Valkyrie Profile Voice Mix Arrange
Valkyrie Profile Voice Mix Arrange
First Smile Entertainment
June 21, 2000
Buy at Otaku
The concept behind Valkyrie Profile Voice Mix Arrange is uncommon yet simple: mixing in-game voice acting with arranged music. It has given birth to a most controversial game music soundtrack that was “epoch-making at the time”, according to its composer, Motoi Sakuraba.
I’m seeing your face now… What to expect when listening to such an work? Pseudo-singing? A mayhem of random voices? Some special sort of drama album? Let me get deeper into the voice mix arrangement and review each track with the attention it deserves.
First of all, though, all you Valkyrie Profile gamers won’t hear any English voice acting in this album. The vocal material is spoken in its original form, Japanese. Thus, having a good knowledge of that language is obviously better if you want to fully enjoy the soundtrack, since the use of every quote has a precise meaning. I’m not good enough to understand everything that is said (especially with these added FXs that make the voices distorted — as if it wasn’t hard enough to understand them), but I can get enough of it to fathom what is going on on each track.
1) Requiem to a Predicament ~ Negative Roots
The very start of the album sounds almost Baroque-oriented, with the familiar tune of “Requiem to a Predicament” played on an harpsichord. Quickly, the first voice of the album can be heard. Lenneth Valkyrie calls her companions to battle: “Shi no, saki wo yuku mono-tachi yo! / To my side, my noble Einherjar!”. At first, the voice sounds distants and feeble, then, as voices from other characters start to gather around her voice, it becomes more firm and the background instrumentation grows in strength. At one point, all the energies have reached their apogee and the transition to the second part of the track is made as Lenneth commands “Ide yo! / Come forth!”, unleashing the introduction to “Negative Roots”.
That rush gives more room to instrumental action at first, with a solid, rockin’ arrangement featuring, where a dreamy synth pad replaces the original flute, and gives the melody much more appeal. Lenneth’s voice is heard from time to time, still urging the warriors to fight by her side in the middle of action. At 2:48, the “Requiem…” theme comes back to mark a pause in the middle of the fight. This time, the harpsichord is accompanied by a violin and low drums. These elements, as well as the male voices talking about death, add more gravity to the scene while Lenneth continues to summon more warriors. The drums get louder and louder, and another “Ide yo!” switches back to the dungeon theme, this time shorter, and with even more battlecries. Eventually, “Requiem…” is played for the last time but Lenneth’s voice disappears, leaving two isolated voices: a man in great pain and a surprised girl.
I think this track constitutes a good, striking introduction that starts the story where it should. However, it isn’t the best representative of the voice/music pairings that can be found on this album.
2) Ancient Fantasies ~ A Hollow Heart
The pace of this arrangement has been slowed down compared to the original “Ancient Fantasies”, and the leading instrument has been replaced by synth strings, so that it protrudes better. On the whole, it still sounds very similar. That same little girl’s voice (most probably Nanami) is asking for Valkyrie to wait for her. The volume and reverb of her voice changes to simulate it becoming more and more distant. Freya’s voice is leading, sounding as self-confident and direct as Lenneth was in the previous track. Their alternating voices coupled with fast synth percussions makes me think about the runs my party did into the game’s vast dungeons.
The second part of the track starts as the first reaches its maximum level of tension. The brisk beat of “Ancient Fantasies” is maintained while the quiet mood of “A Hollow Heart” gradually sets in with Freya’s reassuring voice. As the beat becomes more regular, words are repeated again and again in the background, as if Freya was trying to hypnotize us. This arranged version has a nice soothing effect that is used quite well as a break between two dungeon sessions.
The track ends with the second reprise of “Ancient Fantasies”, using the very same quotes as the first one. At one point, a few words (“Waga na – Jougen no Shinri / My name – The Extend of Truth”) are looped in the background while Freya continues talking. It is the beginning of the end: obsessional chaos seems to set in as layered voices endlessly repeat the same words…
3) The Crumbling Id
The confusion induced at the end of the previous track couldn’t have been better to introduce the ominous tone of “The Crumbling Id”. A gigantic, very low noise lurks in the background, as dark sweeping pads and hard drums produce a feeling of despair. The prevailing mood here is anguish; I feel like I’m looking down at a bottomless pit, at something impossible to fathom for me as a human being.
The voices used in this track reflect that state of mind. Sakuraba illustrates “The Crumbling Id” with cries and supplications of a young man (“Ore no negai kanaete kure! / Please grant my wish!”) while a girl is bursting into tears in the background. Her sobbing is emphasized by a strong reverb effect, which gives the impression that her voice is overwhelming the soundscape from all directions. The resulting atmosphere is gloomy, intimidating, and almost physically disturbing, as we don’t expect the album to take this sinister turn at all after the first two action-based tracks. This is precisely where it really starts to be interesting: it’s getting closer to the drama genre, but still has a strong musical dimension behind.
Note that this track is rather short and ends abruptly with a few piano notes. Was it all an illusion?
4) To the Unhallowed Ground
By hearing the very first seconds, we know we’re back into electronic action. After a few listens, I’m still wondering what the aim of this track might be. We’re provided with a hardly recognizable electronic arrangement of the memorable introduction theme of the game. This version has a minimalist harmony, and focuses primarily on the use electronic samples and the building of a danceable rhythm. The impression of being in a nightclub is all the stronger as most of the voices are combat taunts of female characters. Nothing astounding here.
5) Out of Chaos
“Out of Chaos” starts quietly, on a low and suspenseful tone. As Arngrim’s self-confident voice introduces us to the heart of the track, warlike synth drums enter the stage to play a primitive rhythm. The voice gets distorted, and the track takes off after a final and provocative sentence (“Huh… taoreru made kirikizamu dake yo / Huh… Just a matter of carving you up till you die”). This arrangement relies mostly on sweeping synths and bass used to create a hectic and surreal atmosphere. Arngrim’s reassuring male voice fits rather well in that context. After two loops, the track ends abruptly on his “special attack” taunt: “Teme no kao wo miaki ta ze / I’ve seen enough of your face”. Simple yet quite good.
6) Booze on a Moonlight Night
“Booze on a Moonlight Night” is the first track of the album that has been exclusively composed for it. It’s also the first track of the album to have such a nonchalant atmosphere: the four same chords are repeated from the beginning to the end, backed by slow drum loops quite similar to what can be heard in rap music. In the meantime, you can hear all the male badasses of the game enjoying themselves. Their inebriation is simulated throughout the track by several elements: the pitch of their voice frequently deepening all of a sudden, the oneiric feel given by the sound of the main synth, the reassuring — almost effeminate — appearance of saxophone solos, the drums sounding heavier and heavier as time passes by… Sakuraba succeeds in building a thorough and realistic picture of your generic tavern, late at night, clouded with smoke and full of tired warriors looking for comfort into alcohol and women.
7) The First Unison
There’s something hypnotizing about the buildup that introduces this track. The main percussion loop seems like giant machinery put in motion. The way the motif created by all the instruments alternates between ascending and descending motif creates a sound disturbingly close to something that emulates a giant breathing. This organic aspect is reinforced by a few “fat” synth notes added at key-moments in the main loop. Behind this monstrous sound, a man — most probably Gandar — can be heard. His voice is as confident as the machinery’s motion is unstoppable. He’s the main character, and his laugh is the trigger to the body of this track.
The main melody is quite special: if you imagine it without the percussion, and with a slower tempo, it sounds like a very sad melody. However, forcing its rhythm to a dungeon-compliant pace makes it sound tragic and determined at the same time. According to the quotes that have been chosen, I think that’s exactly how the character is like. The dramatic bridge of this track introduces a few battlecries, as well as a quote that will be heard until the end of the track: “Ore wa ore no tame ni ikiru / I live for my own sake”. The mechanical drums of the beginning appear again, with this sentence looping in the background. As the end approaches, techno drums, a synth flute, and the man’s voice participate in the final buildup.
I must say that “The First Unison” is the first track that left a totally positive impression on me, because it sounds more elaborated and deeper in meaning than the previous others.
8) Confidence in the Domination
Those who already know the Original Soundtrack will quickly notice that the pace of this famous piece of music has been dramatically slowed down, and doesn’t sound like a battle track anymore. It’s as if it has been stretched to offer enough room to paste sentences inside. A few voice effects have also been added to the backing percussion, including male gruntings; at least that’s fun to listen to! I’m not very convinced about this one, mostly because I can barely stand its nonsensical new pace. Seriously, it’s such a sluggish battle theme… *nays*
9) Heads Magic, Tails Curse
“Heads Magic, Tails Curse” starts with a nice piano solo introducing the soothing voice of Lenneth, with chirpings in the background. I’m not sure about what the latter are supposed to represent (Birds? Shooting stars? The world of dead spirits?) but they surely add something to the serene, almost oneiric atmosphere of this introduction. It doesn’t last long, however. As Valkyrie invites us — almost intimately — to follow her (“Isshioni ikimasho / Let’s go together”), the dream ends… and the second part literally bursts in.
Now is that a nightmare or harsh reality? The contrast with the introduction is extremely violent, and we’re surrounded all of a sudden by dissonant brass, berserk strings, and aggressive percussion. One thing is certain; what we’re facing now outclasses human scale. Lenneth’s last words resonate again, yet they are deformed. She sounds heartless, almost commanding. The metaphor is now much clearer; this track illustrates what happens to every character of the game, whose soul is taken at the moment of their death to become an Einherjar, a warrior spirit. From that moment on, their existence is dedicated to fighting demons along with Lenneth, hence that frightening and endless second part.
The conclusion to this track is some kind of flashback to the initial piano and chirping mood, focusing on one of the sentences Lenneth said at the beginning: “Tasuke… tasukeru towa ittai. Dono yo na koto o sase / To save… to save somebody eternally. What kind of thing do you make me do?”. Brilliant.
10) Circulate on a Windup Doll
This track is a short interlude on the CD, summing up the fight with the dreadful Genevieve. The villain’s taunts and laughs can be heard all over the arranged version of her own battle theme, featuring a cool organ improvisation in its second part. As expected, the track ends with a “oh no, I’m defeated!” verbose line, as well as a great organ/violin finale. I don’t think it would have been better if it were longer.
11) The Nonsense of Reality
It all begins with one of these “ultimate showdown” moods: a monster’s distorted voice responding to a man’s determined voice, the whole being backed my a massive church organ toccata and electric guitar riffs. It all becomes weird when you realize that both voices are saying the same words.
The toccata ends at the 1:11 mark to make place for the body of the track; the fight between the man and his deformed self, incarnated by an rousing arrangement in the tradition of Sakuraba’s epic prog-rock style. Battlecries and imprecations are well-integrated this time, both in terms of timing and volume. “The Nonsense of Reality” is the most energetic and epic track of the album. But while its form is very accessible, its contents don’t reach great depths.
12) Evil Tales and Obligations
The first thing one should notice is how the oriental flavour of the original version has been enhanced — and its boorishness put aside — to make the track actually enjoyable. The basic percussion use is still the same, but the samples have greatly improved, and the bass line can now be almost labelled as sexy. Last but not least, the Arabian flute that appears here and there adds a twisted touch to this restless atmosphere. The main character’s voice is accompanied by an harpsichord, illustrating its refined cruelty. You’ve guessed it, the guest star of “Evil Tales and Obligations” is no less than everyone’s favourite necromancer Lezard Valeth! In this track, his evil laughs and his disgustingly confident voice are resonating through the hallways of his tower, reaching our ears as we struggle to reach the summit. A true tribute to evil!
13) Through a Thin Haze
Staying faithful to the game’s spirit, the album continues on a tragic note, representing the death of a hero, illustrated by a grand orchestration of “Through a Thin Haze”. More than that, if you succeed in getting into the track, the added voices will find their way to your heart, as they are cleverly used along with the intensity of the music.
A woman’s soft voice enters the scene, talking to someone: “Ne, isshou ni iko yo / Come on, let’s go together”. At one point, her voice becomes tainted with sadness (“Koko ni kure wa anata no ibashio kanjirarerumono / This sunset is something that makes me feel where you are”), and we suddenly understand that the person she’s talking to is no more. She continues to supplicate (“Shini takunai! / Don’t die!”) until she bursts out crying as the orchestra reaches its climax. A beautiful violin and piano interlude follows to back her silent mourning. After that, a strident noise can be heard as pain and fear rush back to her, triggering another burst of tears. Finally, church bells come in after a last orchestral climax, to add a solemn touch to this moving scene.
I’d place this track at the same level as “Epic Tale of a Holy Death” from the arranged album. However, I’m conscious of its hit-or-miss nature; these sobbings and cryings can be considered as annoying and ridiculous as I find them adequate. All is a question of believing in what is happening.
14) Bloody Panic
“Bloody Panic” is the second exclusive composition of this album. This one sounds like an ancestor of boorish Gothic metal songs, with its apocalyptic synths and its deep intimidating groans (“Osore, uyamae… waga na ha Bloodbane! / Fear me, worship me… I am Bloodbane!”). At one point, a piano pops in to play a few minor notes that sound like they’ve been directly taken from these awful 4-seconds-long loops used in cheap rap music. A few measures later, the track switches back to distorted guitars and Bloodbane’s growlings to finish on his long-awaited death. Nothing really interesting here; even if you happen to like that kind of music, I’m sure there are better incarnations than this one out there.
15) The Road to Glory and Prosperity
What would be better than the victory tune played at the end of each chapter to conclude this album? This orchestral arrangement is very enjoyable, though rather close to the original version. While the fanfare plays, a small girl’s voice can be heard, encouraging us to go on with the adventure (“Watashi wa makenai / I’ll never give up”, “Watashi o mamori kudasai / Please protect me”). The track concludes after the last cymbal hit, with Lenneth’s words “Shiawase ni narimasu yo / I wish you happiness”. In my opinion, the track is well-placed but the arranging and voicing effort hasn’t been taken very far. It constitutes a decent ending nonetheless.
I must say that when starting this review, I had a strong prejudice against the album, having read a couple of negative reviews. However, I hadn’t gone through a real listen until I decided to review it. Believe it or not, I ended up extremely satisfied by this musical experience.
What exactly is Valkyrie Profile Voice Mix Arrange, then? First of all, its musical material consists of arranged tracks, plus two new ones that don’t belong to the Original Soundtrack. But music shouldn’t be the main subject of interest here. What makes this album special are the added voices from all the characters of the game. Valkyrie Profile being extremely rich and deep terms of voice acting, what you’ll hear won’t be only digitalized battlecries; the chosen quotes cover a broad emotional spectrum.
I think that people who listen to that album as any other work that can be played as background entertainment are quickly fed up with it because these voices don’t stop begging for their attention. Indeed, it is especially difficult to focus on something else, since the voice acting is done well enough for everyone to be able to grasp the emotions of the characters. I’d say the best approach would be to “live” the album as an orchestrated series of plays, rather than a series of musical pieces with voices over them. The spirit of Sakuraba’s work will appear by itself when you consider the characters as the centre of interest of each track. Note that it is not the same as a drama album either, because music is way more than background material.
Should I advise you to get it? It all depends on whether you’re a speedy “background listener” or if you are patient enough to actually listen to an album without doing anything else at the same time. One thing is sure, however : the targeted audience is definitely those who are familiar with the game and its story. Having played and enjoyed Valkyrie Profile for at least a dozen hours is highly recommended before you try and listen to the album.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Zeugma. Last modified on August 1, 2012.