beautiful representation of the young girl, Maria. The track is very emotional, which hints at the girl's personality. The piece that follows it, "Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the People" is also particularly nice, and follows on very well. It is, rather predictably, used at many of the more poignant moments in the game. The title itself explains what Mitsuda was trying to achieve — a tune that could show sadness as well as determination; I think he succeeded admirably here.
Then there is "Flight," which seems to complete the musical transition. First we had the moving character theme, then the sad, touching piece and finally the epic track that shows determination and bravery. "Flight" is, primarily, an upbeat arrangement of "Gathering Stars in the Night Sky" used when Maria confronts her greatest fear in the game and takes flight in her gear to face her father. I loved that moment in the game so much that I am still very fond of this piece of music, despite how cheesy or hackneyed people might consider it. I can't stress enough how well it fit the scene (It is like Mitsuda's answer to "Cid's Theme" from Final Fantasy VII if you will), and although people might not enjoy the track if they have not played the game, I think that any fan of Xenogears would probably understand why I like it so much. Admittedly, from a musical perspective it is not developed nearly as well as it could have been and it is very repetitive. Of the darker atmospheric pieces that follow, "The One Who is Torn Apart" is the only one that really stands out. The tune is enigmatic and chilling, perfectly creating the atmosphere for the scenes in which Fei finds out more about himself and Id.
We come at last then, to the final battle and ending pieces. The first of the final battle tracks, "Awakening," is another rendition of the melody used in "Light from the Netherworld" and "Omen" used to portray the all-powerful entity that is Deus. Like "Battle with Magus" on the Chrono Trigger soundtrack, it is actually a surprisingly good battle track coming from Mitsuda, and manages to fit in the religious overtones through use of the Bulgarian choir once more alongside the use of drum beats, strings and the 'Sawtooth wave'. Even so, it seems undeveloped and pales in comparison to final battle themes from other games. It is "One Who Bares Fangs at God" that accompanies the very last battle however. The track is quite controversial as many have diverse opinions — some love it and others hate it. I would not like to side with either, as I think that it fails to impress on a standalone basis, but feels incredibly appropriate in-game. It is predominately a layered piece of synth choir work, which builds up as it goes along. Some would argue that it is boring, and I can see where these people are coming from; but it really depends in which context you are reviewing the piece. As a piece of music, it is most certainly lacking. Yet at the same time, considering the boss battle it accompanies, maybe it was intended that way, and there is no denying how aptly it fulfilled its purpose. There are certainly those who will be disappointed, especially those who eagerly await the decisive battle music, but it's not as if Mitsuda's final battle themes have ever been anything worth celebrating.
"The Beginning and the End" is another track that is hard to appreciate unless you have played Xenogears itself. In the American version, the awful anime dub limits the enjoyment of the ending sequence, which is riddled with religious symbolism defining Fei and Elly as Adam and Eve and leaving questions about Krelian still untold. The music fits perfectly, but if you pay too much attention to the bad voice acting or are listening to the CD by itself, its effect is decreased considerably. The Bulgarian choir go out on this note, and the closing track is another vocal ballad, "Small Two of Pieces," sung by Joanne Hogg. The song is a reprisal of the "Faraway Promise" theme, and deserves some credit for being the first of its kind, even if it isn't the greatest ending track. Like "Stars of Tears" it seems to have been influenced by Irish music.
I think the Xenogears soundtrack is a mixed bag. What was an amazing soundtrack in its day now seems quite dated, and has lost most of its initial appeal. Unlike the Chrono Cross soundtrack and Xenosaga Original Soundtrack, it is hard to fully value the music without having played the game itself. There are still some tracks that have long-lasting value, but they are few and far between. Although it might be memorable for the first couple of listens, it becomes a bit of a chore after that — I found myself analysing Mitsuda's compositions a lot more than I would like, simply because I had tired of lacklustre tracks like "The Jaws of Ice." Fortunately, few complaints can be made about the sound programming (achieved by Hidenori Suzuki, the same man responsible for the Final Fantasy Tactics and SaGa Frontier II soundtracks), as the sound system is up to the highest standard for the PlayStation and each instrument is, for the most part, easily distinguishable.
Unlike the Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger soundtracks I don't think the Xenogears soundtrack has stood the test of time very well. I would recommend the album only to fans of Mitsuda and of the Xenogears game itself. I would hesitate to call it one of the better soundtracks in my selection or in Mitsuda's own library, and think that the casual video game music listener would probably find Xenogears, Creid: Yasunori Mitsuda and Millenial Fair a more enjoyable album. Nevertheless, Mitsuda has composed a score that fits the game perfectly and has managed to incorporate futuristic, ethnic, and religious themes, all of which give it a feeling of wholeness. While there are faults with his work, I am unsure anybody could have done a better job than Mitsuda in incorporating and melding the various layered themes of the game into the very soundtrack it uses.
"I believe the thoughts of this enormous number of people are packed together on this CD; the air of Ireland, the air of Bulgaria, and the air of Japan. And furthermore, the air of the room you're in. Created thus, I pray that the music of Xenogears calms and emboldens your spirit." - Yasunori Mitsuda
Xenogears was Yasunori Mitsuda's first solo project, and the results are nothing short of outstanding. Xenogears easily ranks among some of the best music that Squaresoft could have ever produced. For the score, Mitsuda has used a completely different approach. For example, a Bulgarian chorus appears in many tracks, which makes Xenogears stand out from the usual Square fare. For now, I'll describe both discs. Take in mind that it is a much more enjoyable experience to listen to the Original Soundtrack itself while reading this.
The opening anime sequence was breathtaking. "Light from the Netherworld," the music accompanying it, is so good. This is how RPG introduction themes should be: powerful and filled with emotion. We also get that chorus I spoke of, which intensifies the beauty of this track. Another early track, "Bonds of Sea and Fire," is made very enjoyable with it's soft flute in the background. Is it just me or does "My Village is Number One" sound a lot like "Guardia Millenial Fair" from Mitsuda's last masterpiece, Chrono Trigger? It's one of the best town themes ever and has a Celtic / Scottish sound to it, something we don't hear often in the latest RPGs. The first battle track we get is "Steel Giant," which is wonderfully orchestrated and easily shows the danger when Fei was fighting invaders with that Giant Mech. All four of these tracks contribute towards a great diverse opening in the game.
The dungeon and setting themes are often very original pieces. One, for example is the awesome "Forest of the Black Moon." It's mysterious, yet beautiful and somehow epic. It's easy to imagine yourself running about in that forest, it couldn't had gotten a better theme. "Shattering Egg of Dreams" however, is very sad, everytime I listen to it, I remember that saddening scene of Fei getting banished from his village for unwillingly killing a few people while trying to defend against invaders. Very sad indeed. The second town theme, "Dazil: City of Burning Sands" clearly has an Arabian sound to it and when the chorus joins in it gets better. It's quite original for a town theme. Yasunori Mitsuda has never dissapointed with map themes, we are presented to "Emotions." It's easily among the best map themes ever, being happy and serene. I often just got out on the map just to listen to it.
The other themes are quite energetic and action-based. The villain theme, "Graaf, Emperor of Darkness," definitely fits the bill. It's a dark and brooding track, but a great one rivaling Chrono Trigger's "Battle With Magus" and Final Fantasy VII's "Those Chosen by the Planet." Another example of a track containing shades of a track from previous games is "Leftovers of the Dreams of the Strong." The first 25 seconds sounds exactly like "Commander in Training" from Final Fantasy Tactics, although it changes completely after the 25 seconds and becomes another winner track. The regular battle theme, "Stage of Death," sounds a lot like something you'd expect in Final Fantasy Tactics, but it has more beat than Sakimoto's and Iwata's classical battle themes for that score. Is it enjoyable? Oh yeah! That pretty much covers the goodness in Disc One, but there are far more treats in Disc Two.
Disc Two begins in a very diverse way. The first track is "Ship of Regret and Sleep." Here we get some more vocals, and the religious feel that Xenogears holds starts here. Next up is "Jaws of Ice," which is probably another dungeon theme, sounding a bit creepy, but still is an enjoyable listen. The boss theme, "Knight of Fire," is another winning battle theme. At the end there are some voices, but it's impossible to make out what they say. You'll also notice that it has it's share of trumpets and drums. Very good beat + very good melody = one hell of a good boss theme!
Disc Two has a fair share of airy themes. "Shevat: The Wind is Calling" sounds alot like certain themes from Chrono Trigger, at least in the first few seconds. It's a lovely theme and it easily stays stuck in my head. "Wings" is by no doubt the airship theme (I'm assuming there is one) and this is the very best airship theme I've heard so far. "Pray for the People's Joy" is a very good organ piece, rivalling Ms Shimomura's best in Live A Live and Parasite Eve.
"Omen" changes completely the feeling of religion to fear and evil. It builds up for "Awakening," the first of the last boss themes. After a while the chorus joins in, making it among the more memorable final boss tracks. The last of the final boss themes, "One who Bares Fangs at God," is undoubtedly one the most bizzare last boss themes I've heard. It's slow, contains very little melody, but the chorus makes up for lack of melody. If I could actually get to that point in the game, it would probably help me more in appreciating it's beauty and originality. The ending theme, "Small of Two Pieces," is one among the good vocal tracks, unlike a certain Symphony of the Night vocal. Is it just me or does it sound strikingly similar to Celine Dion's "My Heart will go on" in the movie Titanic?
Well, to conclude my review, the Xenogears Original Soundtrack is definitely worth getting, although I'd highly reccomend you play and beat the game first. Despite it becoming unavailable due to DigiCube's bankruptcy, it has been reprinted, so go and get it while it's still available!
Xenogears. What does it represent? To me, it represents deviating from the norm. How so? With his first released solo contribution to Square, Mitsuda experiments quite a bit. Why? Surely his normal composing style would lend nicely to this game. While that may be, he attempts to capture the dark and philosophical storyline that harbors many religious overtones. Housing a myriad of musical styles, Xenogears bears it all to the listener. While this may put off some Mitsuda fans, it shows his diversity as a composer, as well as his influences for his later Xenosaga soundtrack. But in the end, is Mitsuda successful in capturing the essence of Xenogears or does he end up wandering about like a pilot who has lost his Gear. Come, jump into the pilot seat of your favorite Gear as I review this album!
Yasunori Mitsuda has always had a penchant for writing opening themes and "Light from the Netherworld" is probably one of his best opening themes since it combines tons of styles and moods. Ranging from very atmospheric to very powerful, motivating motifs, the listener is taken on a rollercoaster ride for the ear. The violin's way of creating a very chilling and, at the same time, beautiful melody adds so much depth to this track over the heavy percussion and industrial rhythms. In addition, the introduction of chorals, in both a dramatic sense and in a more revered tone, really contributes to a strong sense of variety. Militarism rears its head too as Mitsuda creates a nice rhythmic section reminiscent of warring nations. In addition, Mitsuda also introduces the main theme of the game, "Small Two of Pieces" as a fantastic way to end this track and as Miang stares out into the horizon from the beach, the gamer is instilled with a sense of peace and serenity.
Moving from one of his stronger traits, we'll shift gears to one of his weaker traits: his battle themes. While his battle themes in this game still aren't on par with some of the greats out there, they are definitely some of his strongest. The normal battle theme “Stage of Death” is probably the weakest one on the album. It shares the militaristic qualities of the other tracks, and is certainly fitting for the scope of the game, but it seems to fall short. It's a bit repetitive in the beginning and it doesn't give that sense of battle that the others do, but the choice of instrumentation is very good. Brass and percussion definitely give off that militaristic flair! The boss theme for the game, "Knight of Fire," is probably the best battle theme on the album, save for the one of the final battle themes. It, too, employs the use of a strong percussive rhythm with an overlying brass melody. It is epic in scale and execution and definitely employs a unique tension easer in the form of some spoken commands, most likely from that of a gear. "Steel Giant" is another battle track used at times in the game and is also a nice treat to which to listen. The percussion use isn't as prominent a feature as in the other battle tracks, but it's much stronger when it is used. The brass melody is militaristic, frenzied, and above all, very strong. It really helps to hold the piece together.
Another striking section of this album is its town themes. "My Village is Number One" is a very playful track that incorporates a lot of Celtic influence. The use of bagpipe, violin, a catchy percussion line, and vocals makes for an interesting combination and their execution is fantastic. The chorals add a bit of seriousness to the track, while the bagpipe and violin help to portray the happiness of a tiny village before it is obliterated. Similarly, "The Valley Where Wind is Born" shares a similar style to its predecessor, but focuses much more on the usage of woodwinds to convey its message. Both are very playful in nature and really help to bring the main character's way of living into focus. Another town theme that shares this Celtic influence is "Singing of the Gentle Wind." This is a very peaceful track which utilizes woodwinds and an accordion to invoke the image of a twon theme to the listener. Piano serves as a fitting accompaniment and helps to add another level of emotion. As the piece develops, the feelings of emotion only grow stronger.
If you think that Celtic town themes were all you'd expect from Mitsuda, you are mistaken. He offers up a few other styles as well. "Dajil, City of the Burning Sand", is probably the best desert town themes I've heard in my lifetime. This track definitely is home to some of the more exotic instrumentation you'll find on the album. From zithers to bongos, it really offers something nice. While the main melody is played on a woodwind instrument, it doesn't feel Celtic at all and is a nice interjection into an album dominated by orchestral and Celtic overtones. We move on to the more bombastic "Tamusu, Man of the Sea," the town theme for the ship Thames. The combination of brass and woodwind in the melodic line really help to offer some contrast to some of the town themes heard. I also love how the percussion is strong and helps to accentuate the strengths found in the melody. While it is a bit repetitive, it's still a nice addition to the soundtrack. "Solaris, Eden of Heaven" is probably the quirkiest of the town themes on here. It has a nice rhythmic nature to it, but at the same time, it seems to contrast with what one would expect to hear in an Eden. While it definitely gets points for being original and playful, it still suffers from being repetitive and a bit lackluster compared to the other town themes.
Since you can't have a Xeno game without religious overtones, likewise, you can't have a Xeno review without mentioning some spiritual aspects of the soundtrack. "The Wounded Shall Advance into the Light" is a very religious sounding piece. The use of a choir here really helps to portray the serenity of the cathedral and, at the same time, it offers a very strong melody for something as simple as this. It's surprisingly very touching as well and the layering of the choir adds a bit of depth to the track. While "Ship of Sleep and Regret" isn't the most religious sounding track, it definitely has some religious influence inherited within its composition. The use of harpsichord and subtle choral work makes for a very nice backdrop to Elly summarizing parts of the story. Unfortunately, it suffers from a pretty straightforward melody which seems to drag on after a while. Surprisingly, the main instrument one would think of when they think religion has yet to show itself, the organ. Fortunately, "Pray for the People's Joy" gives us just that. The melody produced by the organ is very fitting and helps to bring some contrast to the album. While it doesn't offer the strongest of melodies, it definitely provides a very solemn atmosphere.
Although the remaining tracks don't fit into a category per se, they all are worthy of mention because they showcase more of Mitsuda's strong points. "Grahf, Emperor of Darkness" is one of Mitsuda's most striking villain themes, and in my opinion, is only surpassed by "Albedo". Very militaristic and sinister in nature, this piece just exudes evil in its purest form. The percussion is extremely rhythmic and fits with the brass melody, which gives off a feeling of divine power. It's a truly moving villain theme and one that avoids clichés that earlier role playing games have suffered from. "Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the Strong," is a very somber piece. The sad piano line really helps to convey the feeling of sorrow, while the violin only helps to accentuate the feeling. The introduction of the woodwind section offers a glimmer of hope and really fits the duality of the track title. In the end, this track is one that shouldn't be missed because of its offerings on both a compositional and emotional level. To end this section, I chose "The Treasure Which Cannot Be Stolen" because, to me, this exemplifies Mitsuda as a master of crafting the most emotional of pieces. The use of woodwinds and piano help to create a picturesque soundscape that really offers a sense of hope and sadness in the listener. The piano shows the truth that a treasure that cannot be stolen may very well break easily but at the same time, the woodwinds offer the hope that it won't. At least, that's my take on the track.
Returning to the battle themes, "Flight" is used in an event battle that involves Maria. Essentially, it's an exhilarating arrangement of "Gathering Stars in the Night Sky." As with the other tracks, it has a very militaristic trait infused within, but at the same time, it's much more melodious than the others. In his early years, Mitsuda had a very interesting way of dealing with final battles and Xenogears is no different. "One Who Bares Fangs at God" serves as the true final battle, but at the same time music, suffers from not sounding like a battle theme at all. Despite this, it is still a very solid contribution to the album. Harboring a very interesting rhythm and utilizing many different elements, this piece truly sticks out in the soundtrack. The overall mood is one of seeming serenity, but at the same time, hints of despair can be heard. I attribute this to the use of some very striking vocals. In stark contrast to the final battle theme, the battle theme against Deus Ex is truly one of Mitsuda's best. "Awakening" just exudes excellence. Relying on a strong percussion line, a powerful melodic motif, and the use of some chilling chorals, this battle theme is truly a masterpiece. It sucks you and doesn't spit you out until it finishes. The mixing of all these elements is one of the more striking features of this track. Alternating between the powerful brass melody, and a more sinister percussion and chorals section, it really shows you how well crafted the track is. In addition, it also ties together the album by incorporating a motif found in "Light from the Netherworld," adding a bit of sadness to the track.
The last section of this review is where I think Mitsuda shines amongst his contemporaries, the vocal performances. Of the two ballads here, "Stars of Tears" was not used in the game, but its melody was not wasted as it appears as the world map theme "Emotions". The lyrics are poignant and Joanne Hogg really brings the track to life. The addition of some echoing vocals helps to add some contrast to the piece. The track itself ends with a small Irish jig and really helps to drive home the idea of a Celtic flair. However, the true star of the show is "Small Two of Pieces," the ending theme to the game. Once again, Joanne Hogg's lovely voice is featured and she really helps hit a homerun with this piece, bringing this track to life. The lyrics are poignant, describing the relationship between Fei and Elly. On to the compositional quality of this piece, the Celtic flavor is the prominent aspect of this piece and is immediately effective from the opening notes. The verse and chorus sections of the piece are extremely simple, consisting only of a subtle percussion, electric guitar, and piano, in order to allow for the vocalist's voice to drive the track. The addition of the Celtic flute and violin later in the track to offer an accentuation of the melody sung by Hogg helps to add some nice development to the piece as well. Following the law of vocal performances, there is a solo in this piece as well, this time from an electric guitar; it offers some nice contrast to the piece and, after the solo, is still featured. Ending very much the way it began, the Celtic flute is featured as Hogg sings the final chorus. "We can run to the end of the world. We can run to the end... of the world."
Xenogears is definitely a mixed bag. It offers a lot of different styles to the table. While some of these styles may put off certain individuals, there is enough variety here for the average listener to at least like something on this album. In no way, does this represent his best album, but it shows he is willing to try something new, as opposed to Celtic music. As such, his recent works have shown a deviation from the traditional Celtic base. While they may contain the Celtic track here or there, a lot more non-stereotypical Mitsuda is being seen. I recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of Mitsuda or wants to see the early roots of Mitsuda's deviation in his compositional styles.
Sound Programmed by Hidenori Suzuki
Sound Engineered by Tomohiro Yajima
Sound Effect by Kazumi Mitome, Jun Nakamura
Recorded and Mixed by Kenzi Nagashima (Disc 1-M1-M3-M9, Disc 2-M3)
Mastered by Jun Miura
IRELAND SESSION Recording Date: 18~20 Nov 1996
Opening Theme (Out Take) "STARS OF TEARS"
Music: Yasunori Mitsuda
Original Lyrics: Masato Kato
Vocal: Joanne Hogg (from IONA)
Low Whistle: Davy Spillane
E Bass: Hitoshi Watanabe
A Guitar & E Guitar: HATA (from GUIDO)
Drums & Percussion: KALTA (from GUIDO)
Keyboards: Yasunori Mitsuda
Ending Theme "SMALL TWO OF PIECES"
Music: Yasunori Mitsuda
Original Lyrics: Masato Kato
Vocal: Joanne Hogg (from IONA)
Low Whistle: Davy Spillane
Harp: Anne-Marie O'Farrell
E Bass: Hitoshi Watanabe
A Guitar & E Guitar: HATA (from GUIDO)
Drums: KALTA (from GUIDO)
Keyboards: Yasunori Mitsuda
BULGARIA SESSION Recording Date: 17 Feb 1997
Epilogue "The Beginning and the End"
Music: Yasunori Mitsuda
Original Lyrics: Tetsuya Takahashi
Bulgarian Translation: Milcho Spassov
Arranged by Petar Liondev and Yasunori Mitsuda
Conduced by Zdravko Iliev Mihaylov
Chorus by "THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA"
Анонсирован концерт в честь 20-летия Xenogears
Новые сэмплы оркестрового ремейка Xenogears
Сейчас, наконец-то, на официальном сайте альбома появились первые сэмплы композиций. 5 треков ждут не дождутся, когда Вы их прослушаете. Несмотря на обилие японской ругани, достаточно пройти в раздел «трек-лист» и уж там будет понятно куда нажимать.
Релиз альбома состоится 23 февраля....
Оркестровый саундтрек для Xenogears
Это уже не первый альбом аранжировок для Xenogears. Через месяц после релиза оригинальной пластинки, в Японии вышел сборник аранжировок Creid: Yasunori Mitsuda & Millenial Fair. Примечательно, что аранжировки были переложены на кельтский мотив и исполнены вживую таким обилием экзотических инструментов (кельтская арфа, ирландская волынка, боузуки, сякухаци, электрическая виолончель прилагаются), что глаза разбегаются до сих пор. Альбом получился очень живым, «домашним» и настоятельно рекомендуется к прослушиванию. По ощущениям – это тот же Kirite, рецензию на который вы можете прочесть на сайте.
Так что определённо ждём!...
Stars of Tears (Out Take)
Bonds of Sea and Flame
My Village is Number One
Valley Where the Wind Is Born
The Blackmoon Forest
Where the Egg of Dreams Hatches
Dozing Off (Short Version)
Dazil, Town of Burning Sands
Grahf, Ruler of Darkness
After the Soldiers' Dreams
Aveh, The Ancient Dance
Stage of Death
In A Dark Slumber...
The Gentle Breeze Sings
Our Wounded Bodies Shall Advance Towards the Light
Lost... Broken Shards
Thames, Spirit of the Men of the Sea
The Blue Traveler