Persona 3 Original Soundtrack
Persona 3 Original Soundtrack
July 19, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
Shoji Meguro has dazzled me with his Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne soundtrack and the Digital Devil Saga albums but, when I got the Persona 3 Original Soundtrack, a small amount of confusion overwhelmed me. Why were there so many awkward rhythms? Why were there crazy Japanese men who were convinced that they could rap? Why the big hip-hop influence? Meguro typically is into guitars and techno. This was just strange to behold. So is it any good? Should we be afraid of the path that our beloved Meguro has started down? Let us see…
The introduction to this soundtrack is a pretty bold one. “Burn My Dread” starts off with some really wicked guitar chords that kick you into a really groovy mood. Punctuated vocals mellow out the entire song while maintaining the grooviness. When the refrain chimes in, the piece becomes plain unbearable for me. Hearing the lady belting out “I WILL BURN MY DREAD” is just plain annoying and really detracted from the experience. At least some powerful brass bolster up the track in this area. As it finally descends to the final section, the piece suddenly becomes bearable to listen to again. The returning theme “Aria of the Soul” contrasts itself completely from the first song. It starts with a beautiful piano introduction and some increasingly intense strings. Not far in, an operatic voice introduces the melody. As the song continues and more strings are introduced, it becomes even richer and fuller to listen to. The track also receives a solo piano rendition later in the score.
“Shadow” is one of the highlights that reflects Meguro’s fusion sound for the score. Bombastic trumpets are brought in here to ensure that this piece is very epic in scope. The piano rattles away quickly to give a brisk pace to the music. Then silence. The hip-hop beat once again rears its head and is incorporated into a unique blend of electronic and classical music. I was really impressed to hear how well everything meshed together here. This theme is also used effectively as the basis of “Persona Invocation”. “Unavoidable Battle” is also some classic Meguro if I have ever heard it. Highly distorted guitars blare off from the start and make the battle feel extremely evident. The guitar work is very impressive and well done. Classic drum kit crashes and snare pounds add to the heavy metal feel.
There is an explicit hip-hop vibe brought out of the woodwork in “Iwatodai Dorm”. When the lyrics bust through the wall of sound, the piece loses its way a bit. That’s due to the incomprehensible sounds of Lotus Juice who is trying to rap; one cannot help but notice that his voice sounds unnaturally deep here as well. More interesting is its relaxing arrangement on the second disc, as well as “Deep Breath”, which blends an industrial electronica style with Lotus Juice’s definition of cool. There’s more J-Rap in “Mass Destruction”. The song seems to have a lot of potential with awesome big band style trumpets blasting and some cool guitar work. However, the song is dragged down once again by incomprehensible Japanese rapping fused with some of the female vocals from “Want To Be Close”. There is a certain amount of grooviness here but again so much wasted potential.
Among other vocal themes, “Changing Seasons” sounds a lot like 1970s electronica and over time more trumpet is thrown in. Clearly Meguro was feeling retro sentiments while composing this song. The vocals are here just sufficient to strike a balance between being very pleasant and annoying. Thankfully they lean more to the pleasant side. Those who listen closely will notice “When the Moon Reaches for the Stars” is a repurposing of “Burn My Dread”. The other lyrics have been completely dropped and replaced with different lyrics. The beat has been sped up and more electronica elements have been thrown in for good measure.
“Want To Be Close” is incredibly upbeat and has a really happy tone to it. One cannot help but think of sunny days and flowers when listening to it. The vocals are really nice as well and add to the cheeriness. The only problem here is from the 40 second mark where any trace of the melody disappear and an annoying beat continually drums away. The piano rejoins once in a while, but I feel like a lot of the piece is really just white noise. More impressive is “Peace”, a simplified but more pleasant version. The vocalist also sticks around for the entire song and ensures this reprisal is a lot more enjoyable. Everything about this “Palonian Mall” is really annoying. Extremely simple drums are in the background as some lady sings lyrics that make no sense whatsoever. Trumpets come in every so often to accent the piece but it really doesn’t work. The repetition of the lyrics makes the song really annoying and not even worth salvaging.
The tartarus themes are mainly used for roaming about dungeons that change once in a while. In “tartarus_0d01”, distorted overdriven beats are used here along with the occasional piano chord. After listening to the piece for a while, it becomes extremely burdensome and I cannot help but skip it after the first 30 seconds. The other variations are a mixed bag too, some intensifying the beats, others the piano work, and yet others featuring different percussion samples. They fit their role in the game well, but are generally not impressive on a stand-alone basis. Tartarus also appears under the guise of another name in “Mistic”. The piece has lost almost all of its percussion work and has gained more strings. It is a lot more enjoyable to listen to, but it still falls into the realms of eventually being tiresome.
There are plenty of event cues too. “The Beginning” features a piano being struck quite hard and eerie strings. It’s not long at all and is sort of pointless to listen to. “Crisis” is the standard track to encourage gamers to escape from an area or demonstrate something epic is about to happen. The instruments keep climbing higher and higher to give a sense of tension. It also receives a more orchestrated variation, “Calamity”. Short but very creepy, you can’t help but wonder what’s lurking around the corner when “The Voice Someone Calls” plays. The piano lightly chimes in here and there is a lot of ambient noise to break up the silence. Fittingly, everything about “An Unpleasant Premonition” sounds unpleasant, with more loud percussion and piano ramblings. It works in context, but is definitely not for stand-alone listening.
The sadness emanated in “Living With Determination” makes this one a gem. Piano once more drives the piece and pieces of “Burn My Dread” are heard throughout in a different key. The background sounds further cement the sorrow created by the piano and the brass makes it feel all the more epic. “Joy” and “Afternoon Break” are also very emotional tracks, but in a relieving way. They’re certainly among the most hummable tracks. Completely piano driven, “Memories of the School” evokes a completely different feeling than its basis “Joy”. A sense of reminiscence is present, especially since it is redoing an already familiar theme. It has almost a sad tone. Gone are the excited Japanese vocals and the blood pumping trumpets — nothing but serene piano is here. The piano also provides a highlight in conjunction with the guitar in “Memories of the City”. It’s a simple but effective arrangement.
Moving to the closure, “Battle Hymn of the Soul” is a surprising high-octane remix of “Aria of the Soul”. The original arrangement of the song was so powerful that almost any other version would have been deemed a tragedy. This is not so here. Guitars create an almost angry feeling while low brass and strings fuel the fire. The song becomes much faster and has the power of a shotgun behind it. When the piano blares and delivers the melody, it brings back the beauty of the original in a different setting. The female vocals sound a bit out of place with the guitar but, after the strings kick back in, any doubts about the song’s preservation go away. The infernal refrain from “Burn My Dread” also returns for th last battle theme. Thankfully there is something other than the refrain, but unfortunately it comes in the form of underwhelming Japanese rapping. The song is really repetitious and still earns my ire every second I spend listening to it.
To round off the experience, “Enduring Bonds” repurposes the motifs of “Burn My Dread” for strings in a sentimental manner. The simplistic piano work in “Because I Will Protect You” is also welcome and effective. The ending theme “Memories of You” is the closest the album gets to real J-Pop in the album. All of the elements of “Joy” are here but retold with Japanese lyrics. It features hands down the strongest vocal performance on the entire album. This arrangement is quite wonderful with trumpets and other additions keeping the theme interesting. Finally, “Blues in Velvet Room” is a re-imagining of “Aria of the Soul”. The vocals are not present but a guitar more than makes up for this with extremely jazzy infusions based on a Persona classic. This is a most excellent way to close off the release.
So the album has ended and how did it fare? Well Meguro has managed to put together a pretty stellar soundtrack. The efforts included within are a bit inconsistent in quality and some songs suffer due to repetition. However, the rest of the album delivers in spades. The mixture of electronica, metal, jazz, and hip-hop ended working so well I cannot wait to see how Meguro improves on this in the future. The face of Persona has been changed forever. Listeners of Megaten music, don’t let this album scare you away. Instead curl up with it for a few nights and see that there are impressive tracks riddled throughout.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Daniel Jackman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.