Valkyrie Profile -Lenneth- Arrange Album
Valkyrie Profile -Lenneth- Arrange Album
May 31, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
I’m probably one of few people that can’t enjoy the Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack a lot. I mean, it’s not bad, but I just don’t worship it like everybody else. Looking at the track list, I can say Sakuraba chose some great themes. “Fighting the Shadowy Gods,” “Hopeless Resolution,” and “Epic Tale of a Holy Death,” are amongst his choices. So, can his arrangements be as good as his track choices? As of May 31, 2006, the Valkyrie Profile Arrange Album received light remastering for its reprint, the Valkyrie Profile -Lenneth- Arrange Album, created in celebration of the PSP release of Valkyrie Profile.
Right off the bat we get a great atmospheric track. “To the Unhallowed Ground,” which was already a nice track, got even better in this arrangement. You’ll hear me saying this a lot during this review, but, the improved sound quality was incredibly beneficial to the tracks, as they now evoke even more emotions than before. The brass melody is breathtaking, just as it was on the original track, giving out a certain sense of sadness. Despite the similarities between the two themes, the transition to “The Neverending Cycle of Reincarnation” is not as good as it could have been, because, unlike “All is Twilight ~ Prosperity’s Compensation,” where both tracks have similar beginnings, these two pieces do not. Unfortunately, I never did find “The Neverending Cycle of Reincarnation” that good, so the only thing I enjoyed now was the improved sound quality and the reappearance of the theme from “To the Unhallowed Ground.” At 4:05, this theme is developed even further, with a choir and a weird wind instrument that is way too loud for its own good and percussion. The arrangement ends with the beginning of “The Neverending…” It’s a cycle that never ends. Kind of like how they put “Overture” at the end of the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack.
“Requiem to a Predicament” is one of those rare arrangements where nothing goes wrong. To be honest, the original “Requiem to a Predicament” has nothing that makes it stand out at all, so it makes sense to add another track, now, doesn’t it? At 1:05, after the title track is played, Sakuraba arranges the wonderful “Sky Gate.” This rendition blows the original version away in every way possible. This is probably one of the most intricate arrangements of the album, and one that manages to surpass the Original Soundtrack rendition. Every transition back and forth (from “Requiem…” to “Sky Gate” and vice-versa) is fantastic, and not even the weird electric guitar that appears at 3:22 ruins the track. This arrangement is simply astonishing.
“Hopeless Resolution” is easily one of my favourite Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack tracks, and I was glad to hear the arranged version, because I love the guitar and the percussion that get repeated throughout a good portion of the track. I was even happier to hear it now has some awesome new parts. The arrangement begins like the original does, but it also has some weird disc-scratching noises. It follows the original quite closely, but Sakuraba extends the part around the 1:15 mark. It goes on for a long time, and leads us to yet another improvised section, if I can call it that. After that, comes yet another original part, which features an awesome thing: at 2:24, the opening riff is played again, but due to sound engineering, it waves back and forth from both speakers. It’s a great effect. Then, after repeating the original track, at 3:53 comes a new development section, where a distorted guitars plays over the opening I love. And that opening, ironically, ends the arrangement, and, frankly, it doesn’t feel weird at all. Overall, a fantastic arrangement, that grabs a relatively underdeveloped original and extends it wonderfully, without making it lose its feeling. (10/10)
The fourth track is a medley of “All is Twilight” and “Prosperity’s Compensation” Due to the obvious similarities of both tracks, it was a nice move to arrange them together, as the whole thing would feel very cohesive. Beginning with a slower, and a bit sombre, arrangement of “All is Twilight,” we are treated to a choir throughout a good portion of it, as opposed to its appearance on the latter half of the Original Soundtrack version. Although there are slight differences between the two renditions of the track, I have to say the arranged version is a whole lot better because of the sound quality. At 1:56, it transitions to “Prosperity’s Compensation,” and the way it is handled gives the impression that is only one track, instead of two. But, instead of being simply a re-instrumentation of the track, Sakuraba adds a new flute passage that is wonderful. Unlike other arrangements on the album, the new passage actually resembles the track. After going back to “All is Twilight” at 3:35, we are treated to a more delicate version of it at 4:08; with just a flute and a xylophone, it ends this way, very mysteriously.
Moving to the fifth track, I refuse to call this track “Fighting the Shadowy Gods.” I simply do. When I first learned its name, it was called “Unfinished Battle With God Syndrome,” and let’s face it, it sounds a whole lot better than “Fighting…” I really like the original track, and I think it happens to be one of Sakuraba’s best battle themes. There’s no way a great melody and a nice development can go wrong. While the Original Soundtrack version had a trumpet playing the melody, this rendition is much more diverse. After the beginning, which is similar to the original’s, a flute, accompanied by nothing more than some electronic noises, plays the first part of the melody, before passing it on to synth. The development and everything feels like the original, except for the part where the strings were used. Now it’s a quiet little choir way in the background. At 1:45, however, comes a whole new original part, with an awesome bass ostinato and a short melody that leads us back to the flute melody of the beginning of the arrangement. But instead of playing the thing and disappearing, it now plays the theme twice, the second time, with a great beat to accompany it. The track is developed like the usual for last time, and it ends in a rather sudden manner. Although the ending is the track’s actual ending, the fact is that the original composition is meant to loop. But on the arranged version, all it does is connect the final part of the composition to a weird end that does more bad than good.
I can imagine the “The Name of His People is Fear” arrangement turning a few heads. While the original was definitely militaristic in nature, this arrangement, in the beginning, opts for a near-solemn feeling, with a choir and an organ underneath it. There’s also a bit of electronica, and that reminds me of Vagrant Story‘s great cathedral music. However, soon after, more percussion is added, and then some strings. Now it’s starting to become a bit more like the original. With the brass, you can be sure that the original’s feeling will not be lost. That is, until 2:13, when it suddenly changes completely, and features only a saxophone and electronica, which is a really, really bad addition. It all sounds so random, and not Sakuraba’s style at all. Unfortunately, it comes back at 4:35 to compliment what the brass is playing. The arrangement ends the way it started, with some electronic noises only. This is quite a weird one.
The positioning of “Epic Tale of a Holy Death” in the latter half of the CD puzzles me. This is the Original Soundtrack’s first piece, and it is such a nice theme that I wonder why it’s not the first track here. Another thing my simple mind can’t comprehend is why this track wasn’t arranged like all the others, because it’s simply a remake of the original track, but with better sound quality. There’s nothing else to complain about it, because it’s even more breathtaking than the original, thanks to the better sound quality. The choir and the harp are quite the mood-setters, and the strings add an amazing amount of depth to an otherwise empty track. There’s not a lot I can say without sounding repetitive, but this track is fantastic. I can’t qualify it as an arrangement in the same league as the rest of this album, but for what it’s worth, it’s wonderful. I based the track’s score on the simple fact that the improved sound quality makes for an impressive listening experience, which cannot be missed.
Moving on to “Distortions in the Void of Despair”, I can’t understand how this cool piece is supposed to represent the godforsaken distortions in the nightmarish void of dark despair. Featuring an awesome distortion guitar and lots of synth, this arrangement is every bit as cool as the original track, and much more, because, obviously, it’s a lot more than the Original Soundtrack version. Being almost 2.5 times longer, this rendition has a lot to offer, from the spiced up original to a huge new section that spans a bit more than a minute. From the beginning up to 1:36, it’s just a cool arrangement of the original track. Then, for a brief while, we’re treated to an awesome improvised passage on synth, which is followed by a mellower guitar section. The only thing I dislike about this arrangement is the following part, which is simply a heavily distorted guitar strumming. The way it sounds is awful, but thankfully we go right back to the original track. And, like pretty much every other arrangement, it suddenly ends. If it weren’t for the weird strumming guitar section, this arrangement would have become just as good as “Hopeless Resolution.”
One of the few stinkers here, “A Chamber of the Heart” is exactly the kind of composition I abhor: too much droning without anything interesting going on. It sounds very pretty, but that’s about it. It’s slow (it has strings, of course, like every ambience theme I’ve heard), with inappropriate percussion use at times, and, more importantly, it’s just too empty for me. There are the occasional parts I like, like the trumpet playing a melody at 1:49, for example, or the fast-paced violin runs after the brass does its job. And there’s a really creepy part in the end that scares me a bit. At 4:48, you can hear some weird breathing sounds and when you’re a scaredy cat like me, this will not make you feel well at all. This arrangement has not impressed me at all, because it failed to keep me interested. The original isn’t so hot either, but, hey, it’s not 5 minutes long.
“To the Last Drop of My Blood” sounds like it’s a battle theme, and if it is, I have to say it’s a bit underrated. The arrangement, like everything else, is quite similar to its Original Soundtrack counterpart, and this is a good thing. It has a very upbeat melody, played by Sakuraba’s trademark synth keyboard. After all that, it’s a bit strange to find it transitioning to such a quiet part, which is the “Recurrent Shudders” of the title. After some weird noises that mark the beginning of the track, Sakuraba opts to use synth just like in “To the Last Drop of My Blood,” so that both can be integrated a bit better. This was a smart decision, seeing that it sounds a lot better this way. What’s even better is that the transition from “Recurrent Shudders” to “To the Last Drop of My Blood” is flawless. I am not exaggerating, it’s perfect. Now, up until 4:47, it’s all upbeat. But, from that moment up to the end, the arrangement becomes very simple. This ending was anything but satisfactory, because all of a sudden the track changes completely, and to something much worse. Had it ended with something from “To the Last Drop of My Blood,” it would have been a better experience.
I don’t like the original “Valhalla.” The constant arpeggios in the background drive me nuts, and the whole thing sounds really messy. In this arrangement, some features still sound messy, but at least the arpeggios were greatly reduced, appearing only in the beginning and in the end, which is already a huge improvement over the original. However, the strings used throughout the track give the arrangement a very dramatic tone, especially at 2:08, when they play the main melody, accompanied by slow taps on cymbals. It’s one of my favourite parts of this rendition, because it’s atmospheric, and, unlike the beginning, doesn’t sound bad. This review is one of those rare times you’ll read me complaining about synth. It’s obvious that compositional quality has nothing to do with sound quality, but when the latter is bad, it hampers the enjoyment of the former. I’m sure I would enjoy this arrangement a lot more if the choir sounded better. That’s probably my only qualm with it. Other than that, this arrangement is top notch, and has quickly become one of my favourites. From the hauntingly beautiful choir passages (despite the mess) to the amazing string parts, I can see nothing else wrong.
The album closes with “Becoming Accustomed to Happiness”. I can swear Sakuraba re-used the beginning of this track on the Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Original Soundtrack Vol. 1. I don’t remember the piece, but it’s definitely the same. Up until 0:25, it sounds like Sakuraba pulled an “Epic Tale of a Holy Death” (the only difference between the arrangement and the original track is the sound quality, which is much better on the new version), but then you’ll hear the percussion, and will notice it’s a great addition, keeping the track a bit livelier. At 1:19 comes a great part: a music box plays a bit of the melody, accompanied by nothing but a harp. Unfortunately, the transition back to the original track is as gentle as a punch in the face, and makes you go “Huh?” Luckily for us, the music box comes back at the 2 minute mark, accompanied by percussion and some weird wind noises. Another section of the arrangement is based on this new part, with a ‘cello making for a very interesting bit that feels completely different from the title. As usual, the piece is developed like the original, but it ends in the most majestic manner: with a choir singing the melody, and then suspended strings, leaving the listener bewildered. (9/10)
Sakuraba seems to follow the exact same steps in these arrangements. First of all, there is the beginning, then, a developed section similar to that of the Original Soundtrack’s is heard. Following this is a new passage, a repetition or recapitulation, and an end section. It’s a bit tiring hearing the same formula over and over again, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, there are several great arrangements in this album, like “Hopeless Resolution,” “Distortions in the Void of Despair,” “Valhalla,” “Becoming Accustomed to Happiness” and “Requiem for a Predicament,” for example. Despite some of them being too similar to the Original Soundtrack version, everyone can still easily enjoy them.
If you’re a Valkyrie Profile fan, it’s your obligation to get this album. It has great tracks being arranged in different styles, and being from Sakuraba, and not being from a Tales game, you can be sure it’s good. Just look beyond the flaws and you’re guaranteed a good time. But, if you want to know a bit more about Sakuraba and his work, I’ll say what I always say: get anything related to Star Ocean -The Second Story-, except the Star Ocean -The Second Story- Fantasy Megamix Album, because it was done by someone else. Those albums are a wonderful display of Sakuraba’s work.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Eduardo Friedman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.