Arcus II -Silent Symphony-

arcus2 Album Title:
Arcus II -Silent Symphony-
Record Label:
Toshiba EMI
Catalog No.:
TOCT-5616
Release Date:
December 13, 1989
Purchase:
Buy Used Copy

Overview

The earliest of four Wolfteam albums featuring the so-called Sergeant Wolf Band, consisting of Motoi Sakuraba, Yasunori Shiono, and Motoi Sakuraba, Arcus II -Silent Symphony- may be one of the earliest game soundtracks, created in 1989, but this does not determine its worth. Though Arcus II was released on a number of computers, this score documents the original port for the X68000, resulting in good sound quality for its time. Combined with music that is both melodically and harmonically impressive, featuring some sophisticated progressive rock here and there, this rare album was, in many ways, exceptional technologically and musically for its time.

Body

Motoi Sakuraba adds most of the grit and tension to the album. “Western Kingdom,” the first of his contributions, opens ominously, and after a drum beat is added, a high-pitched melody comes in to play alongside a dark electric guitar. Although the theme is relatively short, it is a promising introduction to his work that leads the listener into searching for something similar. “Slash!!” does just that. Tension, suspense, and horror fill the action-packed track, and, although it is short once more, it is hard to miss the intelligence behind the theme; the instrumentation is limited but effective, as Sakuraba layers a number of aggressive parts on top of the solo instrument that opens the theme to slowly build a tense atmosphere. Its counterpart, “Spark!!,” is even more aggressive; with its pulsating drum line, a powerful, albeit simple, melody, and orientation around the lower octaves, the perfect atmosphere for a battle is set. Also notable are “Waiting Fate,” which emphasises darkness with its contrapuntal textures, and its arrangement “Pale-Face ~Rune Blade~,” which utilises deeper instruments and offers a unique development section.

It isn’t all doom and gloom with Sakuraba and he creates a number of themes that tell tales of success, companionship, and positivity in the early portion of the album. “Hobbit Kid” is a joyous theme that has a simple yet fun melody that oozes with a sense of grandeur and pride. The theme that follows this track, “Lady Thief,” is passionate and gracious, and despite the fact that it is based on very little, it is really easy to note certain features that may have inspired him with later albums. “Grief Prince” is very Star Ocean-esque in nature as it is very futuristic, ambient, and ominous, as if telling the tale of a space opera. It is hardly as impressive as “Departure” though, which is based on the melody first revealed in “Grief Prince”. Could this be the unravelling of the genius that is Sakuraba? This track represents exactly what his music stands for today: power, excellence, and ambition. The theme is hardly revolutionary, but it provides a dramatic atmosphere that is ideal for the situation.

Composing seven of the eight final tracks on the album, Motoi Sakuraba builds the album up to an effective climax. “Rune Tradition” has both an inspirational melody and a tense atmosphere that is brewed up especially for the occasion. The harmony is simple and the instrumentation isn’t diverse at all, but it just goes to show that a little can go a long way. “Devil Errand” follows on perfectly from “Rune Tradition,” providing a battle-like setting with its fast pace and tense drum line. The theme starts off solely with a bass guitar line, and when this is taken over by some blaster synth, an organ, and later on a piano, the theme comes to life. Several others follow, all of which link wonderfully to one another. In some ways, his final theme, “Bride and Peace” is what I label as a ‘classic track’; it holds an inspirational melody, is divine in the way that it develops, and received an arrangement to demonstrate its importance. However, it is ultimately uneventful and repetitive, which is perhaps apposite, though doesn’t offer a great listen. On the whole, Sakuraba’s contributions prove how versatile he is. From the tension-creating pieces to the inspiring epics, he doesn’t let the team down one bit. Original, groundbreaking, and unforgettable, what more could one ask for? Well, there’s a lot more to come.

Lufia’s Yasunori Shiono’s compositions are distinguishable here for being the most lively and upbeat on the album, though are not faultless. For instance, “Smile” is a very likeable track that really gets one’s hopes up, and although it is pretty repetitive, the harmony makes it all the more fun to listen to. “Kingdom Earth” shares the same upbeat rhythm as “Smile,” but this time is darker in nature, making it a unique listen, particularly enjoyable because of the way the melody is accompanied by some great synth. “Light and Dark” is a massive step forward in comparison to these, and this is simply because the melody is profound, the development is effective, and there isn’t a single flaw anywhere. Indeed, it could have been even better if it were longer, but truth be told, it needs no improvement. Another notable Shiono theme is “Dwarven Warrior.” It feels fresh and airy throughout with the flowing patterns of the harmonies adding to the light textures and subtle instrumentation use Shiono introduced. Despite being short, it is varied, so it creates a profoundly different atmosphere in the two minutes that it plays, offering a suitable and inspiring break from the themes that it is sandwiched between. His last three tracks, “Where Are You Going?,” “Strange Island,” and “Eastern Kingdom,” are all of equal calibre. Considering his arrangement too, Shiono’s contributions are monumental on this album and it is a pity that he didn’t compose more.

Uno’s work on this album is really a mixed bag, but the good thing is that development is always a certainty. “Ten Years After” is probably the highlight of his work here, reflected also by its arrangement. It starts off in a cunning fashion with many areas suggesting forthcoming development, and, indeed, after a brief pause, the track really gets moving around the 1:30 mark. Although this theme is hardly the cynosure of the album, it provides the listener with a fair and unflawed introduction to his works. “By Linden” and “Wills Power” are also fine contributions. Each is as atmospheric as the other, and the latter wraps up his contributions to the album nicely. What comes inbetween, however, indicates Uno’s musical ability yet also reflects he often implements compositions in an ineffectual way… Indeed, Uno’s contributions really emphasise that his melodic lines can be profound, while his harmonies can be quirky and effective, yet he rarely pieces the two together, even when he develops his music fully. “Up Down,” for example, holds yet another wondrous melody, yet it sticks to the same line throughout, meaning the development of the piece principally comes from an ever-changing harmonic line. “Elven Archer” is another track of the same nature (it even uses the same instrumentation), but it really fails to impress due to its lack of substance. What “Loggers” and “Mystic Land” offers are fitting, the former being relaxing, the latter having a really effective harmonic line, yet neither really is inspiring as Uno’s other compositions. Inconsistency is Uno’s problem, not ability, though he still produces a number of very enjoyable tracks.

Arcus II -Silent Symphony- starts off with a three-piece arranged version. The first of the arrangements, “Ten Years After”, is by far Masaaki Uno’s best contribution to the album. The original theme is cunningly transformed into something special here, and although Motoi Sakuraba is responsible for arranging the horn part, it is the rest of the track that really stands out. The first part of the theme acts as a curious build up to what comes next, and, following a delightful pause, the second half kicks in fully loaded and ready to go. Masaaki Uno puts all of his might into this theme, and this especially easy to note through the way that the contrasting dynamics are further enhanced by sways and swells in the instrumentation. This is my second favourite track on the album, second only to the next track.

“Kingdom Earth” is arranged in exactly the same way as Yasunori Shiono would deliver a great Lufia theme. The introduction is captivating, the development is inspired, and a pile of captivating keyboard and synth lines are added in to further enhance the theme. It is helped by the fact that it has a superb melody that no other track matches, and, as we all know, if one pairs this up with a dollop of energy and rhythm, a winning theme is born. The theme essentially repairs what is lost in the original by carefully combining the epic melodies with an accompaniment that maintains interest and movement. The 1:50 mark sees the birth of one of the best organ solos that I have heard, and although it is short, the effect is long-lasting. Kudos to Yasunori Shiono, who really shows his worth here. Motoi Sakuraba’s arrangement of “Bridal And Peace” is filled with the symphonic rock goodness those that have heard the Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack would come to expect. While a little lacking in length, it reaches amazing heights in terms of sophistication and development. The theme starts off as a fanfare and, as a piano line is added, everything becomes even more grandiose as the parts begin to explore their own paths. The first minute or so is epic, and although the rest of the track adheres closely to the initial melody, he maintains equilibrium throughout. Sadly, this arrangement doesn’t even touch upon the others, simply because it is too consistent, yet it is unique in its own right.

Summary

On the whole, this isn’t the average ancient album. The original version section of the album is filled with hidden delights while the quality of the brief arranged version is very high. Individually, each of the three members of the Sergeant Wolf Band did a great job here, and it provides an excellent testament to the quality of their work while Wolfteam was independent from Telenet Japan. If the music of Motoi Sakuraba or Yasunori Shiono is familiar and appeals, seriously consider this gem, but be warned that it is very rare. Happy hunting!

Arcus II -Silent Symphony- Dave Valentine

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!

3.5


Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on January 22, 2016.


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