Drakengard Original Soundtrack Vol. 2
Drakengard Original Soundtrack Vol. 2 (Drag-on Dragoon Original Soundtrack Vol. 2)
November 21, 2003
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Drakengard was a title developed by cavia and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 2. It was described as a cross between Panzer Dragoon and Dynasty Warriors with some RPG elements thrown in for good measure. cavia chose two of the most reputable composers in Japan, their in-house sound director Nobuyoshi Sano and versatile electronic / orchestral composer Takayuki Aihara, to handle the score. They took an incredibly unique and controversial approach for the soundtrack. Initially released in two limited edition volumes, the soundtrack was eventually reprinted as a two disc set in 2011 by popular demand. The first volume of the original release is reviewed here.
Both composers had the luxury of working with the Tokyo New City Orchestra for the score. They recorded a mixture of familiar classical motifs with original music with the ensemble. This was only half of what they had in mind, however. After they were done the recording, the real fun started: they mixed everything to their own style. As techno music composers, they used more loops than you can count, and it has brought a very unique sound to the score. There are lots of famous symphonies featured here — from Dvorak’s New World to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 — but their treatment here is completely unique and most samples are barely recognisable.
The first track that catch my attention was Aihara’s “Weapon Select”. One of the few fully orchestrated tracks to be left untouched by their electronic manipulation, it reflects the majesty of the Tokyo New City Orchestra. Most of the track is based on repetition of col legno strings, creating suspense and eeriness. However, the well-placed viola samples give the track a wailing quality and the interlude from the 0:45 mark is nothing short of gorgeous. The track is certainly fascinating and beautiful, but above all it is intimidating: it reflects to gamers they are about to enter an epic wartorn world.
The rest of the score is mostly peppered with several mixed orchestral sample loops. Reflecting the highly dissonant approach of the stage themes, “Third Chapter Sky” is filled with looped choir chants and screeching ascending strings, before descending into a calamity of dissonant orchestration. It’s an amazing twist on the conventional epic sound and really fits with Drakengard‘s world. “Third Chapter Above Ground” brings back the col legno strings in conjunction with orchestral breaks inspired by techno techniques. The chorus takes a more central role here with their ominous Latin chants, culminating in a short but dramatic climax at the 1:09 mark. It’s quite an experience to hear such an odd but original piece both on the soundtrack and in the game.
Whereas Aihara’s approach tends to focus on epic melodic orchestrations, Sano distorts and twists his pieces with results that are difficult to get into at some points. The best examples of this are the Chapter 8 themes. “Eighth Chapter Sky” sticks out like a sore thumb with its prepared string use, hammering piano parts, and electronically induced breaks. By the end, Sano pulls a piano hold, press, release pattern for nearly 10 seconds — it’s insane. In addition to being musically fascinating, it is incredibly atmospheric — somehow ethereal and horrific all at once. “Eighth Chapter Above Ground” has Sano reflects his individuality further. It’s truly distorted, repetitive to boot, but still addictive enough to appeal to some listeners. Not all will enjoy such unconventional and cacophonic tracks, but many will get used to his unusual approach and appreciating it for its originality.
The Drag-on Dragoon Original Soundtrack is nothing short of extraordinary. Takayuki Aihara and Nobuyoshi Sano’s sheer audaciousness here is truly remarkable; any composer who records a whole score with a reputable orchestra, distorts the creations through all sorts of electronic techniques, and releases it in game and soundtrack form to murder most people’s ears is worthy of some sort of respect. That said, it might be better skipping this first volume in favour of the two-disc compilation instead, which features the game’s climactic final mission themes and staff roll themes among them. Love them or loathe them, no albums are quite like Drakengard‘s.
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Posted on August 20, 2011 by Luc Nadeau. Last modified on September 20, 2014.