Radiant Silvergun Soundtrack +
Radiant Silvergun Soundtrack +
Toshiba-EMI (1st Edition); Absorb Music Japan (2nd Edition)
August 7, 1998; March 24, 2004
Buy Used Copy
The purpose of Radiant Silvergun‘s score is to be intense. It wasn’t crafted to principally be aesthetic, melodious, creative, varied, atmospheric, or even intimately fitting. True, in a microscopic context, it variably manages to be all of these yet, on a dominant level, its effects were intended to be psychological. The music was crafted to compound the effects of a maximalist vertical shooter and increase one’s stress, adrenaline, and concentration levels while providing a sense of inevitability about failure or, worse still, continuation without end. If that sounds horrifying, even horror scores tend to relent more than this behemoth. With the experience of composing Saturn shooters from Soukyuugurentai and a boost in creativity that Final Fantasy Tactics gave him, Hitoshi Sakimoto attempts a daring psychological experiment. There are two major questions to ask: How does Sakimoto achieve this intensity? What is the target audience of the soundtrack? Both have interesting answers.
The main way Sakimoto reflects the intensity of a shooter is by using a recurring main theme in each piece. Sakimoto’s carefully balances repetition with a sense of ascension to make various pieces impact on the listener. It is a four bar fragment that revolves around only a few notes and has an ambiguous sense of tonality. The first bar features two brisk utterings of an imposing three note ascending motif while the fourth bar features the ascending resolution. The fragment is exposed in the ominous introduction “Quickening”, a piece that subtly intensifies in pace, dynamic level, and thickness of orchestration before prematurely terminating at the 0:35 mark. The suspense and intensity heightens with the subsequent action-packed compositions that obsessively present the motif chiefly on brass supported by thunderous orchestration. The theme is explored even further in “Ruin”, a cinematic orchestration that evolves from its slow military opening towards a more heroic climax. It nicely prepares listeners for the stage themes ahead.
The stage themes reflect the shifts in intensity as the game develops. The first stage theme “Return” is intense enough, offering a fully-fleshed rendition of the main theme at a racing tempo. Inspired by Copeland, Sakimoto establishes a rich yet intimating sound at the start of the track with dissonant orchestral chords. These give way to a brass section that present the melody in a glorious fashion, capturing the determination of the hero amidst the penetrating bullets. As the game becomes even more intense, malevolent elements like shrieking strings and stabbing punctuations dominate in “Reminiscence”. But there are occasional compassionate moments too, such as “Ruin”, where the textures and tempo are decreased to give a more introspective — but still ultimately dark — feel. Also impressive is the final stage theme “Space Battleship 130 33KI” with its multi-tiered development. It undergoes a tense cinematic build-up during the first 30 seconds, before shifting into the heaviest and fastest rendition of the main theme on the soundtrack. Here the heroic brass are almost completely overwhelmed by the shuddering strings, signifying the struggle of the player.
After “Space Battle Ship 130 33KI”, the game’s few non-stage/boss themes feature, relieving some intensity and adding some stylistic diversity to the score. “Victim” reflects on the harsh challenges faced, featuring a melancholic brass rendition of the main theme and a colourful piano interlude. The downtrodden “Origin,” while transparent in chord progressions and overexuberant in harp use, adds further emotional substance to the score with its struggle to remain resolute. “The Stone-Like” is one of the first of Sakimoto’s now familiar chorales; it provides a more exposed interpretation of the main theme and the psychology of the game with its relatively static rhythms and timbres, but still manages to be harmonically sumptuous. While the orchestral timbres of “Karma” are quite familiar, the delicate piano accompaniment and programmatic development makes it a brief touch of colour. The choral and orchestral ending theme “Feel Invisible Matter” reunites much of the score thematically. “There is Life Everywhere” provides a epilogue that mystically revolves around the main theme before elegantly blooming to reflect those intricacies the title mentions.
The soundtrack is actually split in two. The first 16 aforementioned tracks is a complete enhanced versions of the Saturn original score, while the last ten are a selection of original Saturn tracks. They’re present as if to tell listeners ‘no, that ending theme didn’t represent relief… if you want to beat this album, here comes the hard mode’. Indeed, the agonising tracks between “Return” and “Space Battle Ship 130 33KI” are heard in succession straight after the ending theme and disorientate the listener. While there are no compositional differences, the Saturn section sounds significantly different due to far harsher mixing. The timpani in “Debris”, for instance, sound especially wild and overpower the track. The enhanced version was fluidly mixed to achieve a certain amount of soothing resonance. The Saturn sound is still good for its time, but emphasises the intensity of the compositions in an additional way creating jagged timbres.
Consider the macroscopic picture. Appreciate the microscopic intricacies. Suppress the negative side-effects. That’s how to enjoy the Radiant Silvergun soundtrack. Thematically and stylistically, it is a repetitive score. However, its psychological impact means it’s anything but unaffecting while its intricacies means it’s certainly not tedious. It can also be confusing, frustrating, intrusive, and nauseating. To some, utterly horrible in fact. I certainly wouldn’t recommend Psycho‘s soundtrack for home-listening pleasure to most people and certainly not Sakimoto’s ‘The Murder’ on repeat remix either. Nevertheless, that work has numerous merits and appeals to an audience on a stand-alone basis. The same applies to the Radiant Silvergun Soundtrack +. Creatively and functionally, it’s remarkable. When faced with the prospect of listening to this album, I’m inclined to embrace it or to dismiss it with respect. Nine times out of ten, I choose the latter option, but that admiration and intimidation that accompanies each dismissal becomes significantly greater each occasion I do feel like indulging in a bit musical masochism.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.