Disgaea -Hour of Darkness- Original Soundtrack
Disgaea -Hour of Darkness- Original Soundtrack
Nippon Ichi Software
SLPS-20250 (PS2 Edition); ULJS-00088 (PSP Edition)
January 30, 2003; November 30, 2006
Buy Used Copy
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was the first in a line of tactical RPGs by Nippon Ichi Software. Dedicated to the journey of the Lord of the Netherworld Laharl trying to retrieve his throne, the game was a strange combination of dark settings and light undertones. Composed by Tenpei Sato of La Pucelle and the Marl Kingdom series, the technologically commanded score was created to enhance what the graphics depicted about the mood, settings, and events of the game. Sato ensured the soundtrack was jam-packed with vocal and instrumental highlights such that it was also a stand-alone success. It’s time to take a closer look into this fascinating score…
The vocal themes are definitely the best part of the soundtrack. “Lord Laharl’s Hymn” introduces the castle of the undisputed Overlord of the Netherworld, the main character Laharl, with a magnificent concoction of devilish female vocals and jubilant jazz instrumentals. With its peculiar blend of haunting and fun material, it brings back memories of Danny Elfman’s “This is Halloween”, but is also true to Sato’s own musicality. It sustains its 4:52 playtime well, incorporating some stunningly lyrical instrumental sections without losing its fluidity or atmosphere. Unfortunately, “Lord Laharl’s Hymn (Instrumental)” is one of the few disappointing tracks on the soundtrack; it loses the atmosphere and integrity of the original with novelty synth vocals and thin accompaniment. The “Etna Boogie” blends a temptress’ vocals with big band jazz. It’s explicit in its execution, featuring risqué lyrics like “Tonight a dangerous lady has made you her target… She’ll enchant all men”. An excellently done composition, whether you find it alluring or not. In “Red Moon”, strong imagery is created by the exquisite layering of a Japanese children’s choir.
Another classic is “Aah, My Magnificent Life”, where a tenor Italian opera singer dazzles listeners with a powerful performance against quasi-orchestral accompaniment. Though parodic in places, this theme is integral to the character and diversity of the game and soundtrack and convincing in its execution from composer and vocalist alike. “Tragic Marionette” evokes the imagery of a lament sung by a lonely girl in a musical. Yayoi Yura perfectly captures her despair with her rendition of the simple melody, hardly comforted by the fragile accompaniment and wails from the accordion. Opening the second disc, “Oh Comrade” is a very surprising composition given it blends western and rock instrumentals with Sato’s own vocals; what could have been a shallow derivative creation is actually very elaborate and unusual, not to mention exceptionally catchy. Like most of Sato’s Nippon Ichi soundtracks before it, the soundtrack wraps up with a long conventional vocal theme used for the good ending of the game. “Flower of Happiness” is a light catchy theme given a dance-like feel through vocalist Sakurako Matsuura’s youthful performance.
Sato sets the tone of the adventure excellently with the instrumental tracks. “Whisper of the Netherworld” is almost certainly inspired by the introduction to the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack; it is an elegant melancholic waltz featuring fantastical woodwind-focused orchestrated hauntingly supported by female choirs and celesta motifs, also given a disturbing orgel arrangement at the end of the soundtrack. “The Great Dark Race”, “Portrait of the Netherworld”, and “Fancy Ball” maintain the Halloweenish theme with instantly charming darkly orchestrated marches. With “Footsteps of a Mischievious Demon”, Sato fantastically portrays sneaking with an assembly of whimsical phrases and hilarious percussion solos, while in the Arabian-inspired “Great Wilder” Sato offers a welcome if intimidating reprise from La Pucelle. On the other side of emotional spectrum, “The Sad Angel” haunts with a combination of lush choral, piano, cello, and violin. “Demon Descent” conveys horror through unpredictably uttering synth glissandi, orchestral discords, ghostly choirs, and heavy percussion; it is a spectacular creation from the perspective of musicality creativity and setting the scene, but will be too much for some. The slower counterpart “Fearless Whisper” is a little easier on the ears.
Moving away from the darker themes, there is a lot of emotion elsewhere on the soundtrack. “Flowerbed” and “Angel Smile” both display Sato’s capacity as a woodwind composer; the former blossoms with trilling flutes, elegant clarinets, and fluttering piccolos to give a marvelous dreamy quality, while the latter contrasts light and smooth phrasing to portray a delicate story of humanity. The soundtrack maintains its intricacy with the dramatic march “Hysteric Kingdom”; the bright brass melodies and expansive string runs of the opening section give way to a deliciously dark turn from 0:50. Probably the most epic composition on the score is “Galaxy Wars”, which combines rich brassy orchestration with occasional iterations of a foreboding crisis motif. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a variety of light-hearted tracks like “Welcome to the Devil’s Castle”, “Do Your Best, Girl”, “RosenQueen Co. Netherworld Branch”, “Portrait of the Underworld”, and “AKUMA Drops” that really fit the game and are charming on a stand-alone basis. Some, however, slightly undermine the maturity of the soundtrack overall. Other favourites include the gentle acoustic guitar-based “Dear Friends”, frivolous accordion-led “Beauty Baron”, and “A Light to the Future”, another march really boasting the ‘feel good’ factor.
The fast-paced compositions are also excellent. Many are bombastic orchestral compositions made original with their focal points; for example, “Witch Hunting” uses trumpet shrills and string crisis motifs to give a tense edge, while “Underworld” mixes extravagant electric guitar work to great effect. In “Running Fire”, the well-punctuated bright violin melodies of the body would have sufficed alone, but the surprisingly elaborate development section takes the theme to the next level. More unusually, “Battle of Eight Beat” returns to the Wild Arms style that Sato executes so well, offering an instrumental composition with a fantastic electric guitar solo. As for the most unconventional battle theme on the score, “Beautiful Roundelay” is a brisk folk dance centred around piercing violin work. At the end of the game, piano-infused otherworldly trance greets listeners in the timeless “Planet X” before bombastic orchestration and experimental choral work feature in the final battle theme “Disgaea”. The final instrumental theme is the orchestration “Eternal Melody”, which undergoes plenty of twists and turns during its 4:37 playtime. It encompasses some silly, dark, and personal moments while largely focusing on capturing a sense of triumph and bliss at the end of the game.
The Makai Senki Disgaea Original Soundtrack is a superb achievement on so many levels. With respect to the actual game, it fits the Halloweenish setting perfectly and portrays the characters with great wit. In terms of musicality, each composition uses ensembles in a mature manner, develops intricately and often surprisingly, and demonstrates great refinement. As for consistency, there isn’t a single bad composition or filler track with the exception of the instrumental reprise of “Lord Laharl’s Hymn”. Above all else, the soundtrack is extremely diverse and emotional. With upbeat action themes, epic marches, dark scene-setters, tender moments, light-hearted interludes, and numerous vocal masterpieces, what more could you ask for? The downside is that this soundtrack was only available by purchasing the PlayStation 2 or PSP versions of game in Japan. Nevertheless, it should be widely available on Yahoo! Japan Auctions, so go pick it up — you won’t be disappointed.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.