Forest of Glass
Forest of Glass
January 23, 2008
Buy Used Copy
Given Motoi Sakuraba’s hectic work schedule, a solo album seemed almost out of the question. It’s been 17 years since his last solo work, Gikyokuonsou, released in 1991. In these 16 years, Sakuraba has definitely matured as a composer. He still has his strengths in the progressive rock genre, but he’s also recently excelled in his orchestral works as well. Deep down inside, I wanted Forest of Glass to be another progressive rock, perhaps in tribute to Gikyokuonsou, or perhaps because I wanted to see if he could surpass his former work given these 16 years of maturing. It turns out that Forest of Glass was instead to be a solo album comprised of piano works, both compositions and improvisations, that were inspired by abstract art. Given his impressive track record, as of late, with piano, including “So Alone, Be Sorrow” in Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- and his works in Eternal Sonata, I wasn’t too disappointed. Did Sakuraba fulfill my expectations? Read on to find out…
Anyone who has seen Sakuraba live in concert, or seen a video, knows that he is a master of the keyboard; however, most of the time we hear his music, it has always been for fitting into the style and atmosphere of various games. We never really see Sakuraba compose for himself, even if he enjoys composing music on an almost constant basis. Forest of Glass changes all that. It’s a very deep look into his inspirations and heart. In this soundtrack, you’ll find tons of various styles, from slow and haunting melodies to pieces which change paces in the extreme. Of course, there are also the pieces that manage to find balance in between these categories.
To me, each piece on this album tells a story. “Sign,” the opening piece on the album, seems to tell a story of dramatic change, as if from above. The piece opens up softly, but as it progresses, it gains a hint of mystery and ominous feelings. In the end, the piece manages to suck the listener into the album and, to me, is a sign of how the rest of the album will impress me. The next chapter in this story is entitled “Blue Whirl.” Perhaps one of the most beautiful compositions on the album, it tells a tale of revelation. The piece focuses on recurring motifs, as if you are sucked in a whirlpool passing the same moments in life over and over. The piano work in here focuses mainly on soft passages followed by much more robust passages, and in the end, repeats. It’s quite a nice story.
“Tone Blender” is homage to mixing old and new Sakuraba. That’s the next allegory we have. We have a composition that takes the progressive rock element from in “Tone Access” from Gikyokuonsou and blends it with his more mature piano compositions. In addition, the piano work seems to blend a sense of chaos and order in a very pleasing way. “Tears,” to me, tells an extremely sad story of disappointment as opposed to tragedy. The focus on sporadic chords and soft passages tends to make this piece stand out less than some of the others, but its message is deep.
Ah, the joys of looking back on certain events. “Reminiscence” is a tribute to such a feeling. There’s a sense of accomplishment, but at the same time, there’s a feeling of “what could I have done differently?” in the atmosphere of the piece. The focus on elongated passages, a much slower pace for the majority of the piece, and the contrast in soft and loud sections helps to portray a sense of these ideas. “Broken Thought” definitely emphasises the theme of distraction. There is a focus on sporadic and often abrupt piano passages that contrast with the subtle and well-thought out passages. It helps to create this feeling of distraction and discord.
The next two pieces, “Fly!” and “Narratage ~ in these lands,” explore freedom and progression, respectively. “Fly!” focuses heavily on strong chord progressions in conjunction with free flowing piano passages that seem to reach towards the end of the keyboard. The piece shows no bounds and the mixture between soft and strong passages makes for an interesting journey. Many fans who have heard Gikyokuonsou will instantly recognize “Narratage ~ in these lands.” To me, this is one of the best pieces from that piano to convert to piano. It seems to have a story to tell all of its own, even without my interpretation. To me, it seems to be a story of progression. As the listener is transported through the piece, they’ll come across many passages, from the beautiful opening, to the swift interludes. It’s a piece that satisfies on many levels. The piano work is some of the best on the album in terms of evoking emotion.
One can expect from the next two titles, “Lost One?” and “Forest of Sadness,” to focus on two very disheartening emotions. “Lost One?” seems to focus on telling a story about the feeling of being lost. There is an underlying sense of fear in this one as well, but it’s subtle in comparison. The passages in “Lost One?” aren’t as solid as some of the other compositions. There seems to be a lack of coordination, albeit intentional, within the piece. There are passages that are extremely structured, but this one also focuses on a lot of seemingly improvised passages. It’s quite a fun listen, even if it is one of the weaker tracks on this album. “Forest of Sadness,” another short track, tells a story of despair. This piece focuses on a lot of low chords, in conjunction, with a very endearing piano melody. As the track develops, this emotion seems to only grow stronger. It’s one of my favorite shorter tracks on the album.
When the title “Maze of Mirrors” comes to mind, and after hearing its composition, the story I tend to form is one of confusion. There is really no recurring motif in this work, which makes me believe it is an improvisation. The various different passages all seem different from one another, as if it can’t find its way to a strong melody. It’s another one of the weaker tracks on the album, but I do appreciate the story that I think it is trying to tell. Not coincidentally, “Resolution” seems to complete the story started in “Maze of Mirrors.” In this piece, there is a strong sense of completion and there is heavy reliance on melody. In addition, the transitions from slow to fast piano passages helps to reinforce the sense of conclusion as well as give a sense of resolute power. It’s another one of those extremely fun pieces that sounds like it could have come from Gikyokuonsou.
The last two stories we are introduced to on this album are ones of happiness and fragility. “Memory in the Forest” seems to recount a story of happiness. There are playful passages, as well as more serious passages. If I want to really stretch my imagination, I’d say that this piece is about a story of two lovers who had a secret meeting deep within the forest. There seems to be a lot of classical influence within this piece, which I think works to its advantage. If I were to choose one track as my favorite, it would definitely be this. “Moon of Glass,” on the other hand, tells a story of a fragile being. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to claim this track tells the story of Motoi Sakuraba. Despite his rough workload and his seemingly inexhaustible energy when performing, there’s a person here who is rather fragile as shown by his timid personality at concerts. This piece, with all of its soft passages and high notes, seems to speak directly to my soul and is a perfect way to close the album.
Sure, this review is a bit unconventional, but reviewing tracks based solely on piano as never been my strong point. Rather than try to make up terms, I decided to review about what this album inspired me to think, just as the compositions were inspired by what Sakuraba thought about an abstract piece of art. There are many various atmospheres and moods present on this album, and they each tell a unique story. In many ways, this is Sakuraba, at his finest, telling a story brim with emotion to the masses. He’s captured my heart and has proven to me that he’s matured a lot since his early days. This is definitely an album that needs to be listened to by Sakuraba fans the world over. It’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.