ESPGaluda II Original Soundtrack
ESPGaluda II Original Soundtrack
July 26, 2006
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The influential score to ESPGaluda extensively used trance music to stimulate gamers. For the sequel, there was a change in composer with Manabu Namiki (DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou, Ketsui, Mushihimesama) taking the helm. Nevertheless, there was a decision early in the score’s production to maintain the style of the original. In doing so, Namiki was able to explore a novel style and assert his individuality within its trademark features. The ESPGaluda II Original Soundtrack features the complete soundtrack to the game on the first disc and a rearranged soundtrack on the second disc. Does the album live up to the high standards of its predecessor?
Right from the introduction to the soundtrack, gamers are presented with a familiar but subtly different sound for the series. The select theme “Fatidic” once again repeats stabbing motifs in the treble and vacuum drones in the bass over a series of simple chord cycles. However, it is more individualised than its predecessor using racing tempos and penetrating build-ups to give a sense of impending gunfire. The first stage theme was wisely arranged for ESPGaluda II in “Mutiny – Fate is with the Girl”. Whereas the original was a typical trance anthem with an unforgettable melody, the brighter yet thicker sound here combined with fluid arpeggio-driven bridges results in a very bold and dynamic accompaniment to the game. Once again the boss theme “Descend” is densely textured and rhythmically driven, but this time there is significant hardcore influence with the penetrating distorted bass. An eventual ecstatic build-up isn’t sufficient to relieve the especially aggressive feel since sampled voices make an ominous appearance and the theme urgently loops thereafter.
On later stage themes, Namiki asserts his musicality even more confidently. He emphasises his capacity to produce memorable melodies and use dazzling arpeggiations in “Azures – Incarnation of Life”, probably the most upbeat work on the soundtrack. With “Deserted – Younger Brother and Elder Sister and…”, he contrasts heavy sections exhibiting psychadelic trance and hardcore influences with euphoric interludes featuring a gorgeously shaped piano melody. Another varied piece is “Hatred – I’ve Waited a Long Time for This Moment”, which is special for its elegant integration of fragments from each of ESPGaluda‘s remaining four stage themes. Mitsuhiro Kaneda’s guest contribution “Aerial – Sadness Bathes in Dust” adds diversity to the soundtrack with its jazz influences, unconventional layering, and ecstatic melody. In contrast to the concise score for ESPGaluda, most themes exceed six minutes due to their arguably detrimental loops. However, it requires repeated listens to even begin to appreciate the amount of intricacy and exuberance in the stage themes.
The final stage theme “Galuda – Achieving Perfection” focuses on inspiring the player rather than invoking fear. The lush soundscapes assembled here are almost soothing, but the ascending accompaniment and brisk secondary sections still emphasises the ultimacy of the situation. “Kajaku” is represented by combining thick synth work with a recurring orch hit motif; the rhythms and chord progressions are just right for portraying a threatening and unpredictable final boss. After the ethereal jazz-tinged name entry theme and one of two elated fanfares on the soundtrack, the soundtrack concludes with the ending theme “Vertigo”. Like its predecessor, it combines a sad and epic orchestral melody with drum beats and atmospheric pads. Given the slightly weaker melody and faster tempo, this is one piece that doesn’t live up to its predecessor, but it’s still effectual in its own right. A seven minute Japanese voice collection concludes the first disc, but the whiny and declaratory voice actors won’t appeal to most. There is no vocal theme or sound effects collection like some Cave releases.
The second disc of the album features arrangements of all themes from the soundtrack by members of Cave’s internal sound team led by Daisuke Matsumoto. The “Fatidic” motif provides a surprisingly effective ever-repeated basis of a carefully layered five minute techno remix peppered with vocorder samples. “Mutiny – Fate is with the Girl (Masa-King Memory & Dream Mix)” is pleasing for the way it gives the main melody a nostalgic feel with its slow ethereal presentation against rapid beats. The atmospheric monoxide remix of “Deserted” presents the divergent elements of the original by cleverly contrasting treble and bass rather than contrasting different sections. Also tasteful is the light jazz arrangement of the name entry theme “Prayer”. The arrangements of the two climactic themes are also effective. “Galuda” maintains energy and colour throughout its lengthy playtime by combining the gorgeous piano work of the original with sophisticated breakbeats. The final boss arrangement “Kujaku (Reloaded)” embellishes horror film score influences with its combination of dissonant orchestration and frenzied beats.
All arrangements are enjoyable enough, but many will be left asking whether some were necessary. The boss theme, dubbed “Descend (Masa-King Battle Ver 0.1 Mix)”, is a pseudo-pre-production mix; most will not want to hear an arrangement that is barely different and probably inferior to the original even if the mix is conceptually novel. The urban take on “Hatred” seems half-hearted since only the bass line and some voice effects are added while the somewhat out-of-place melody is unchanged. The main change in “Azures” is the use of a prolonged bass guitar solo, but the additions and the arrangement as a whole feel pointless. A hardcore approach on “Aerial” turns a once balanced piece into superficial head-banging material when something to emphasise its jazzy characteristics would have been suitable. For the ending theme, the team offer a powerful ride with addition of organ passages and elaborate orchestrations. Unfortunately, the melody does not feel emotional or integral here, so the arrangement misses the concept of the original for the sake of novelty or bombast.
ESPGaluda II is an impressive follow-up to its predecessor. Namiki was correct to maintain the distinct trance style and soundtrack structure as the original. Despite offering few innovations, he usually produces stronger melodies, richer soundscapes, and more fulfilling development than its predecessor, resulting in exemplary stage themes and good material elsewhere. The arranged disc often feels superficial or superfluous so it doesn’t have the same timeless feel of the original section. Nevertheless, it is enjoyable to listen to from start to finish thanks to several highlights and plenty of diversity. This soundtrack comes highly recommended if you appreciate trance music or the distinctive musicality of Namiki.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.