DeathSmiles IIX Music Pack Contents Original Soundtrack
DeathSmiles IIX Music Pack Contents Original Soundtrack
DLC (Digital Edition); CVST-0017 (CD Edition)
May 27, 2010; August 14, 2010
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In May, 5pb released a console adaptation of the shooter DeathSmiles II in Japan. The limited edition version of the game featured both the full soundtrack to the game and a voucher allowing gamers to download a range of additional tracks. While marketed as a fully-fledged arranged album, the downloadable content actually features a range of both arranged and original material that doubles up a musical supplement in the game. In August, the contents of the music pack received a physical release at the Cave Maturi for album listeners to behold. Did the results satisfy? Be forewarned: here is a perspective of a critic, not a fanboy.
A number of the contributions on the album are brief and unambitious ones. The album opens with an introspective adaptation of the select theme by TECHNOuchi. The arranger departs from heavy pipe organ sound of the original in favour of an ethereal blend of glockenspiel melodies, romantic piano chords, and synth backing vocals. The resultant track is just as haunting and gothic-tinged as the original, though it certainly isn’t a fully-fleshed arrangement. Manabu Namiki’s interpretation of the first stage theme “On Christmas Eve…” stays rather faithful to the bouncy synthy sound of the original. In fact, the only major difference is the absence of the apocalyptic introduction and everything else is minor synth changes. The field clear theme is also a short and straightforward arrangement that improves the soundscapes of the original, but doesn’t expand on the material. Those expecting a fully-fleshed arranged album will therefore be highly disappointed. However, given this material doubles up as a supplementary in-game soundtrack, such tracks are entirely effective in context and bridge the gap to the more extraordinary material.
Nevertheless, there are a number of additions on the album that transform the original material into something very different. Kenji Ito’s arrangement of the second stage theme “A Wild Beast Assaulting the Capital” is actually highly reminiscent of his contribution to the DeathSmiles Arrange Album, blending elating synth leads and a distinctive lyrical approach with a few more personal moments. That’s certainly no bad thing in my book. Those looking for something much darker will be pleased with Masaharu Iwata’s interpretation of the final stage theme “The Enchanted Palace”; the orchestrations build on the thrusting march-like sound the composer developed on Odin Sphere, while the pipe organ offers some splendid counterpoint and restores the gothic focus of the series. More abstract is Mitsuhiro Kaneda’s interpretation of “Elegy for the Allen Angels”, with its influences from new age electro-acousticism and light jazz music; sadly, the resultant soundscapes sound like elevator music and capture little of the emotional depth of the esteemed original.
Some tracks on the album are actually more like original compositions than remixes. For example, Motoi Sakuraba’s boss theme is clearly inspired by the apocalyptic nature and wild runs of Namiki’s own “Fragment of Tragedy…”, but there is little direct material conserved between the too. Instead, Motoi Sakuraba goes all out on a progressive rock jam, disregarding the original melodies in favour of his trademark augmented chord progressions and keyboard improvisations on overdrive. Two of the best stage themes on the album, Michiko Naruke’s “Field C” and Motoaki Furukawa’s “Field E”, are also essentially original compositions. Naruke’s composition retains the punchy feel of her previous Cave contributions, combining anthemic brass-focused orchestration with rumbling electronic beats, that culminate with a glorious section from the 1:11 mark. Furukawa finally departs from his dated jazz fusion stylings in favour of an addictive moody, groovy sound; his ever-present semi-acoustic guitar does make its way here, but is fairly welcome, since it interprets quite a catchy melody against the dark accompaniment. It’s good that the downloadable contents permitted the artists such creative freedom.
There are a couple of vocal contributions on the album. The new final boss theme is a shocking transformation of the Christmas carol into a retro anison-styled song, featuring Noriyuki Iwadare himself on vocals. It will definitely be a select taste and even those who can tolerate such wacky entertainment might find the eight minute track time excessive. More successful is Yoshino Aoki’s elegant performance of the ending theme; with a mixture of lullaby and ballad qualities, it’s a very pretty way to round off the album. That said, there are a number of bonus compositions by Ryu Umemoto that build on the gothic soundscapes Namiki established for the series. The most notably of these is the dark cinematic interpretation of the first stage theme for the opening of the Xbox 360 game, clearly inspired by Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands. He also offers an introduction to the original composition he created for the sixth stage theme; while not the most impressive track, it gives way to a fabulous fully-blown rock-orchestral theme that arguably forms the pinnacle of the entire album.
Overall, both the concept and contents of the music pack for DeathSmiles II are a little peculiar. It appears that the musicians contributing to this album had complete freedom and thus offered a range of compositions and arrangements of different styles and lengths. While many of these are fine as a supplement, a number of tracks are unworthy of stand-alone listening and some arrangements are insults to their originals. Thankfully, the sublime contributions by six of the involved artists ensure the album is still well worth experiencing, despite its deficiencies as a whole. Hopefully this release will serve as a precursor for a full and satisfying arranged album for the game.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.