Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange
Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange
January 25, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
I vividly remember the hype that led up to the release of this arranged album, and although the Kingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack and the Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ Original Soundtrack were released on the same day, it still sticks out in my mind as the second best out of the three albums that I heard that week. Indeed, who could shake off an album that features the work of ten composers, most of which are at their best form to date, and furthermore, the fact that it is probably the best collaborative arranged album to date? So, what makes it so good? Read on to see how the unique styles of each composer makes this an original experience.
Mitsuda’s “The Theme of Rogue Galaxy” starts off the album in a classic style that is both impacting, touching, and to be totally honest, unexpected. Although it is mostly Celtic inspired, the overall style of the piece strays away, exploring South American and synth-rock styles, too. The first two minutes of the arrangement is purely Celtic, and although an electric bass features here too, it actually enhances the atmosphere, rather than spoiling it. At the 2:00 mark, Mitsuda integrates a synth-rock part to the piece, and he keeps many of the parts that were developed in the Celtic section, to give the section a bit of substance. Following this is a peaceful piano section to which more and more instruments are added. I was amazed at this range in styles and instrumentation, as it is something that Mitsuda had never really done before. The likes of his arrangements on Sailing to the World and Xenogears, Creid: Yasunori Mitsuda & Millennial Fair obviously stick out in the mind, too, but I find “The Theme of Rogue Galaxy” to be one of his most impacting arrangements to date. The sophistication of this arrangement coupled with its buoyant nature makes it a true gem, and an awesome way to start off the album.
Shinji Hosoe then follows this with “Planet Zelard,” which is totally different in style to “The Theme of Rogue Galaxy” in that it is electronica based, thus throwing us into the future as opposed to Mitsuda’s ethnic, more twentieth century placement. Although I didn’t find this piece to be as impacting as Mitsuda’s opener, I found that it portrayed Hosoe’s well-developed electronica and synth-rock styles well, despite the fact that he has composed better pieces in the past. He uses a wide variety of sound effects throughout the piece, and although most sections are in want of development due to an overload of this, he pulls off the arrangement pretty well. Take the 1:15 mark for example — he uses a wide variety of warping effects, but fails to concentrate on the melody that should be in the centre stage of the action. Needlessly long sections that yield very little litter the track, but when this theme is compared to Tomohito Nishiura’s original, it is easy to see exactly what Hosoe has achieved; although this arrangement hardly lives up to the likes of his works on this year’s Under Defeat Original Soundtrack and the Ibara Original Soundtrack, it shows us how sophisticated his themes have become.
Out of everybody on the album, I think that Kenji Ito stuck to his typical arranging ways the most, and to be honest, this was a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, “The Castle in the Air” is an arrangement that I thoroughly enjoyed, but as I started to look closer at the album, it certainly became one of the tracks that I started to reject. Ito is an experienced arranger, with the likes of Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks -Near Death Experience- and the Dark Chronicles Premium Arrange each featuring his works, so it is upsetting when he creates an arrangement that offers relatively little new. The trudging pace of the theme, the slow development, and the sometimes bare nature of the instrumentation, for example, really does the theme no good. Indeed, he creates an ideal ‘airy’ atmosphere with his use of quiet strings and angelic glockenspiels, and there is no doubt that it is a good arrangement overall, with it featuring so many intricate details such as carefully placed accents and pauses. Still, listening to his compositions on the Romancing Saga Minstrel Song Original Soundtrack proves that he had so much more to offer, and it is saddening that such passion wasn’t released here.
Aihara however, was a composer that really amazed me; creating an arrangement that was ethereal, respectful, and mysterious, he really proved that he has a lot to offer in the future. “The Labyrinth” is very impacting and shows his wide knowledge of instrumentation, performance styles, and development, by featuring lots of each. The pitch bending in the flute at the 1:00 mark is a classic example of his imaginative instrumentation and use of performance directions, and furthermore, the sudden movement into a much more aggressive section that follows is a perfect example of his use of development. The greatest achievement however, is that he doesn’t slip up at all, and when all things are considered, such as the movement from a relaxing melody to a powerful section to a militaristic motif, this is quite a feat. Admittedly, I know very little about Aihara’s general style, but I feel that listening to this track has opened my eyes, and will most likely result in me searching around for more of his works in hope for a similar experience. Before the release of this album, I had Aihara down as one of the ones to look out for due to his great contributions to the Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange, and what can I say? It seems like he has performed to a standard that I couldn’t have even wished for.
With a great deal of diversity and refinement in styles, and hence a large amount of highly innovative and imaginative arrangements preceding “The Crisis,” it was crucial for Yoko Shimomura to come up with something special. “The Crisis” proves how well she can arrange, even when put under the pressure of composing the entire score to Kingdom Hearts II. Starting off eerie in nature with a repeated glockenspiel and bell riff, the atmosphere of this theme is apparent straight away, and when tubular bells, a very dark flute motif, and pizzicato strings are added, it is enhanced even further. Indeed, this arrangement is developed a lot, but the most notable section is at the 1:16 mark, as it is at this point that there is a rapid change in the nature track, due to the fact that its invigorating nature causes everything to become excessively turmoil-stricken. The violins strongly bow out devilish motifs and crescendos in the bass become a dominant feature as the piano is added to transform the piece even further. With a vast amount of development following this, including a stupendous climax, Shimomura lives up to her fan’s expectations, as this is certainly one of the highlights on the album.
“The Ghost Ship” is an arrangement that really surprised me, with Norihiko Hibino being a composer that I knew very little about. There were many things that I found to be out of the ordinary in this theme, such as the vocal use, which is mostly atonal, but it wasn’t these that caught me off-guard, but rather the bebop come industrial rock nature of this piece. This was a fusion that I had never experience before, and it seemed strange to find it in such a place as a Video Game Music arranged album. It starts off in an electrifying industrial style, and when a rasping trumpet is added, improvising its melody, the bebop section becomes apparent — enhanced of course, by the rhythmic, though eerie, vocals. The most intriguing motifs in the track are yielded by a synthesiser that improvises on the vocalists melody; a classic example is at the 2:03 mark, where it heads the track against its drum accompaniment. To me, Hibino creates a picture perfect representation of a ghost ship here with an arrangement that is the most alternative on the album. Without hearing the theme, I wouldn’t have though that such a fusion could create such a great effect.
Next up, the crazy progressive rock-styled “Varkogu’s Theme” is one that I thoroughly enjoyed, despite being told before hearing it that Sakuraba had single handily spoiled the album! I was surprised to hear this, and I hope that you’ll be pleased to know that I won’t be using the same source anytime soon, because it was totally incorrect! This arrangement is exactly what I wanted from Sakuraba, as with it being both an intelligent and an invigorating experience, he shows off his sublime skills on the synthesiser, which is always a treat, especially since we see him revisit his old progressive rock style. The upbeat nature of this piece and the clever manipulation that the melody receives makes this an incredible listen, and when this is paired up against some energetic changes in metre, the glory is just further enhanced. A great number of sections make up this track, and there is a vast amount of standout moments that I won’t forget too easily; the synthesiser perfection that lies after the 2:25 mark sends chills down my spine, the pulsating nature of the synthesiser at the 3:47 mark that rips through the air, and the energetic nature of the section after the 4:38 point, are just some of the many examples. I hope that his work on the Tales of the Abyss Original Soundtrack will offer more of the same, as after all, who doesn’t like a bit of hectic synthesiser rockin’?
Even Nobuyoshi Sano impresses with “Brave Heart,” a theme that takes a while to get going, but is enjoyable once it is on the move. The electronica style that this piece offers makes it inaccessible to most people, but you’ll be surprised at what it achieves. Still, it’s hardly a great piece to listen to if you are just getting used to the style, and you’d be much better searching for something by Cave, such as the ESPGaluda Original Soundtrack, which is far more sophisticated. Although sophistication is obviously a problem, Hibino gives this arrangement a sense of structure, making it a solid piece, rather than a flop. Up until the 0:56 mark, the track is based around a simple phaser and metallic synth motif, and once we get past this, we see further development as more and more instruments are added. The main melody comes in at the 1:44 mark, which in my opinion, is far too late on, with the section beforehand being mostly dull. Indeed, I respect the fact that the piece is based on overlapping motifs, and that everything is sampled over each other, but the fact is that it is probably the weakest on the album. Indeed, this doesn’t mean that it’s a bad track, but that it is too long, since everything that it achieves could have been done so within half the time.
And now, we reach one of the best tracks on the album. Albeit in an unexpected style, Hirota’s masterpiece really drew me in, and it really proves that he is a great composer who is getting better and better. Although the majority would have been hoping for something written in his signature hard rock style, I doubt that the atmospheric nature of this track will disappoint many! “Enormous Threat” starts off slowly, but full of a potential that we just know will be released later on in the track, and when a wordless vocal line is added, things just get all the more interesting. Indeed, Hirota makes a lot out of nothing here, and this is something that he deserves a lot of credit for, since it takes a lot of expertise for it to really work; the shifting of the emphasis from the bass to the melody, the clever vocal line, and the neatly placed dynamics do the theme a great amount of justice. Although this arrangement isn’t as epic as “The Three Karma ~ Cogito Ergo Sum” from Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks -Near Death Experience-, it is still captivating and amongst the best on the album.
Last, but not least, Iwadare’s “Dreaming My Way Home ~ Ending Theme” is a nice, relaxing theme, that wraps off the album perfectly. Indeed, I’ve never really had much time for Iwadare, since most of his compositions have been notably uneventful, but I can truly say that this arrangement is a good achievement, and perhaps rates as one of my best experiences with his music. Still, the theme turns out to be a mixed bag, as there are parts that stand out, and there are parts that bore, but on the whole, it’s pretty solid, though what he was trying to create in some sections is about as clear as a bowl of pea soup on a foggy day. The overall power of the theme is something that I truly respect, as much like the other arrangers on the album, he pretty much puts his heart and soul into this theme. We can hear through the gliding violins and gleaming instrumentation that he wanted this to stand out, and what a great achievement it is, wrapping off an album that has so many styles, but such a sense of consistency.
Overall, this album is a great experience, and it remains one of my favourites this year. It will be interesting to see what each of these composers produces next, especially since quite a few of them have really come out of their shells. There are five composers that really impressed me however; Yasunori Mitsuda, Takayuki Aihara, Yoko Shimomura, Motoi Sakuraba, and Yoshitaka Hirota, all arrange to extremely high standards and their themes are what makes this album an extremely worthy purchase. Indeed, it offers everything from Celtic guitar-led pieces to progressive synth-rock, and this diversity is what makes it so successful.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.