NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Box Edition
NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Box Edition
Square Enix Music
September 12, 2018
Buy at CDJapan
NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Box Edition is a box set release that includes the NieR Gestalt and Replicant Orchestral Arrangement Album and the NieR: Automata Orchestral Arrangement Album, both of which are also available separately. The box set also comes with an exclusive bonus album titled NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Disc, with four arrangements that each utilize different instrumental ensembles. This focus on smaller groups leads to more creative arrangements that feel very different from those of the two main albums. The three albums come in a special box that is a bit pricey, but fans of the series should find enough to like in this box set for its cost.
The NieR Gestalt and Replicant Orchestral Arrangement Album features most of the popular songs from the original soundtrack, and the arrangements largely follow the structures and melodies of the original soundtrack. Tracks like “Snow in Summer” and “Gods Bound by Rules” very closely follow their originals, and mainly exist to showcase the difference a full orchestra and choir make. Unfortunately, these results are less spectacular in cases like “Kainé” and “Grandma”, which are too similar to their originals while ultimately falling short of them since they fail to provide a worthy substitute for Emi Evans’ voice. The standout arrangements of the album are “Song of the Ancients” with its many textural variations on its beautiful original melody, “Emil” with its poignant piano focus, and “The Wretched Automatons” with its harpsichord and playful baroque stylings. Although the album does not have the vocal texture that made the original soundtrack so unique and identifiable, the album still works thanks to the strength of the original compositions, which are preserved or augmented throughout with extra countermelodies.
The NieR:Automata Orchestral Arrangement Album plays out similarly but is even less ambitious with its arrangements, which can be disappointing given how much orchestration was already present in the original soundtrack. Battle tracks like “Bipolar Nightmare” and “Dependent Weakling” are too close to their originals, while tracks like “A Beautiful Song” and “Weight of the World” are deficient without Emi Evans and J’Nique Nicole. The standouts are the beautiful and lush “City Ruins”, and the atmospheric “Alien Manifestation” and “The Tower” with orchestral sound effects that capture images of nature and take the tracks in directions very different from their originals. In itself, it is an enjoyable album, but it could have done much more to build upon the originals.
Those disappointed by the relative simplicity of two main albums will perhaps find that the NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Disc is more to their taste. The disc is short at a total of 20 minutes with just four arrangements: two from NieR Replicant and Gestalt and two from NieR: Automata, none of which are songs that appeared on the two main albums. Each of these arrangements is able to stand out thanks to unique instrumental profiles, though conservative listeners may have some difficulty with how much these arrangements depart from their originals.
The bonus disc starts with “The Prestigious Mask” from NieR Replicant and Gestalt, arranged for a string quartet. It makes no attempt to reproduce the exotic stylings of the original, and instead goes for a more graceful arrangement that alternates between playful plucking and undulating bowed strings. The performers find a great groove together, so that the arrangement easily carries the listener through. Some nice reharmonization comes in at the end to give it more color, and I wish it had been expanded more in the body of the piece since the harmony is otherwise quite simple. Next is “The Ultimate Weapon,” also from NieR Replicant and Gestalt, arranged for a larger brass ensemble. This too brings a completely new atmosphere to the track, being gloomy and militaristic rather than mysterious like the original. The first half of the track is a steady buildup that is fairly straightforward but effective, though I think it might have benefitted from having percussion for its climax. The second half its quieter and more mournful thanks again to some reharmonization that I wish was explored more throughout the arrangement. Both of these arrangements succeed in their own right by separating themselves sonically from their originals and bringing new ideas to the tracks.
The first of the two tracks from NieR: Automata is “Birth of a Wish” for string ensemble. Although it is larger than the quartet from “The Prestigious Mask”, the arrangement is much rawer in sound due to how roughly the strings are played, and it is all to wonderful effect; the arrangement is frantic without being too chaotic, and the dissonance is stark but tempered so that the melody and underlying harmony is not lost. It is easily my favorite arrangement of the three albums. Closing out the disc is “Voice of no Return”, which is actually a harp solo. The entire piece is very free and floats around, with the various phrases of the melody frequently delayed by embellishing arpeggios. It comes out more like a dream or meditation on the theme, but it is by no means boring. It is a lovely way to end the project.
NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Box Edition is a fine set of orchestral albums for an acclaimed soundtrack series. The two main albums do a good job of translating the original tracks to the orchestra and choir setting. There are some arrangements that cannot compensate for the loss of magic of the original vocalists, but they are still largely enjoyable songs and arrangements in their own right. There are a couple of gems on the main albums that bring new ideas to the original themes, though the exclusive NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Disc is where the arrangements really shine with creativity. Unfortunately the box is pricey (especially considering the two main albums can be bought digitally at a much lower price), and there isn’t anything particularly beautiful or special about the packaging, but the exclusive disc might be enough to make the extra cost worth it for fans of the series looking for fresh new takes on the original soundtracks. Since there are still many great tracks from both soundtracks that have yet to be arranged, I’m hoping that another orchestra album will one day follow, but I would prefer that they take cues from the bonus disc’s arrangements. For now, this box will have to do.
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Posted on June 5, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on June 4, 2019.