Bullet Soul Complete Soundtrack
Bullet Soul Complete Soundtrack
December 21, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Although 5pb have ported Cave shmups to the Xbox 360, Bullet Soul is their first original shmup. The music, featuring composer Kenji Ito and arrangers Kohta Takahashi and Noriyuki Kamikura, is rock driven and definitely showcases Kenji Ito’s ability to craft strong melodies. At the end of 2011, a complete soundtrack for the game was released. This built on the soundtrack release included with the game with music from the downloadable content and two bonus arrangements.
Approximately half the soundtrack’s substantial themes are arranged by RESONATOR, the duo of Kenji Ito and Kohta Takahashi. The opening theme, “Cold Blue Pendulum,” featuring Akiko Hasegawa on vocals, introduces the overall soundscape of the soundtrack. Her voice goes quite well with the synth rock focus of the underlying music, and although short, the theme manages to leave a pretty strong impression. Exclusive to this release, the ending theme, “ALTAIR” — sung by Asriel and composed by Keisuke Kurose — is an energetic rock theme. With powerful guitar riffs, crystalline piano, and some ethereal synth in a fast-tempo setting, it’s bound to entertain listeners. Yet while an enjoyable theme, I prefer the opening theme personally.
The stage one theme, “Relentless Force,” is an intoxicating blend of synthesizer and electric guitar with an extremely catchy melody, one of Kenji Ito’s strongest points. The A section is comprised primarily of synthesizer work while the B section intensifies with the introduction of an electric guitar melody. Although not as strong as the other stage themes, it manages to cast an aura of battle. The boss theme, “Rampant Militarism,” features a very militaristic approach, especially with the orchestral accompaniment. However, the key factor of this theme is the electric guitar at times. At times, it’s used as an accompanying device, providing heavy guitar riffs, while during others, it’s providing piercing leads and strong melodies. Overall, it’s a wonderful blend of synthesizer, orchestra, and rock soundscapes.
The second stage theme, “Dreadful Atmosphere,” opens up quite ominously with intense percussion, but quickly transforms into an upbeat theme dominated by catchy synth leads with orchestral harmonies and subtle rock accompaniment. It definitely screams Romancing Saga to me, especially once the B section hits and the electric guitar comes into the forefront of the melody line. This is definitely one of my favorite RESONATOR stage themes. Lastly, “Three Opposers,” the third stage theme, also has an RPG inspired sound, particularly in the accompanying bass line. The melody is quite strong, pulling some motifs from “Relentless Force,” and, as always, the B section that introduces the electric guitar into the mix is a powerful show of force and really elevates the music quite well. Of course, the A section, which is more orchestral and synthesizer focused manages to set up the soundscape quite well. In the end, this is another stunning theme by Kenji Ito and Kohta Takahashi.
The other portion of the substantial themes is handled by Noriyuki Kamikura, of Basiscape, as the primary arranger. Whereas the themes arranged by RESONATOR focus on a blend of synthesizer and electric guitar, Kamikura’s remixes are dominated heavily by the use of electric guitar. The main menu theme, “Stirring Movement,” showcases this from the start. It’s an extremely catchy theme that focuses on some slick electric guitar work with some beautiful orchestral harmonies. Despite being a main menu theme, it manages to create a powerful atmosphere throughout its entire length.
The fourth stage theme, “Dusted Battlefield,” is an exhilarating ride full of intense guitar work, beautiful orchestral harmonies, and slick synthesizer work. There is definitely a feeling of heroism felt in this theme, particularly during the synthesizer sections, while the guitar leads and solos are reminiscent of a Romancing SaGa battle theme combined with Kamikura’s arrangement style on Lord of Vermilion II. The best stage theme, in my opinion, is the last one, “Impregnable Fortress.” This combines Kenji Ito’s infectious melody with soundscapes reminiscent of both Lord of Vermilion games. The guitar shreds kick ass and lead into some of Kamikura’s most exhilarating melodic solos to date. The synthesizer sections also have a sinister nature to them, reminding me of an updated Castlevania sound at times. In the end, it’s an intense ride that easily caters to the strengths of both Kamikura and Ito.
In addition to the last two stage themes, the two final boss themes are also given the Kamikura treatment. Although the stage themes were reminiscent of Kenji Ito battle themes, “Wicked One,” the first final boss theme, is definitely an Ito battle theme. It’s sinister, exhilarating, intoxicatingly catchy, and really manages to capture the air of battle through its use of orchestral, synthesizer, and electric guitar soundscapes. While it isn’t as intense as some of the last boss themes from other games in this genre, it manages to impress with its beautiful harmonies and complexity. The true final boss, “Fierce Fighting,” is similar in approach, however, it’s definitely a much more intense affair. Powerful guitar work, speed metal percussion, a slight gothic air heard in the organ, and an intense tempo and, while not as complex as “Wicked One,” it manages to capture the tense air of a final battle.
The downloadable content for the album features a couple substantial themes, both by RESONATOR. The first, “Lightning Flash” is an energetic trance theme with a fantastic crystalline melody line and a driving rhythm. Keeping unity with the main soundtrack, it seems to feature an arranged motif of the stage one theme, I would say that it’s on par with the main soundtrack, though some may miss the rock focus that most of the soundtrack features. Fortunately, “Unbending Tenacity,” the other substantial theme, features rock in copious amounts. I really like how the rock portions reinforce the melody more than the electronic elements do.
The end of the soundtrack also features two bonus remixes. The first, by Jun Murakami is a rendering of the opening theme featuring a Super Famicom source source in conjunction with the vocals, It’s quite fun, but I prefer the original. The other, by chiptune artist KPLECRAFT, is entitled “Bullet Soul 8bit Arrange Ver. 2” and is different in terms of execution from the original on the bonus soundtrack. While much of the focus is the same, I think it sounds much cleaner and less muddled, allowing for Kenji Ito’s melodies to really shine. KPLECRAFT manages to create some wonderful 8-bit harmonies and rhythms in this slick and sexy remix, which really cater to the original theme’s strengths. It is more in line with what I expect to hear from him, compared to the original 8bit remix, and really amanges to showcase why he is one of Japan’s most renowned chiptune artists.
When this game was first announced, I was honestly quite surprised to hear that Kenji Ito would be responsible for the game’s core music. This isn’t because I don’t think he is an accomplished composer, because he is — especially when it comes to creating exquisite and catchy melodies — but because I don’t imagine Kenji Ito as a shmup composer. With the help of Kohta Takahashi and Noriyuki Kamikura, the soundtrack manages to impress, especially on the melodic side, due to their unique interpretations of Kenji Ito’s base music. While it isn’t as strong a listening experience as some of the other shmup soundtracks in today’s market, it does manage to stand out due to the Kenji Ito’s compositional style. It’s definitely worth a listen and an exhilarating one at that. For his first shmup soundtrack, I think he did a very good job and if it leads to future shmup scores, I’ll be looking forward to seeing how Kenji Ito manages to refine and evolve his sound.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 23, 2016.