Emil Chronicle Online 4th Anniversary Soundtrack
Emil Chronicle Online 4th Anniversary Soundtrack
December 23, 2009
Buy at CDJapan
GungHo’s Emil Chronicle Online is a fantasy MMORPG that is moderately popular across Asia. ACE, composed of CHiCO and Tomori Kudo, created all the music for the game and matched the fantasy visuals of Acronia beautifully. The Emil Chronicle Online 4th Anniversary Soundtrack compiles an impressive three discs of music from the franchise and was labelled ‘complete’ at the time. However, it has since been superseded by a 6th Anniversary Soundtrack, featuring exactly the same contents except with an entire bonus disc. This earlier release is nevertheless impressive for those wanting to explore the musical world of Emil Chronicle Online.
The music is divided quite logically, by theme rather than time of release. “FAR AND AWAY” opens the album, setting the mood for the game’s lighthearted, yet vast and expansive universe. The track ebbs and flows through strings that build and recede in the background, as a pan flute plays a simple, yet attractive melody. The following piece, “The world of curiosity,” sounds almost like what one would find in a visual novel. Its lighthearted pan flute, quick beat, and melancholic melody all explore the various flavours of Emil Chronicle Online‘s world.
The rest of the first disc is composed of various area themes. “Play in the Wilderness” the kind of piece that encourages the player to stick around the area it plays. It’s utterly infectious with its flamenco-inspired guitar duo, laid under a pleasing flute melody. The combination is a great way to capture the general organic flavour of Emil Chronicle Online‘s fantasy world — as well as the rustic features of Battleship Island — without relying on tired clichés. “Dance in the Shadows” meanwhile has a tribal sort of sound, from its drum beat to its kazoo, though it’s difficult exactly to pin down its exact style. The piece sounds unfocused and bizarre on paper, yet somehow it works in reality in a dungeon location. Evidently, ACE were daring enough to experiment and competent enough to pull it off here.
There are nevertheless some softer ambient additions to the soundtrack. To portray the northern locations of Acronia, “Alone in the snowstorm” is much more subdued than the abovementioned themes, with its mysterious glockenspiel and synth voices, which lend it an eerie atmosphere. The addition of electric guitar halfway through is brilliantly handled. Even eerier, however, is the Northern Promenade’s “Snow Mirage,” with its reversed strings and repetitive glockenspiel, laying a gentle yet ominous soundscape, which is only enhanced by the soft female vocals that show up soon. The first disc closes with the quite excellent “Over the infinite helix,” which leaves listeners pumped and ready to continue the album, with its rhythmic beat and dark atmosphere.
The second disc continues with field themes, with some general themes for the title thrown in as well. Some of these are quite stereotyped, but nevertheless fit well in context. “Sea of Sand” is a rather typical desert area, albeit more enjoyable than most, while “Road of the brave” has the heroic theme covered with its heavy brass. “Sacred Duties” is unsurprisingly a church organ solo, though it lacks the austere qualities of similar pieces by other big-name artists. “Crispy winey early spring” captures a traditional Japanese feeling quite fluidly with its koto and similar instrumentation. However, the stylings themselves are a bit boring until the melody picks up a good way through. It’s nevertheless a decent seasonal addition to the score. This Asian style continues through the similarly composed “blossom shower” and “Matsuri!”.
The second disc also explores the races of Emil Chronicle Online more. To portray the humans of the world, “theme of Emil” is bright, cheery, and fun. ACE integrate their jazzy touches into this track to pleasant effect and demonstrate once more their versatility. By contrast, the angelic Titania are captured with an evocative electric piano melody that is bound to inspire deep emotions. It’s not terribly elaborate, but makes up for it with its heartfelt approach. The demonic Dominion are portrayed with a much more contemporary sound; while a welcome break from gothic choruses, it definitely sources inspiration from Michael Jackson a little too closely.
The second disc is rounded off by some excellent dungeon themes. “The thing (hiding in darkness)” begins somewhat boring, but very quickly evolves into something beyond fascinating, constantly throwing out new ideas at the listener, all of which successfully evoke an unsettling feeling. “Phantasmagoria,” meanwhile, is eerily beautiful, with its rising and sinking melody on the piano, layered with synth voices. The jazzy Halloween-themed “The Laughing Man” is silly and whimsical, with an addictive melody that one can’t help but nod their head to. Near the end, as the piece reaches its climax, the laughing man himself is heard, which is a pleasant if not disconcerting touch. The disc ends with “Holy day, Holy night,” a Christmas-themed piece, also possessing a jazzy element.
The third disc expands the soundtrack with a range of action-packed compositions and other additions, most of them exclusive to the anniversary soundtracks. It opens with the beautiful “the last haven,” a piece which paints a sublime picture with its laid back atmosphere and guitar. Quite a special composition to capture the capital of Dominion. Back to Titania, “Heavenly Garden” is quite peaceful, as the name would entail. It’s mostly comprised of mystical staples such as flute and harp, with some graceful strings added for good measure. The piece really takes off when the piano is introduced, with a very welcome melody. “holy stream” is another rather uplifting piece thanks to its choir works.
The action themes on disc three shift the soundtrack’s focus away from scenic tracks. “Silent Attack” and “under the pressure” have a sort of mechanized feel to them, the latter possessing an infectious beat and some fantastic layering. ACE certainly mixed these tracks well to ensure all the elements come together in an immersive way. “Massive conflict” has a grandiose, theatric feel, a style ACE shows they are just as expert with composing. Continuing the shift in the franchise’s sound, “Maximum Attack!” has a grungy feel from the electric guitars, and is a pretty enjoyable battle theme, both upbeat and dramatic. Given the contemporary additions to previous discs, it doesn’t feel too out-of-place though.
While ACE are famed for their vocal themes, it’s not until “Song for Battlefield” that we receive the first vocal track on the album. CHiCO’s vocals interestingly are heavily autotuned for the most part here, though there are some unmodified ‘ahh’s too. It lends it a neat, robotic feel, though it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Another anomaly on the disc is “Cheers to dears!”, which is notable for being ragtime. It does slowly grow on the listener as the piece progresses through some chord changes. The disc closes with “the wisdom,” the second piece featuring vocals by CHiCO, this time of a more conventional sort. The track opens slowly yet builds quite steadily, never going anywhere in particular yet keeping the listener enthralled to a modest degree.
Running a gamut of themes and styles, the Emil Chronicle Online 4th Anniversary Soundtrack is, in general, a rousing success. Most listeners of game music will find something to love about the album, especially those who enjoy organic and worldly flavours. Unfortunately, certain tracks here don’t stand out here and there is a fair amount of derivative or samey material. However, the vast majority of the soundtrack is beautifully composed and well-produced. Very much recommended for any fans of ACE or of the game in question, or even those who want to get a nice picture of an MMORPG virtually unknown in the West. That said, it is better to get the 6th Anniversary Soundtrack, since it replicates exactly the same contents except with a bonus disc. Lantis has unfortunately made this release obsolete just a couple of years after printing it.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Marc Friedman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.