Soma Bringer Original Soundtrack
Soma Bringer Original Soundtrack
April 2, 2008
Buy Used Copy
Although the output from Procyon Studio’s Yasunori Mitsuda hasn’t been as frequent as some other big name composers, he’s always a composer on my must-have original soundtracks list. Being my favorite composer, I expect much from him every time, and he never fails to impress. The Soma Bringer Original Soundtrack is his most recent solo effort after last year’s release of Armodyne. This Nintendo DS action RPG was crafted by Tetsuya Takahashi, long time friend of Yasunori Mitsuda, and the director and creator of both Xenogears and Xenosaga. Considering that when these two individuals work together, the soundtracks are absolutely superb, I had high hopes for this one. Were they met with Mitsuda’s latest effort? You’ll just have to read on to find out. The only way I’m going to give this soundtrack the justice it deserves is to do a disc-by-disc review.
Always one for poignant melodies, Yasunori Mitsuda opens up the soundtrack with a beautiful piano piece, “Soma Bringer,” the title track of the album. The melody is gripping and the simplicity of the piano makes for an excellent opener. This same melody can be found in a stunning alternative rendition, entitled “Ring,” that features the beautiful vocals of Eri Kawai, Koko Komine, and Tamie Hirose. The a capella style of “Soma Bringer” and the layering of the vocals creates a magical atmosphere and a haunting performance. Vocals are also featured in the short track, “Determination”.
Keeping with the touch of softness present in this album, “Prologue – Land of Promise” offers another beautiful simplistic melody on the harp. It’s another track with quite a magical aura. Another beautiful piece of music is “A Memory That Cannot Be Pursued”; a lovely fusion of harp and woodwinds, it sounds very reminiscent of melodies heard in Xenogears and Chrono Cross. There is just an inherent sadness found within this composition. “Tender Flow” is another excellent composition that features piano and strings both in suspended and plucked variation; it brilliantly conveys a feeling of warmth that is truly a beauty in which to listen.
The town themes on the first disc are quite nice. “Schildkrote” is an interesting fusion of sounds for Mitsuda. Borrowing partly from Armodyne, Xenogears, Hako no Niwa, and perhaps a bit of Hitoshi Sakimoto, this theme offers a very playful militaristic theme that is quite mesmerizing. “Amaty, the Ancient City” is a laidback bubbly town theme that borrows more from Mitsuda’s Celtic side. The melody is absolutely stunning and almost hypnotic! The flute passages and plucked string work are quite beautiful. Perhaps my favorite town theme, “Ordital, the Maneuvering City”, is a theme with a very dark and suspenseful atmosphere. At the same time, you’ll hear ethnic influences and soft string passages. It makes for an excellent fusion of sounds with an excellent melody and quite the catchy rhythm!
In addition, Mitsuda is also able to incorporate his worldly sound into a few of the dungeon/area themes. “Green Wind” is another piece that incorporates Mitsuda’s skill in the Celtic music department. The development of this piece is what impresses me the most. In addition to another stellar melody, the combination of strings, acoustic guitar, and piano really help to create another magical piece of music. “Amaty Ruins – Seal” has an Arabian sound to it. The entrancing sitar bass line and the free flowing flute sections really define this composition; however, the other elements only help to fortify this excellent ethnic theme. “Run Through Flames – Largo Bridge” combines a very soft sound with a very driven sound. The brass and string work help to create a very militaristic feel; however, at the same time, there are sections with soft and playful passages executed mainly with Celtic instrumentation. “Junel, the Large Forest” is a nice combination of orchestral and Celtic as well. As Mitsuda is always a master of forest themes, I think the explorative sound incorporated with the orchestral sections of the composition and the free flowing flute passages combine to create a fantastic theme.
There are also a few dark themes to be heard on this first disc. “Movement of Unrest” is a very suspenseful theme with some of the most haunting piano work from Mitsuda to date. The combination of the tense string work and piano line makes for a track that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up if you heard it in a creepy situation. “Drifting Anxiety,” while not as haunting or dark as “Movement of Unrest” still offers a very suspenseful and mysterious composition. There is a sense of sneakiness heard in the playful bass line, while the suspended strings appear once more to transport you into a world of suspense. It’s another beautifully executed piece of music.
I’ll end the review of the first disc with the mainly orchestral pieces. “The One Who Soars Over the World” combines the flute and harp heard in Mitsuda’s Celtic background with a bombastic string and brass accompaniment. While some might find the string work to be a bit overbearing, I find that it really helps contrast with the flute quite nicely. “The 7th Division of the Pharzuph” is a playful militaristic piece that features the melody in “The One Who Soars Over the World.” It’s another stunning piece and helps to reinforce what I assume is the main theme of the main character. When I first heard the samples for “Confronting the Defense Master,” I knew that I would fall in love with the piece. The entirely orchestral piece is both exhilarating and majestic. The harmonies between the string work and the brass are to die for. The first disc is a fantastic way to start the soundtrack. Does it continue in the second disc?
Similar to the first disc, a piano piece opens up the second disc. “Idea” is another beautifully simplistic composition with a gripping, poignant melody. Sadly, it’s the only soft theme on the second disc. The remainder of this disc is broken up into a few town themes, a lot of area themes, and a few orchestral pieces.
The town themes on this disc differ from the first disc counterparts. “Maran Asa, Country of the Faith” is most reminiscent of “Dajil” from Xenogears; however, rather than having a sole focus on an Arabian sound, this composition fuses together a Celtic base sound with Arabian forefront. It’s a lovely combination of sounds and makes for a very strong presence on the second disc. The first thing that came to my mind when hearing “Village of Snow” was children playing amongst the snow-ridden village. There is an air of happiness present throughout the piece with the bubbly woodwind passages and the bouncy piano and xylophone sections. It’s among my favorite town themes for this soundtrack.
There are also some dark themes present on the second disc as well. “Sacred Relic” has a very foreboding percussion line and combines it with suspenseful strings and woodwind passages. There is a sense of danger present in this piece, as if the relic should not be touched, yet at the same time, there seems to be this mysterious atmosphere tempting you to touch it. I find this to be a very successful piece of music. “Unbras” follows suit with a very prominent percussion line as well. The deep woodwind instruments, the suspended strings, and the bombast heard in the piece create a very tense atmosphere ripe for the listening. Lastly, “Hidden Prediction” offers some softer sounds, but still remains a bit mysterious. The woodwind passages create this air of mystery and the synth choral work and string work make for a more haunting composition.
Orchestral work is quite prominent on this disc. “Bonfire in One Hand” combines a playful mysterious composition with short spurts of energy in the form of bombastic orchestration. It’s a wonderful composition that really plays upon some of Mitsuda’s strengths. “Relic of Ancient Times” has a very atmosphere-focused composition. The piano line and bombastic percussion, combined with the choral work, makes for a very dramatic composition with some lovely soundscapes. It’s one of my favorite themes on the soundtrack, mainly due to the combination of the various instruments that really showcases the skill Mitsuda has in fusing different sounds. “Assault” implements crisis strings and, although one may think that is a bit clichéd, you can easily forgive that once you hear everything else going on. Strong militaristic percussion, choral accents, Arabian instrumentation, and a touch of brass make this one of the most exhilarating themes on the soundtrack. “Footsteps of Stupor” holds no quarter when it comes to starting off strong. Strong brass accents are present throughout the piece and harmonize quite nicely with the string and woodwind focus of the composition. The percussion helps to drive the piece and helps to create a track full of tension.
There are a couple of softer orchestrated pieces as well. “Watching the Tower in the Sea of Flames” has a very dramatic sense of destruction present within the piece, but at the same time, it is countered by a mellower section that gives a sense of peace. It’s a very nice amalgamation of sounds resulting in a very dynamic piece of music. “A Legend Sleeping in Ice Chains” has this very mysterious air about it. The soft percussion highlights the beautiful, sweeping woodwind passages and fortifies the stronger, militaristic sections of the piece. It’s another interesting fusion of styles and works quite nicely, I think.
Lastly, I’ll mention the area themes for second disc. You’ll find a nice variety of styles here. “Ring Tower” continues with the mysterious nature heard in “Watching the Tower in the Sea of Flames,” but doesn’t employ any orchestral bombast. The choral accents to the playful and mysterious melody found in the acoustic guitar and string work. “Graave Stronghold” combines the orchestral flair heard in throughout the disc with a nice sense of urgency and suspense. It is a very driven composition with a focus on piano sections to portray the suspenseful sections and full blown brass, strings, and percussion to drive the urgency within the piece.
“Adel Desert” combines the sounds of a wood block instrument with a more Middle Eastern touch. Throughout the piece, there is definitely a wispy atmosphere, mainly attributed to the beautiful flute work. The percussion is extremely rhythmic and highlights the softer sections of the piece as well. It’s a quirky, yet mysterious track that really contains the sounds of what you’d expect in a desert theme. “Temple of the Sand Coffin” is another excellent Arabian influenced composition. The haunting piano and string introduction is greeted with an excellent melody played on the sitar. There is just a great sense of mystery at times, but the wispiness heard in “Adel Desert” also finds its way in from time to time. “Snowy Foot of the Mountain” offers a fantastic theme, reminiscent of Chrono Trigger at times, to the table. The choral accents, the mysterious nature of the piece and the lush instrumentation makes for a beautiful area theme. It’s one of my favorites on the soundtrack. The second disc continued with the success of the first disc. Is the third time a charm as well?
Although the third disc strays from the tradition of opening with a piano piece, it does open with a soft theme. “Key of Light” is a beautiful fusion of string and harp work. The mysterious melody is heightened by the use of chorals and the xylophone bass line. It’s another stunning opener and just brings a sense of drama into the mix. Other soft themes are more prevalent on this disc than on the second disc. “Light of Truth” is a mysterious and sad composition that employs the use of piano and violin to extremely pleasing results. There seems to be this sense of overall gloom to the piece, as if something horrible was just revealed, but it’s just so moving.
The remaining three softer pieces are found in succession on the soundtrack. “The Bonds That Return to the Sky” features a melody just brim with emotion and poignancy. The overall sense of accomplishment within this piece is astonishing and the flowing woodwinds remind me a bit of the Chrono Trigger main theme. “Fragment of Thought” is very reminiscent of Mitsuda’s music box compositions. It offers a simplistic yet touching melody and is a seque into the most beautiful theme on the entire soundtrack, “Looking at Trouvère.” When I first heard this piece, I was absolutely blown away. Offering both touching and poignant passages, accented by strings, harp, and on occasion, militaristic percussion, the piano-based melody just glides throughout the piece, ending with a short reference to the “Soma Bringer” main theme without actually bringing it out in full force. It would have been a nice way to tie together the main theme of the soundtrack, but I’m not going to fault an already beautiful piece for something that would probably make me cry!
There are a couple of town themes on the third disc as well. “Kremona, the Sky City” is a gorgeous composition that focuses on a nice pizzicato string accompaniment with flowing woodwinds that portray a sense of freedom in the melody. It’s not the strongest town theme on the soundtrack. In fact, I find it to be the weakest, but there is just an inherent beauty about it that captivates me. “Zain, the Floating Continent” is another stunning composition. Featuring a string motif similar to that found in Deep Labyrinth’s “Shawn and Ace’s Theme,” it portrays an even stronger sense of freedom than “Kremona, the Sky City.” The combination of strings and woodwinds creates this beautifully captivating soundscape that just sucks me into the track. I honestly get distracted listening to this piece.
There are also some pieces that rely on that air of mystery found throughout the soundtrack. “Seeking the Road That Sinks in Illusion” is a track full of suspense, with a focus on captivating the listener with a gorgeous melody. The string work, harp, and piano all create a wonderfully executed soundscape. It’s one of those tracks that just send chills up your spine! “Soma Pulse” is easily the most beautiful composition in regards to suspense on the soundtrack. As is the case with a lot of the mysterious pieces on this soundtrack, the fusion of sounds is what really makes this track work. The haunting chorals, piano, and overall atmosphere of the piece just makes this one succeed. “Exploration of the Secluded Land” is another mysterious piece with an Arabian flair. It boasts a strong melody that is very intriguing, full of tension and suspense, and really gives a feeling of a remote country. Some lush instrumentation only heightens the effect.
Of course, the majority of the more action packed themes are found at the end of this disc. In what I assume is a final battle suite, “Advent – Time of Judgment,” “Alertia,” and “Unleashed” create an the epic end to the game. “Advent – Time of Judgment” starts off with perhaps the most familiar battle technique from Mitsuda. It has a gripping melody, fantastic instrumental mixing, and a motivating drive. The mix of Celtic and orchestral is a very nice combination here and adds so much to the track. The orchestral highlights in the composition make it one of my favorites on the soundtrack, although not my favorite of the final battle suite. “Alertia” is the most epic of the final battle tracks. With a focus on orchestra, the bombast says it all about the composition. The exhilarating nature of the track, combined with some of the main motifs heard throughout the soundtrack, as well as the choral accents makes this my favorite battle theme on the soundtrack.
The last battle theme, “Unleashed,” follows in the footsteps of many other Mitsuda final battle themes. It features some experimentation, but I think it pays off. Featuring a wide array of instrumentation, it creates a very dramatic end. While you’ll find the standard fare of organ, strings, percussion, and chorals, also reprising the motifs heard in “Alertia,” you’ll hear the experimental component of the entire battle theme throughout its duration. This component is the instrument that sounds like a wood block being hit. It’s a strange fit, but I think it works and gives the battle theme a bit of a tribal flair.
In addition to the entire original soundtrack, at the end of the last disc, four extra versions of various tracks appear. These tracks include “Amaty, the Ancient City,” “Run Through Flames – Largo Bridge,” “Threatening Yell,” and “The Bonds That Return to the Sky.” These are the same as their original counterparts, but have upgraded sound quality. Note that the quality of the original sound version is already fantastic given sound programmer Hidenori Suzuki’s competence with the DS.
After listening to this soundtrack, I can happily say that this is the day I’ve been waiting for. This is the day I can finally give a Yasunori Mitsuda soundtrack a perfect score. While I thoroughly enjoy his previous works, there is just something about this one that stirs great emotion within my soul. There is not a single piece of music I do not enjoy. From the gripping action themes to the poignant melodies, from the worldly music and even the suspenseful themes, it’s been a wonderful journey. The Soma Bringer Original Soundtrack is a soundtrack that should not be missed by anyone. It gives me great pleasure and honor to award Mitsuda with his first perfect score for an original soundtrack. Please Mitsuda, keep up this caliber of work.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.