Armored Core V Original Soundtrack
Armored Core V Original Soundtrack
January 25, 2012
Buy at CDJapan
The latest instalment of From Software’s flagship series, 2012’s Armored Core V restored the series back to its former greatness in many ways. Kota Hoshino returned as the title’s sound director and lead composer, following his masterpiece Armored Core: For Answer. Once again, he decided to shake up his approach to scoring the series — shifting to a much more gritty sound created through all sorts of weird and wonderful hybrids. One of the largest soundtracks in the series to date, it was released in a two disc set.
Demonstrating Kota Hoshino’s fresh approach to each Armored Core soundtrack, the album’s opener “V” couldn’t contrast more with its equivalent on Armored Core: For Answer. Gone are the beautiful but minimalistic orchestrations. In their place are a series of dark cinematic passages and gritty industrial soundscapes. With its understated, near-silent introduction and erratic development, the track is best appreciated in context — where it greatly enhances the dark mood of the scenes while conveying the sheer power of mecha. Throughout the soundtrack, there are an abundance of other hybridised tracks. With its booming percussion lines and piercing synth overlays, “Lithium” is just as metallic and reactive as one might expect, while the guitar-laced “Strive” is equally rhythmical and compounded. “Black Out” is also bound to freak out gamers with its Drakengard-esque choral opening and thick dissonant orchestration.
The artist nevertheless offers a more personal aspect to the experience with several recurring themes. “Lament Over the Howling Age” is a soft, dreamy work featuring a clear trip-hop influence. The metred piano line encapulates the entire composition — beautiful yet mechanical — while the spiritual chorals and distorted build-ups bring plenty of substance. The track is arranged several other times on the soundtrack, most notably the more vocal-focused “12 Steps”, to elating effect. Also central to the experience is “Begin in Your Coming”, a ‘call to arms’ featuring a dazzling, reverb-heavy orchestration and boundless, idiosyncratic phrasing. Hoshino refreshingly rejects Hollywood prototypes in favour of a unique, rawer sound that truly belongs in Armored Core’s world. Its arrangements “Cadence Call” and “Choral” are even more engaging thanks to their choral use — they bring a new dimension to the melody.
Talking of vocals, Hoshino was keen to revisit the eccentric sampling techniques of Armored Core 4. For instance, distorted vocoder parts are blended with jagged riffs and pulsating beats on “Why Don’t You Come Down”. The track deviates completely from the conventions of scoring — whether in phrasing, rhythms, or textures, there’s nothing quite like this out there. Equally bizarre is “Mech Dinosaur”, which captures the intensity of a major boss encounter with overdriven beats and vocal samples. Not all will enjoy such frenzied and abrasive tracks, though many will appreciate their creativity. “Meteor” is a mishmash of just about everything — the epic, the enigmatic, and the exotic. Though not actually featured in the game, it still inspires vivid imagery and is entirely listenable out-of-context. Another defining addition is “In A Day”, which evolves from its abstract dubstep-influenced origins into a colourful piano-laced rockfest.
The soundtrack is supported by guest contributions from several other members of From Software’s sound team. Another Century’s Episode lead produced three spectacular symphonic tracks. Adhering closer to Hollywood, these are more convention in style and polished in implementation that Hoshino’s tracks. They nevertheless complement the cinematic approach of some of his other tracks and “Inversus” is a particular spectacle. Series’ long-timer Tsukasa Saitoh contributed the emotional march “Operation Room” and, perhaps in homage to Armored Core 3, the more hybridised “Force”. Sound effects designer Hideyuki Eto also made an obligatory appearance with “Protrude”, a more aseptic IDM track reminiscent of the series’ founding scores. Rounding the release are some less remarkable tracks, such as ambient percussive cues like “Mercenaries”, or the brief theme reprise “Just Tuned”, but these are relatively few and still have an atmospheric role in the game.
Armored Core V features the most eclectic soundtrack of the series. While it lacks the artistic subtlety of Armored Core: For Answer, it compensates with its sheer audacity — mixing all sorts of ideas and styles into momentous achievements. Clearly not one to be constrained by convention, Hoshino’s hybrids here sound unlikely on paper, but are wonderful in execution. The soundtrack will be too outlandish to have a widespread stand-alone appeal, but those that enjoy experimental hybrids or have played the game should find themselves having plenty of affinity for this one. It’s highly impressive that, despite having led so many of the series’ soundtracks, Hoshino is still able to keep the music sounding fresh and modern.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 22, 2016.