Shin Megami Tensei -Digital Devil Saga- Original Soundtrack (US Edition)
Shin Megami Tensei -Digital Devil Saga- Original Soundtrack
April 5, 2005
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The American release of Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga was commemorated with a Deluxe Box Set. It featured, among other items, a one disc soundtrack for the game. It featured most of the important compositions from the game, including industrial and jazz rock forms, intense piano ballads, and other quirky humorous themes, all composed by Shoji Meguro. The Shin Megami Tensei Digital Devil Saga Original Soundtrack is very similar to the Japanese commercial release Shin Megami Tensei -Digital Devil Saga- Soundtrack CD. It essentially compiles most of the important themes from the game into a one disc release while omitting most of the less enjoyable event themes. However, there are a few important differences…
The Shin Megami Tensei Digital Devil Saga Original Soundtrack is different to its domestic counterpart for two reasons. Firstly, it no longer features the specially extended version of the vocal theme “Pray” in favour of the instrumental version. I vastly prefer the instrumental version of this piece when compared to the vocal, and I think it is because you can actually appreciate the melody a lot more. That said, it’s a shame that ithe exclusive track couldn’t have been included as well. More detrimentally, the soundtrack completely omits “Configuration” (aka “Never Ending Rain”). This was a very significant piano and strings in its original form so it feels the soundtrack has lost some of its emotional core without it. I still have little idea why they chose to disclude it. This is especially disappointing given the soft piano-driven pieces such as “Aurora” and “What is it to Live a Life” were omitted from the single disc release and really leave an emotional hole in the soundtrack.
That said, let’s see what the rest of the soundtrack has to offer. As with the other releases, we really start to experience the groove of the score with “Muldhara,” one of the city themes. This piece has a rugged, heavy bass line to push the track, while a deep guitar solo melody anchors the piece. Percussive elements in this track are light, focusing on bass drums and hi-hats, while rock organ and other synth elements fill in the middle range. I particularly like the short solo in the middle of this track, where the guitar solo gets paired with only percussion; it shows that you can have guitars in a video game score as a prominent instrument if its treated and used well. Another city theme, “Anahata,” borrows from classic rock rhythms and instrumentation, focusing on driving guitars, a cool bass line, and animated percussion. The rock organ also appears in this track, once again providing the filler. The instrumentation as a whole works together in this track, with each instrument providing a link to another — a straight rhythm in the drums connect to the background guitar chords, which are connected to the rock organ, which are connected to the light but present melodic line in a solo guitar. One other point to note is that there is very little cymbal action in this piece, beyond some soft hi-hats. It really puts the emphasis on the rhythms created by the instruments, rather than having the cymbals create a beat.
With a more upbeat track, “Spider’s Thread – Second Movement” provides an illusionary rhythm through its use of guitar. A solo jazz guitar plays a repetitive rhythm throughout the track, supported by only light brush work on a snare. Throughout, light additions of strings break through, before dropping away. Later in the track, a bass line picks up that emulates the guitar rhythm bringing in a nice lower range. Strong guitar riffs begin to accompany the string portions, hinting at something big that occurs later in the track. As more percussion comes in with the use of shakers, snare, cymbals, and bass drums, a driving guitar melody soars over the rhythmic guitar, turning the track into an epic rock piece. This track is a great example of Meguro’s ability to take only a few elements and expand them into a full audio experience with only a few small changes in the structure — something that he repeats fairly often throughout this album. “Man’s Tomb – Second Movement” provides a look into Meguro’s synth work combined with his expressive guitars. This short repetitive track offers low synth elements and simple chords, and overall isn’t very impressive. What gives this piece its edge is the rhythmic guitar that comes in underneath the synth, giving the droning chords some animation.
Fortunately, the battle themes provide some of the greater highlights. Most, from normal battles to boss battles to final battles, are on this disc while the omissions does not make a big impact. After all, one thing to remember about the battle themes in this game is that they are very similar. All of them borrow the same elements from one another, and in most cases, only have different openings or a slightly different approach to the one recurring theme. “The Hunted”, entitled “Hunting – Surprise Raid” in the full release, provides a variation on the main battle with a different introduction and the hunting melody played in short segments. The track then transitions into the normal battle theme and continues from there, so the loss of the stand-alone normal battle track does not matter. “Hunting – Compulsion” offers a different take on the battle theme, using the same instrument set with a more prominent guitar melody. This melody is much faster and more animated than the regular Hunting theme, and gives a great sense of speed to the track. This piece also features heavy syncopated rhythms, and a wonderful, almost improvised solo in the middle of the piece.
“Hunting – Comrades” again offers some additional variation. This time it is focused on staccato bass and guitar elements, leaving a lot of empty space in the piece. With the more animated snare hits this time around, all of these parts come together extremely well. “Hunting – Rare Demon” rounds out the battle themes, and is a battle theme that is quite different, focusing on guitar elements supported by rock organ. A lot of the rhythm in this piece is generated by the fast bass line, as opposed to the drum track. There are tons of chord changes in this piece as well which make it a joy to listen to. From here, it’s only natural to switch to the boss battle theme, appropriately titled “Showdown”. Although I really enjoy the battle themes on this album, I have a particular love for this one, due to the longer strummed portions of the track. Wailing guitars and the drum line are still here, but there are some additional elements, including some light synth, rock organ, and a higher bass line, that set it apart from the regular battle themes.
Speeding ahead, we come to “Hari-Hara,” the final boss battle theme. During the first form of this battle, the musical accompaniment is very different than what we’ve heard previously on the album. It is more melody driven, with extra instrumentation heard from the location themes, mixed with the established guitars and drum kit from the battle themes. But, in the game, you won’t be hearing this for very long because the first form of the boss is easy. Which means we should shift our focus to the second form, “Hari-Hara – Second Movement”. Just stating it now, I really like this piece. A lot. Why? This piece is incredibly different than anything else heard on this album, as it mixes together different rhythms, instrumentation sets, and time signatures to provide a great deal of variation throughout the piece. We begin with low guitar work that gradually builds, bringing in a church organ, synth effects, and strings. The next segment focuses on quick string work, before being paired with a guitar note waterfall. The church organ makes a larger appearance, creating a build in the track while being joined by brass elements. Switching gears, the string become the melodic focus, while their pattern is mirrored in a guitar, pushing the piece forward. Throughout the entire track, a steady and insistent drum pattern repeats, changing slightly to match each new element of the piece, rounding out a battle track that is every bit as important as the figure being defeated on the screen.
Closing out this disc is “End Theme” (aka “The Rain Stopped”), a piano piece that plays during the credits. The melody from “Never Ending Rain” plays onward, while additional strings are gradually added, adding new layers to the piece. Light staccato strings come in, while the entire piece steady builds, dropping away suddenly to a piano and flute duet with the Pray main melody. Half way through the track, things change up a bit with the introduction of a light percussive rhythm. The previously omitted “Never Ending Rain” comes through, but this time has low chords and low strings giving it a cool bass line. We get another build, thing time augmented by more strings, before moving — once again — into Pray, this time with guitars. This is the best way to listen to Pray in my opinion, with the full guitar sound supported by high and low strings. Of course, we can’t end it there — there needs to be a techno section! Yes, for no reason, the entire piece goes techno right at the end.
Overall, the Shin Megami Tensei Digital Devil Saga Original Soundtrack is a more consistent and interesting listen than the Shin Megami Tensei -Digital Devil Saga- 1 & 2 Original Soundtrack Integral. That’s since there isn’t as much repetition and most of the short event themes are omitted. However, there are even more notable absences in this release than the one disc commercial counterpart, particularly among the emotional tracks and variations of the main theme. This is still an item to cherish if you own the Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga Deluxe Box Set, but completists may wish to go for the full release instead.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andre Marentette. Last modified on January 17, 2016.