Unchained Blades 2 Original Soundtrack
Unchained Blades 2 Original Soundtrack (UnchainBlades EXXIV Original Soundtrack)
Dog Ear Records
November 28, 2012
Buy at CDJapan
Unchained Blades 2 Original Soundtrack (or UnchainBlades EXXIV Original Soundtrack in Japan) is the soundtrack for the sequel of Unchained Blades (or UnchainBlades ReXX in Japan). Tsutomu Narita returns to compose most of the score, but here he is also helped by Nobuo Uematsu, Yoshitaka Hirota, Michio Okamiya, all members of Uematsu’s Earthbound Papas band. The album has a significant sound upgrade over the previous album in terms of synth work, though it still doesn’t have a proper orchestra. Despite this, the team is still able to create a strong JRPG soundtrack. This album does not include the vocal tracks included on UnchainBlades EXXIV Vocal Collection.
The album begins with an important recurring theme for the game, “Light and Darkness”. It is a successor to “Encounter with the Goddess” from the first game, playing a similar role and having similar instrumentation with a foreboding organ and choir, though it is also bolstered by some militaristic percussion and bells. It is apparent even here that the sound of the soundtrack has received a large upgrade since the previous soundtrack, which is great news. The samples still aren’t perfect, but their flaws are much less distracting and noticeable than with the first game. Although “Light and Darkness” doesn’t have as strong a melody, it is more listenable and sets the right tone. Other prominent themes include Uematsu’s “Regain Power”, remastered from the first soundtrack. The difference isn’t very noticeable expect in a side-by-side comparison, so it remains a decent if a bit unimpressive of a track. “Theme of UnchainBlades” is also present, but this receives a full re-arrangement, mostly keeping the same structure while bringing in the band in addition to the orchestra. It’s a nice alternate version of the theme, and the band helps especially in the more upbeat sections. Then there is “What We Obtained”, an uplifting track with a great melody and some very warm segments. It builds nicely to a strong, grandiose sound by its end, though it is otherwise not remarkable.
Other event themes include Narita’s “Triumph of Bonds”, which reprises the fanfare from the previous game but has a newly written theme following. It is composed well enough, but it doesn’t stray from the basic victory theme feel. “Laughter” is one of those very quirky themes with a wide variety of instruments in odd combinations, but it unfortunately doesn’t make for a very entertaining standalone listen. “The Path to Overcome Fate” in contrast is a very pleasant and light track with good support from the strings. It has a great lyrical melody, and Narita manages to fit in a wide range of emotion associated with adventures into this one track. “The Difference Between Destiny and Feelings” is an emotional piano and strings track. It’s a shame the strings still don’t quite hold up, but the piano does a fine job communicating the emotion while the strings support. It has a great melody and build, through the looping of the track was rather unnecessary and detracts from its climax.
A number of area tracks are also present. “The Town of Roselle” by Hirota has a bit of a tropical sound to it, though the trumpet on the main melody is not very good quality. There’s not much in the way of complexity or development either, though it has a nice atmosphere. “The Temple of the Skies” is remastered from the previous soundtrack, but again there is little noticeable difference. The track is still great, encapsulating isolation and loneliness with a gentle pace. Narita’s “Temple of Impurity” is a solid track with a strong orchestra sound. The strings and brass take turns with the accompaniment and melody, though the accompaniment figure becomes a bit tiring after some time. His “Abyss Gate” is an eerie track that is mainly just atmospheric with tense strings and ominous brass, but it is not very memorable.
Like with the previous game, a number of “Titan” tracks accompany the dungeons of the game, all composed by Narita. “Titan of Bubale” is mainly strings and percussion and isn’t too strong melodically, though it more than makes up for it with the atmosphere made from the aggressive sound of its percussion and brass contrasted with the majestic strings. “Titan of Arctos” brings back the more exotic feel from the previous soundtrack with a fantastic driving rhythm and an ethereal sound from a floating female vocal mixed with light synth and piano improvisations. Later the strings come in the make the track really grand, and the result is beautiful. “Titan of Dallis” makes a return remastered, again not too noticeably so, but this track with constantly changing rhythms and a strong rock sound is still great as it is. “Titan of Nahash” is an interesting synth rock track, using synth more prominently than in “Dallis” particularly in its really great underlying bubbling synth line. That synth line alone makes it one of the my favourite songs of the soundtrack. It sports a more laid back feel, but it still carries intensity with it. “Titan of Quito” is a softer track with a simple piano pattern, light percussion, and some synth choir and strings. It has a bit of an uplifting, heavenly feel to it that is offset by the constant percussion. A very different and neat track, especially when things completely switch up near the end, becoming simpler and more delicate. Like with the previous album, these “Titan” tracks stand out amongst the rest.
There are also a number of battle tracks and similarly upbeat songs. Hirata pens “BURST”, a synth rock track that is pretty typical, but it has a suitably strong sound. “Fight For the Master” by Okamiya is considerably edgier in sound and has more energy. It’s also pretty straightforward, but more solid. His “Protector of the Titan” brings some strings in, and while they tone down the edge they still carry a lot of intensity give the track more variety. Narita’s “Melody of the Fallen Angel” begins by focusing on choir and strings, emotional and grand, but then partway through it switches gears as the percussion comes in and urgency strikes. The sound has a lot of weight, and the composition never sticks to one idea for too long, keeping things moving along well. The culminating track is “Lord of Chaos”, a collaboration between Uematsu and Narita clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes. The electric guitars are present here from the beginning alongside the choir, orchestra and organ, before leading the way for the rest of the band. It is primarily a rock battle track with the orchestra only supporting (reminiscent of Black Mages material). While it has some cheesy moments, it also has a good, mean sound throughout and a great reduction to choir mid-way. I do wish a bit more would happen since the song only really focuses on two basic musical ideas (and the track length comes from looping), but it’s still enjoyable.
Unchained Blades 2 Original Soundtrack is a solid score, though it does feel weaker than its predecessor. The soundtrack has a better sound library throughout along with the assistance of other composers, but fewer tracks are very memorable or compelling standalone listens, though all of it functions well enough in-game. As before, Narita’s “Titan” tracks are the most interesting of the score, having great atmospheres and interesting compositions or instrumentation, while the battle tracks and other event and field themes are more generic. The remastered tracks also don’t add anything really new to the soundtrack. Fans of the game will find enough to enjoy here, but there might not be much value for others.
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Posted on March 30, 2016 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on March 30, 2016.