Force of Light
Force of Light
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Following his debut solo album Gikyokuonsou, it took Motoi Sakuraba over a decade to release his subsequent solo album. Why? Because he was too busy writing game scores for Telenet Japan and its spinoffs. That said, he did rebrand an arranged album dedicated to one of his most impressive scoring works — Shining Force III — as an original album entitled Force of Light in Europe. It is essentially identical to the Shining Force III Original Soundtrack, but with a few track name adjustments and the omission of three short tracks. While arguably a cheap move, the music is rich and memorable enough to stand up on its own.
“Persistence of Hope” — originally titled “Shining Force Medley” — is the first track on the album. Sakuraba’s favourite instruments are mixed to create a grand piece of music that sums up the overall atmosphere of the game. Synth guitar and brass lead the epic parts and flute and digital choirs lead the quieter ones. If you want to have a quick overview of the thematic basis of the soundtrack, this track is what you need. In my opinion, each theme is too short to be fully enjoyable. Music needs time to create an atmosphere, and this medley juggles with different styles without letting one of them dominate the others. The next track, “Force: To Arms!” is all about the less accessible side of Sakuraba’s work: chaotic action music. The problem here is that there is no thread, as although the whole track sounds like a rock concert solo, it does not fit the scene that it is accompanying. Only hardcore prog rock enthusiasts are likely to enjoy this one.
“A Light to Lead the Way” is wisely named, as indeed, it is the track that enlightens the album! This variation upon the theme in “Persistence of Hope” starts immediately with an intense brass opening. Added to this are a synthetic choir and strings that play a theme of hope. Every time I hear this part of the track, it gives me goose bumps. Intensity and beauty increase as militaristic drums come back. As the climax of the track gets nearer, brass and strings suddenly burst out as if someone yelled “Chaaaarge!!!”, and after a few seconds, an electronic guitar finally complete this awesome show of power. Finally, after a cute interlude, the track comes to a glorious end. “Strive Against the Dark” may sound quite weird when listening to it for the first time. Distorted noises, a sweeping synth pad and erratic drums combine to create a powerful and disturbing atmosphere. Imagine that you are looking at a gigantic vortex sucking a whole city up.
“Bulzome Rising” features the same kind of chaotic guitar solos already heard in “Force: To Arms!.” This track sounds like a dirty mix of battle music and Deep Purple-like rock ‘n’ roll action. Once again, this track isn’t to my taste, but some will like it. The next track, “Traveler’s Respite” is a kind of march that does not sound natural. Some ‘classical’ elements which remind me of the Warcraft II Original Soundtrack are melted with Sakuraba’s electronic guitar, which is quite awful at times. What’s more, drums disappear when they are most wanted and reappear far too loud when you don’t expect them. The following track is called “Tides of History.” An emotional melody is led by an oboe, with strings, piano and bass in the background. Synth choir and misplaced drums complete the arrangement when the intensity is at its peak. The overall atmosphere is a kind of mourning with some epic parts that adds to the whole track’s magnificence. Percussion is something that Sakuraba needs to tame here.
In “Force on the Move,” all the instruments play the main theme harmoniously with enthusiasm. All the classic instruments that create a sense of militaristic pride (timpani, a huge brass section, strings, and some winds for the bridge) are mixed with some synth pads to render an atmosphere of might and courage. Excellent track! The next track is very different in nature. “Sanctity” is a melody of sadness and despair. It is cleverly composed and ships a great emotion through its epic arrangement. Even so, Sakuraba leaves us wanting more of this track, so it disappoints with its lack of development. The last chaotic track is less messy than one would think. “The Lever to Move the World” has a thread through its guitar solos and its jazzy tendencies: it features another variation of the Shining Force III main theme.
If I had to choose one word to describe this album, it would be ‘epic’! In spite of four less than accessible tracks, Force of Light is a great album. Some tracks just have to be ignored, or considered as experimental action music, but the majority of the album is successful and certainly pleasing. I’m not convinced that the album works as well as a concept album, as it does an arranged album, but it is possible to appreciate this release without playing the game. Force of Light, while misleading, was a good way to broaden the scope of Motoi Sakuraba’s audience.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Zeugma. Last modified on August 1, 2012.