The Tower of Druaga -The Sound of Uruk- Original Soundtrack
The Tower of Druaga -The Sound of Uruk- Original Soundtrack
September 8, 2010
Buy at CDJapan
Back in 2007, Hitoshi Sakimoto composed the score to Gonzo’s anime series Romeo X Juliet, a well-regarded novel adaptation anime series featuring an emotional orchestral score. Two years later, Sakimoto was again asked to compose the score to a brand new series by the anime studio, based on Namco’s classic arcade game The Tower of Druaga and its spinoffs. Sakimoto composed for both of the show’s seasons and his soundtracks were bundled with the DVD releases of the series. At the end of 2010, Basiscape Records released a commercial official soundtrack for the title, The Tower of Druaga -The Sound of Uruk- Original Soundtrack. This version differs slightly from the single disc releases in that it doesn’t include the anime’s opening and ending themes. The rest of the score, however, including all of Sakimoto’s original work, was preserved. Can the composer manage to equal or even surpass his earlier work from two years prior?
The first disc of the album is dedicated to the music of the first season, The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk. Omitting the theme songs from previous releases, Basiscape’s edition opens with “The Shield of URUK,” a rather charming and ecstatic piece. This track combines the composer’s thematic orchestral style with a robust and expressive performance from the Eminence Symphonic Orchestra. In many ways, this is Hitoshi Sakimoto at his best, if also at his most predictable. In fact, Sakimoto at his most predictable is a rather constant mainstay for this album (though that is to be expected for such a prolific composer). For example, “Capital City Meskia” sounds like something straight out of Valkyria Chronicles with its rousing melody. Such similarities aren’t necessarily a bad thing, however, and Sakimoto’s adherence to his trademark style didn’t prevent Romeo X Juliet being a masterpiece.
Among the highlights here, “Ishtar” is an evocative piece that showcases Sakimoto’s writing for small ensemble — in this case, piano, harp and strings. The slightly more exuberant “Confession ~In the Dream~” is well crafted, but limited by its brevity. While “Searching Friends” sounds quite similar to Final Fantasy XII‘s “Rabanastre Downtown,” Sakimoto builds upon the folksy, down-to-earth style exhibited there to create something a step above, and it evolves even further in the silly, bouncy “A Herculean Little Girl.” “Flat People” meanwhile is notable for being a fun modern take of classic 8-bit styles — a rarity in an animation score — though it doesn’t offer too much beyond that.
Unfortunately, a large portion of The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Urak is forgettable, with a few exceptions. Moody, cinematic tracks dominate, and while they certainly work in context, outside they just begin to get grating. The eerie and mysterious “The Invitation of Succubus” is a pleasant exception, with its graceful strings. “Demon Druaga” is an enjoyable climactic track, with an interesting, albeit sparing melody, bordered by lots of filler. “As the Just One Shield” tries to compete with the aforementioned to be a satisfactory climax for the first disc and the anime’s first season, but besides for a brief appearance by the main theme, this track too is burdened with bland cinematic underscore that, while competently composed, causes the overall track to lose focus. There is also a bonus track that features Junko Ozawa’s famous main theme from the original game.
The second disc, dedicated to the second season The Tower of Druaga: The Sword of Uruk, is somehow less interesting than the first. There are very few notable tracks to speak and most, like the first disc, being moody cinematic tracks — reflecting that Sakimoto only intended the soundtrack as a supplement to complement specific scenes. “Henaro, the Frequent Visitor” is a silly track that cannot compare to its earlier counterparts, lacking their complexity, while pieces such as “Silent”, “Infiltration”, and “Soliciting” are far too brief and generic to demand stand-alone listening. These tracks are absolutely fine in context, but lack the exuberance or creativity most would expect from Sakimoto.
Once again, there are some highlights in The Tower of Druaga: The Sword of Druaga. The jungle beat of “The Sumar Woman” is a refreshing change of pace, and it balances Sakimoto’s signature style rather capably, as does the jazzy upbeat piece “Mischief”. “Struggling Scene” is yet another fun piece, featuring some synth instrumentation and percussion, that helps it stand out in an otherwise dramatic orchestral score. “The Legendary Priestess” is the only track not composed originally by Sakimoto, instead attributed to Junko Ozawa, from the original The Tower of Druaga. Sakimoto’s arrangement is within his normal boundaries, but the melody is enchanting, and he does pull it off well.
The end of the disc brings the emotional climax of the anime experience. “The Meaning of Adventure” and “Interspatial Comfort” are both piano solos, the former being more bittersweet in theme, the latter more hopeful. Neither solo compares however to “Remembrance,” courtesy of Taihei Sato, which develops and evolves over its more lengthy playtime. “The Legendary Tyrant” and “Traitors Against God” are both quite lengthy tracks, clocking in at over six minutes each. The former starts interesting, featuring some brief moments of creative usage of the anime’s main theme — one of the most impressive examples of orchestration on the disc — but starts to drag on a bit after the halfway point; thankfully “Traitors Against God” is far more engaging. The album concludes with the exciting “The Legendary Climbers,” which, while not exemplary, is a nice piece to end with.
One expects a hefty dose of familiarity when hearing any fantasy soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto. The problem with this soundtrack, compared to his sharp and focused earlier anime work on Romeo X Juliet, is that it is way too spread out. The result is a handful of decent tracks awash in a mountain of pieces that are competently composed and performed, but blatantly uninteresting out of context. This soundtrack is good as backdrop, but for attentive listening, it’s tough to hold one’s interest. Curious listeners wondering how Sakimoto handles an anime would be well advised to search out the Romeo X Juliet album instead of this, which eclipses this work in nearly every way.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Marc Friedman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.