Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack

Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack Album Title:
Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack
Record Label:
Oo Records
Catalog No.:
Release Date:
December 12, 1996
Buy Used Copy


Shining the Holy Ark is the sixth game from the “Shining” RPG series, released on the Sega Saturn. The game itself has no official soundtrack. The only release that has been made — though being labeled as Original Soundtrack — is this arranged album, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. While being quite rare, the soundtrack to Shining the Holy Ark is considered by many Sakuraba enthusiasts as one of his best works. I actually did not know about this album at all until I realized by chance that Sakuraba was the composer. Having myself learnt to appreciate his music through his most famous compositions, I decided to give it a try.


“Prelude ~ Lure from the Eclipse” sets an epic tone is set at the very beginning of the album. As a background synthetic choir and drum rolls set up a solemn atmosphere, the main theme to Shining the Holy Ark is immediately introduced by a succession of instruments — a brass section, a wind section, and finally a fiddle — as if the orchestra was bidding us a warm welcome. The glorious atmosphere fades quickly out as two other instruments are introduced to start a new theme. As drums in the first part, the organ and bass that now take part in the show do not belong to the classical genre, but rather to Sakuraba’s own roots, that is to say progressive rock. The fiddle is the first one to come back in that new melodic improvisation which slowly builds up until the final touch brings the track to its climax: an amazing electronic guitar riff, quickly followed by the choir and brass section returning to perform the last reprise of the second theme, and eventually ending the track with majesty.

The second track “The Uninvited” is action-based, and as you may know Sakuraba, this is where he really likes to have fun with rock-oriented material. We are provided with an upbeat but solid track that opposes at first the fiendish sound of the organ to courage — inspiring electronic guitar and violin breakthroughs. After a brief moment of respite — harpsichord and bass setting up a dream vision — the duel starts again, this time with a more dramatic and wilder touch in the interpretation. This loss of faith is clearly emphasized by the next part: another emotional and slow-paced passage led by a softer playing of the organ. As the organ yells out again to issue its final threat, confidence is regained, and thus the last part of the track is played, echoing the first one, and finishing on a musical breakdown. This constitutes an excellent battle theme arranged with fantasy and passion. Less spectacular is “Dance of Life and Death”. Following a regular percussion pattern, every lead instrument seems to have room to perform its own improvization. The overall effect is enjoyable, but does not have much depth.

“Ceremony of Darkness ~ Part I” is all organized around its leading piano melody coated by bass, drums and synth pads. In the beginning, the track builds up in intensity and gravity, just like the wind strengthens a few moments before a storm. The piano then changes its main melody for a more passionate passage, forming a pleasant bridge in the middle of the track. The main motif comes back quickly and repeats a few times to suddenly make place for menacing organ chords aimed at being eerie, but sounding strangely close to what you would hear in an 80’s horror movie made by John Carpenter. The conclusion of this “first part” is rather abrupt: the storm has not been unleashed yet… Later in the album, the second part reprises this theme with drums, organs and dark synth pads. It quickly aims at building an atmosphere of terror through the incessant repeating of a background organ pattern, and through the layering of agressive synths. The overall flow of the track is like a big, monstruous breathing that swells and deflates together with percussion and synth pad waves. Although this track will be unlistenable for most people, its content does have a meaning.

In “Search Far and Deep”, Sakuraba charmingly mixes purely synthetic sounds with classical instruments. An atmosphere of uneasiness is established by a very low synth pad and a repeating glockenspiel motif, before being accompanied by a graceful piano and distant choir. This sets the stage for the entrance of the lead instruments into the scene: a violin, smoothly playing a nostalgic melody, and a fuzzy and dark synth pad, sounding like despair. Both of them eventually play together to create a pulsating fabric of sound. Near the end, the piano, choir and glockenspiel are left alone, and keep the mystery of the track intact while ending it softly. Another momentous track, “To the End of the Horizon of Wind and Dust” opens with a pipe organ reprise of the soundtrack’s main theme and builds into a fast-paced jam for rock organ and electric guitar. After all this energy has been consumed, the tension suddenly drops and allows the main theme to be unveiled again, this time played by the orchestra before some surprising and glorious twists towards the finale. This is the perfect example of the combination between progressive rock and epic music that has built a fair part of Sakuraba’s fame.

“The Elegy of the Bewildered” is the longest and best track of all the album. This piece of music is one of the rare opportunities to hear Motoi Sakuraba soloing on a piano. I’m used to thinking that listening to a composer alone with the noblest of all instruments is one of the best ways to evaluate their skills. As Jeremy Soule amazed me on his “Variations of Castle Theme,” Motoi Sakuraba left me voiceless after my first hearing of “Elegy of the Bewildered.” He succeeds in demonstrating his ease at playing light, harmonious parts as well as darker and more complex sequences. The rendering is very expressive, and full of these small details that make every new listening a bit more interesting.

After the ordeal of the previous track, the church organ introduction of “Rhapsody of Repose” seems to come right from heaven. A flute and an electronic guitar are then introduced, backed by a synth choir and an harpsichord. Together, they play a moving and quiet ode to hope. Simple yet efficient, and on top of that, at the perfect location on the tracklist.The final track, “Endless Winter”, is a reprise of the second theme introduced during the Prelude. The name sums up quite well the content of the track: the same motif, repeated over and over, accompanied by some complex drum work. The backing synthetic pads and FX, as well as the overall reverb, invoke a strong and neverending wind. An additional background synth progressively reveals itself, setting up a mood of resignation. As a haiku would conclude a short story, this track seems to have a moral: “Do not fight against the wind. Let destiny decide for you.” A short, yet touching finale for this album.


I think the review made it clear that Shining the Holy Ark isn’t everybody’s game music. Its darkest parts and its prominent progessive rock influences are what will make you love or hate it. I believe that this album sums up pretty well the essence of Sakuraba’s creative energy. From the upbeat musical showdown of “The Uninvited” to the acoustic wonders of “Elegy of the Bewildered,” every fan of epic music should find his share here. If you even happen to be a fan of Motoi Sakuraba, then you cannot die without having heard this album. This is the good news. The bad news is that the CD has been out of print for long, so you’ll probably have to watch for auctions if you want to feel the pride of placing it on your VGM shelf. Last but not least the mark. Mathematically and track-to-track, what we got here is a decent 86%. But since this album needs to be listened as a whole, coherent work, I’m going to add a bonus, considering that it is solid and well-balanced overall.

Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack Zeugma

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!


Posted on August 1, 2012 by Zeugma. Last modified on August 1, 2012.

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