Elvandia Story Original Soundtrack
Elvandia Story Original Soundtrack
May 2, 2007
Buy at CDJapan
Elvandia Story is a Japan-only strategy RPG developed by Spike and published by Sega. The title was Norihiko Hibino’s main game project of 2007 and represented an attempt to explore an area of his musicality not exposed by his Metal Gear Solid scores. The result was a seriously toned soundtrack with an action-packed centre and plenty of diversity around the edges. Using some of the finest quality orchestral and choral samples available, he created a soundtrack that had as much as impact and emotion as most symphonic film scores. In a curious twist, however, Hibino rejected the approach of using massive ensembles to create a bold effect in favour of focusing on the core elements of each theme. The result is deceptive, striking, refreshing, and beautiful…
The main thematic material for the soundtrack is actually provided by Noriyuki Iwadare, who composes the opening and ending themes for full orchestra. “Theme of Elvandia Story” is brisk and dramatic, but its inflated string-obsessed orchestration and interruptive overprepared cadences provide only an illusion of musical richness. “Elvandia Story Forever” is an unbalanced clichéd orchestration filled with oversentimentality and misjudged pride suitable for a Grandia soundtrack but unpalatable on a more mature work like Elvandia Story. While both themes will be emotional and enjoyable for most mainstream audiences, they portray a false image of the soundtrack and undermine its worth as a musical experiment given their method of orchestration is almost the antithesis of Hibino’s. Fortunately, Hibino manages to integrate the folky main theme into a few pieces here to create some emotional highlights and attain some sort of fluidity. The theme fits really well in the acoustic setting of “Title”, performed by an enchanting Morricone-influenced whistle accompanied by rustic acoustic guitar work. The contemplative piano arrangement “Rememberance” is a little less convincing in its use of the melody but independently a pretty gentle work.
The meat of the soundtrack are the action tracks clustered at the centre. “Caution!” is all about suspense and false resolution, interrupting evocative shakuhachi wails with brisk descending string runs and loud unpredictable utters from militaristic instruments. “Alert”, in contrast, slowly builds upon a bold brass melodies that compel with intrinsic beauty and inspire fear with delayed resolutions and a sparse edgy accompaniment. Synching brutal low brass and magnificent choir chants, the iconic moment of “Fight for Justice” is a build-up that leads to a surprising quiet interlude; the effect of this feature is dramatic and shocking rather than unfulfilling, also reused in “Comrades” to great effect. “On Fire”, “The Trial”, and “Charge” are more rhythmically focused, the latter establishing a slightly jazz-influenced groove. The chorus tops off the effect of the perfectly assembled instrumentals on the unnerving adrenaline-pumping “In Danger” and the encouraging but formidable “The Challenge”. Probably the strongest of all the action pieces is “Only the Good Wins”, where driving rhythms, motivating melodies, brutal discords, and a gorgeous interlude come together brilliantly. Although the abundance of superficially similar action tracks is overwhelming at first, they are sufficiently individually characterised to be highly entertaining on a stand-alone level and provide a rich, varied, and coherent accompaniment to the scenarios of the game.
Outside the action tracks, Elvandia Story offers plenty of colour and emotion. “Once Upon a Time” sets the moody tone of the soundtrack with deep symphonic jazz resembling Hibino’s Metal Gear Solid work whereas “Fighting Preparation” provides a premonition of the action tracks to follow with rich but restrained development over a tuned percussion drone. In contrast, “Shop” features a variety of wind instruments uttering humorous phrases one-by-one against low-key repeated marimba notes while the almost Sakimotian “Joyful Kids” is full of the joy, naivety, and temperament of youth. “Explore the World” generates an expansive sound through a calm acoustic soundscape and proceeds to capture listener’s hearts by adding a smooth vocal melody gorgeously sung by a female vocalist. “Partnership” establishes continuity with “Rememberance” through light piano work and soothes with woodwind melodies. Fearsome depictions of the antagonists are provided in “Menace” and “Ruler of the Dark”; the latter is the atmospheric ethnically tinged final battle theme, paradoxical in its ability to convey brutality and ugliness while radiating with another sort of beauty. “Now the Time Has Come” and “Ashley, the Army of Bravery” share victorious brass fanfares; whereas the overpowering sinister interlude of the former shows the war is far from over, the latter is a comforting introduction to the ending sequence.
It is necessary to listen to this soundtrack multiple times to truly appreciate it, but this will soon become a pleasure rather than a labour, particularly if you avoid the opener and closer. Norihiko Hibino did a splendid job here. He produced a fine accompaniment to the game with a myriad of action themes and a selection of other music. In doing so, he developed a fascinating compositional approach that was minimalistic in its components but breathtaking in its emotional capacity. And, indeed, the beauty and emotion of this soundtrack is the main reason one will be inclined to keep coming back to it. There is a mixture of moody, menacing, ethereal, light, and triumphant themes that provide a fabulous spectrum of emotion. However, its true beauty and humanity comes from Hibino’s musicality, exceptional in its naturalness, expressiveness, and refinement.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.