Ar tonelico III's hymmnos albums continue to move in a direction that no one would have guessed they'd go based on the first two hymmnos CDs (and, perhaps, not even the second two would have clued us in).
Side Red features everyone you know and love from previous hymmnos albums, minus Akiko Shikata. Haruka Shimotsuki and Noriko Mitose are on this disc. So are Rekka Katakiri, Haruka Togawa, and many others. The full list of vocalists for this album is pretty daunting, in fact. A lot of people participated.
What makes this album unique is that it is simultaneously the most experimental and least experimental album in the hymmnos series to date. Least, because many songs on this album rely on well-developed popular music genres in Japan and internationally. Most, because it's the only album in the hymmnos series to drop the ethnic/world sound in favor of something different.
To be honest, two of my favorite tracks on the album are the two instrumental pieces, which bookend the album: "Grow" and "Glow." These two pieces remind me most of what Ar tonelico is all about: a strange and wonderful blend of "natural" sounds with the hard-as-stone mechanical sounds. A violin goes against the metal orchestral bells in the same way a bird chirping goes against the sound of a clock ticking. This is what has always made the Ar tonelico series' music beautiful to me.
So what's the deal with tracks like EXEC_CUTYPUMP, with all its screamo-rock mixed with sugar-sweet techno-pop? For Gust, this is quite experimental, but frankly, I can't stand it.
There are still some decent vocal tracks on the album. "EXEC_ViiBaCi_MjiiRa/." reminds me of "Misya extracting" from the first Ar tonelico. It uses a lot of the same instruments, and the chant vocals are strong throughout the entire piece. When the tempo picks up in the second half of the piece, my ears always perk up. This is a good track, though perhaps not good enough to warrant a purchase on its own. You'll catch more of this style in a few sections of the other tracks, such as at the end of XaaaCi (track 9), but it's not enough to satisfy people who wanted something that we could call a natural evolution from the first two games' hymmnos albums.
I think that's about all I can say about this particular hymmnos album. It's very very different from all the previous albums, and as to whether or not you should buy it...? Well, don't let the series rest on its laurels. Take into account what I've said here and listen to the audio samples. Maybe you'll enjoy the style more than I have, but I have to admit that I am just slightly disappointed with this album.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann