Valkyrie Profile -Lenneth- Original Soundtrack
Valkyrie Profile -Lenneth- Original Soundtrack
March 1, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
Motoi Sakuraba had it fairly easy in 1999. It was understandable considering his huge effort in Star Ocean -The Second Story-. But things changed in 2000 when tri-Ace asked him to compose one more time for their newest game, Valkyrie Profile. So with his new found fame from earlier scores, he accepted and, though not known at the time, composed one of his most cherished soundtracks to date. He used similar sound equipment to the last time he worked at the company, and with the help of previous collaborator, Hiroya Hatsushiba, as the sound programmer, it looked like everything was going according to plan. Did he succeed? Of course. Often praised by Sakuraba fanatics as one of his more diverse works, the fans weren’t let down by his efforts, boosting his reputation and showing them that he wasn’t just another composer.
As of March 2006, the Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack received light remastering for its reprint, the Valkyrie Profile -Lenneth- Original Soundtrack, created in celebration of the release of the PSP version of Valkyrie Profile.
It always seems that Sakuraba composes the appropriate introductory track for the spirit of the album. The bombastic outcome in “Silent the Universe” on the Star Ocean -The Second Story- Original Soundtrack was so true to the personality of the game, and I was hoping for much the same in his latest beauty. Of course, my expectations were exceeded when my ears first heard “Epic Tale to a Holy Death.” Much more appealing than his Star Ocean -The Second Story- counterpart, Sakuraba once more focuses his attention on his ever so developing orchestral style, but rather the emotional side instead of the loud area which we have heard so many times in the past. The theme is simply beautiful, flowing in the most impressive way; it creates profound imagery to represent the Valkyries of Valhalla, and the choir and the harp do this by hinting a sense of holiness and divinity, emphasised further by the addition and progression of the strings. Thus, when everything is heard as one, we get a truly magnificent work of art that is sure to remain a favorite on this album. “Take a Flight” manages to transfer flawlessly from the previous track, with a similar calm holy effect, but ends up being something completely different in technique. It is the first of many compositions to have a progressive rock touch and it fits perfectly well after the godliness of “Epic Tale of Holy Death.”
The soundtrack, quite easily told, is dominated by the wondrous amount of active and upbeat tracks, separated into battle and dungeon compositions. Though it may be quite hard to pick out which of these pieces are used in battle, they without doubt have more energy in comparison to dungeon pieces. “Turn over a New Leaf” isn’t one of these compositions, but it gets you pumped for the battle up ahead. Swarmed by symphonic exquisiteness and jeopardy, it gives you an early orchestral interpretation of the energy within most of the rock tunes. The horn sounds very complete in harmony with the strings, as if they were meant to belong to one another; I can’t imagine the track’s success without the use of this instrument. That aside, “Fighting the Shadowy Gods” is a testament to Sakuraba’s strength in composing battle tracks. The raw intense power, while not nearly as comparable to “Stab the Sword of Justice” from Star Ocean -The Second Story-, is inspiring and well put to use. The composer, in the past, tends to create sorrowful action sequences, but he replaces sorrow with hope here, managing to succeed without trouble. The instrumentation isn’t too different from previous ventures with one instrument (in this case, the trumpet) playing the main melody, followed by the addition of the same instrument as a harmony to support the primary theme; after leaving the chorus, this turns into a short break before entering a catchy bridge that loops back towards the beginning of the theme. Simple? Yes. Effective? Definitely. The boss battle is also very well done, and also a very (in future) well known piece. “Confidence in the Domination” is a rare kind. It’s especially repetitive yet remains exceptional and enjoyable throughout the entire track. Synths play a major role by emulating an electric guitar, and the composition is clever, building into a climax in just 45 seconds and then keeping at that peak for the length of the entire track. It certainly is an addictive addition to the album.
Fast or slow, upbeat or brooding, the dungeon tracks come in all lengths and styles. For sure, these are the most dominating additions on the album and Sakuraba isn’t afraid to make a bold statement about their presence. “Grieving ~ Eternal Hydrogen” is a must hear. Yielding a harpsichord, flute, and drums, Sakuraba creates a most vigorous theme, yet resembles something from a wildwest movie. His use of the flute sounds very mystical over the heavy drums and saintly choir, and creates a sense of anticipation which seems necessary to continue the Original Soundtrack. “Distortions in the Void of Despair” is another driving dungeon theme, and, put side to side with the abovementioned, this one is unique. Sakuraba actually adds some distortion and wave effects on the electric guitar. The effect will sound ‘in place’ for the introduction, but when it returns at the end, some unpleasant cacophony occurs, though it intelligently stays true to what the title of the track refers to. “Hopeless Resolution” is a heavy guitar-inspired piece. The chords played by the instrument don’t really change or vary, but the synth, added latter, tends to compensate this issue with no problems. The only problem that this track might present is that it could get awfully repetitive, awfully fast, but I think the large majority of people will enjoy it at the least. “Unstable Balance” is a more ambient dungeon theme, and it establishes a good atmosphere that is almost spine-chilling. Good use was made with the militaristic drums that helps invoke the eerie effect perfectly, though an honorable mention should go to the indistinct choir and the mysterious qualities of the harp. Beyond this, the composer tends to be pretty flexible in style when composing these themes, ranging from the beat- and terror-filled “Evil Tales and Obligations” to the oriental flavor in “Clouds of Spray.” Talking about the latter, for many, it stands out as a brilliant creation. I must say that I whole heartedly agree with them. The whole piece is composed well, as the melody is addictive and the instruments are well chosen, a recipe for success.
The soft beatific side isn’t often present on either disc (though the first CD contains a lot more poignant themes), but when shown, it seems like a whole new side of the Original Soundtrack. Apart from “Epic Poem to a Sacred Death,” “Valhalla” is the first holy emotional composition. We know that Sakuraba loves to take full advantage of his voice samples, and, as evident in this track, the quality of the samples are amazing, even surpassing his sampling work in on the Star Ocean -The Second Story- Original Soundtrack. The choir is so excellent that you can actually make out lyrics, even though they aren’t supposed to be there. For the music itself, it is angelic, as represented by the funeral bells, light flute, light orchestration, hollow drums, and the baroque approach with the harpsichord. Now that you feel like you’re floating on an airy cloud, you’ll need to recharge the holy feeling, and that’s what “All is Twilight” and “Prosperity’s Compensation: An Introduction” does. Paired together, these pieces are dark immense mood turners. “All is Twilight” is the more saintly of the two. I can imagine being under the midnight moonlight, staring at the star-filled sky as this tune is played in the distance. It is soothing and touching due to the way the guitar plays so slowly over the soft strings and choir, while the harp and music box share this role too. The track’s partner can completely swing your frame of mind depending on how you were when listening to “All is Twilight.” More experimental, darker, but otherwise similar, “Prosperity’s Compensation: An Introduction” would still be classed as pious, because it can sound very righteous at times, though mostly dark and partly industrial.
Some of the better ‘light’ themes are the ones that have something really special about them. “In Water, Air, and Light” is possibly the “Clouds of Spray” of the innocent side of the album, as it has the same ethnic or oriental touch that made the dungeon track so special. The composition is actually repetitive and it doesn’t really shine until the last few seconds, but it is beautiful nonetheless. “When a Person Changes” utilizes almost the same chorus as “Sacred Song,” composed for the Star Ocean -The Second Story- Original Soundtrack, which was, without question, a real standout in terms of both sound quality and creativity. While the result isn’t nearly as satisfying in the Valkyrie Profile track, it still manages to flow freely from its chorus to its instrumental sections. “Weeping Lillies” is the happiest track, and for an album surrounded by sad or action themes, this may be the only chance for you to reminisce peacefully on your adventure before the end. I just love how the composer used the harp and the female chorus to represent the valley, as well as the trendy addition of the flute to emphasise an happy effect, but the transition felt somewhat awkward when entering after an action piece. “Through a Thin Haze,” “Behave Irrationally,” and “A Chamber of the Heart” are all considered to be partners, as they have similar instrumentation (music box and strings) and all have almost identical structures. The best out of the three is definitely “Behave Irrationally,” due to it clearly having the most thought and power. It sounds so effortless, yet its beauty is too powerful for expression.
Sakuraba Ending themes on this album can’t live up to the standards met on his previous score with tri-Ace, as he fails to a make point that the end is coming; however, the tracks are nothing but pure distinction from their start to end. The first conclusive track is “The Neverending Cycle of Reincarnation,” a short but to-the-point composition. It takes some time to get interesting, as the first part isn’t exactly amazing, but overall, I feel that the orchestration is near-perfect and the utilization of the choir towards the end is a great addition. “Turn Over a New Leaf (Rhythm Version)” is an arrangement of the original theme on the beginning of the album. This version isn’t as special because it lost most of the elegant power that the original had, in place of a rhythm which is kind of disappointing. “The True Nature of All” seems totally out of place considering it is an action track and it’s placed just before the ending theme. Despite that, the actual composition is pretty decent; that is, nothing spectacular, but it serves its purpose. That said, we are now presented with the ending theme of the Original Soundtrack, “Becoming Accustomed to Happiness.” I was actually quite disappointed at first with this theme. Since the track didn’t have an ending (it just looped back to the near start); it just took the magic of the theme away after I listened to it. In other words, it didn’t feel very complete and I wasn’t satisfied completely. But after reconsidering and analyzing further, I discovered that the amount of beautiful features and arranging style could easily overshade the problem. The whole theme is orchestral with the flute, choirs, and horns playing the most prominent roles, and are supported a great deal by the harp and symphonic strings. It may not be another “We Form in Crystals,” but it’s unquestionably another worthy ending composition by Sakuraba. The next section features some of the composer’s tracks from his work on the Star Ocean -The Second Story- Original Soundtrack. Not too sure why he included them, but luckily they are some of the good tracks from the acclaimed album.
For many of his fans, this is the most complete work by Sakuraba, and after listening to such a gem, I wholeheartedly agree. You get everything from this album including driving battle sequences, the intense dungeon themes, and sweeping emotional compositions, plus a large amount of miscellaneous themes, all guaranteed to keep you interested from “Epic Tale to a Holy Death” to “Nostalgia into Hope.” But one must consider the album’s downfalls and some of them can be a devastating blow to your choice in purchasing it. Since you have the same team behind Star Ocean -The Second Story- behind this game, the synth and sound quality is almost identical to each other (with a few upgrades here and there), which can be a good thing and bad thing. If you didn’t like the sampling used on the soundtrack to Star Ocean -The Second Story-, then in no way would you enjoy the quality in this album. Also, the vast amount of active dungeon themes might not be appealing if you are the type who likes soothing and relaxing music. Concluding, the track listings weren’t very well compiled nor were they thought out smoothly. It could have helped if the dungeon and battle themes were spread out a little across the album.
But if you can overcome these slight problems, then why not lunge ahead and search around for a copy of this magnificent album. Trust me, this Original Soundtrack will be on top of your game music collection for years and years to come.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Harry Simons. Last modified on August 1, 2012.