Motoi Sakuraba Live 2006 -Valkyrie Profile-
Motoi Sakuraba Live 2006 -Valkyrie Profile-
September 20, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
After a two year absence, Motoi Sakuraba made a return to the concert stage in 2006 with a concert commemorating the releases of Valkyrie Profile Lenneth and Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria. Despite the dark symphonic approach taken for Silmeria, the concert was dominated by aggressive and energetic progressive rock performances throughout from the same keyboard-bass guitar-drums trio that performed in the 2003 and 2004 concerts. 13 performances were featured altogether, though only six of these were new, the rest based on material from Sakuraba’s first concert. The concert was intended to be a fan pleaser, not a particularly new experience, so there is lack of originality with both track selection and, for the new arrangements, stylistic approach and chord progression usage. Its CD release, as a result, is incomplete, though the omissions are three tracks that can be heard in the 2003 album and DVD — “Unfinished Battle with God Syndrome”, “Hand to Hand”, and “Cutting Edge of Notion”. The album may disappoint some, given there was potential for much more, but the quality of the performances alone reflect that Motoi Sakuraba is an incredible keyboardist and the king of video game progressive rock.
The opener “Overture to the Destiny” had a spine-tingling effect on Tokyo’s audience. Introduced by an ominous distorted synth chord that depicts the vastness of deep space, uncompassionate piano work leads to the first of several dramatic build-ups that dominate the piece. The piece deliberately (and conveniently) integrates a considerable selection of non-melodic passages used in arrangements for the 2003 concert, including a lengthy progression from “The Dawn of Wisdom”. Despite the lack of originality, the references are beautiful for the way they evoke so much emotion by causing memories to flood back. The meaty synth employed and a short but power reference to Silmeria’s music box opening theme adds to the effectiveness of the unusual but powerful opener. The subsequent track, “Requiem to a Predicament”, takes a brief departure from the typical sound of the album with a deep piano solo that replaces the dated synth of the 2003 concert rendition of the theme; the contrast of repetitious harmonies and elaborate semi-virtuosic passagework conveys, as tri-Ace would put it, ‘sensitivity in the supremacy’. Supremacy will always confidently dominate, however, and the track briefly pauses before drummer Toshihiko Nakamura leads into a keyboard-led rendition of “Falling Under Negative Consciousness”. While hard, dissonant, and chaotic, it’s difficult not to rock to this arrangement given Sakuraba’s prowess as a performer. After a reprise of “Requiem…”, the tri-Ace classic “Mission to the Deep Space” features; it’s identical to the 2003 rendition except for the different keyboard sound, though still shines for its unforgettable melody and elaborate solos.
“Confidence in the Domination (VP2 Version)” leads the concert into its Silmeria section. While the theme is familiar, the performance is based on the hilariously titled “An Improvisation with ‘Confidence in the Domination'” included at the end of the second volume of Silmeria’s soundtrack. The interpretation of the melody is actually 36 seconds in length, led by Sakuraba on the piano, but interrupted by Nakamura’s heavy drum work. What follows is an incredible jam session in which pianist, drummer, and bassist alike tackle rhythmically and technically demanding material that diverge considerably between parts. This improvisation is a refection of excellent musicianship, but the tangent will be too oppressive for some. It segues into an impressive performance of Silmeria’s final battle theme “In Order to Acquire the Light in that Hand”. Written in 6/4, the jagged melody of this track incorporates one of the greatest rhythms in a video game, though its single best feature is an extended rock organ solo. Pure Sakuraba bliss! The next item is the centrepiece of the concert. “Dancing Without Malice or Mercy” is one hardcore track built from a grungy bass riff from Atsushi Hasegawa. Like “Theme of Rena” and “Vitriolic A Stroke” in the 2003 and 2004 concerts, the theme itself only fills the first four minutes of the 20 minute performance, but a drum solo, bass solo, and jam session follow. Nakamura’s six minute solo is filled with complex cross-rhythms and is incredibly demanding technically, while Hasegawa’s reflects his ability to dominate the stage with his virtuosity. After a lot of eerie distortion, the highly experimental jam session begins; the harmonic and rhythmical exuberance of this section is jaw-dropping.
After all that pseudo-improvisation, the appearance of “A Motion of Finishing Blow” is welcome. Its melodies are unforgettable and sound great on keyboards despite the twist of being interpreted by strings originally. Exploring a variety of positive feelings concerned with the battlefield, it radiates a happy, carefree, occasionally theatrical, aura that delightfully diverts from the dark and brooding material that mostly dominates the album. It’s a track to make one smile and whistle, though is also complex too, particularly with respect to the bass guitar line that leads in the erratic bridge section. It’s great to hear Sakuraba having fun here. The final Silmeria track, “Celestial Troupe”, is also a witty cracker. It glides with intensity, drive, and character, even with Sakuraba’s outrageous solos and entertaining use of syncopation. Nobody writes battle themes as well as Sakuraba and this track proves it for one final time. “Doorway to Heaven” is the signal of the end; epic, slow, and touching, yet not without virtuosity, it’s even more emotional than “Overture to the Destiny”. The concluding track, “The Incarnation of the Devil ~ Confidence in the Domination (VP1 version)”, has its problems. Strung over 10 minutes, it’s an impressive spectrum of Motoi Sakuraba’s progressive rock, but doesn’t entirely fit together; it integrates numerous themes and passages from the 2003 concert, but without proper transitions, resulting in a rushed and clumsy feel in places. Still, it shines in the unique solo and jam sections, which are a little more ordered here.
Motoi Sakuraba’s 2006 concert held more elements of continuity than change. Most tracks were reprises from 2003, the Silmeria arrangements adopted a familiar format, and the opening and encore both extensively referenced 2003 concert material. Sakuraba was pressed for time in this production (having released 17 discs of music in 2006, who can blame him?) so he cut corners where possible, but fortunately not at the loss of audience interest. It was also not at the loss of giving the 2006 concert a unique feel. From start to finish, partly because of the keyboards employed, the concert feels darker, dirtier, and more dramatic than its predecessors, though also gleams with a sense of nostalgia and a certain wit in places. The other impressive aspect is how much more intricate the improvisations and jams have grown since 2003; the performances of all three of the members is faultless. I’d recommend gamers to buy the perfect and revolutionary 2003 album or DVD above this one, but the 2006 album should nonetheless be in the collection of any fan of Sakuraba or his tri-Ace battle themes.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.