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Symphonic Poem Dragon Slayer ~ The Legend of Heroes

[back cover]
Catalog Number: KICA-1101
Released On: March 25, 1992
Composed By: Sound Team JDK
Arranged By: Tamiya Terashima
Published By: King Records
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 1 CD
Tracklist:

01 - Chapter 1: Iselhaus ~ The Legend of Heroes
     - Opening
02 - Chapter 2: Town
03 - Chapter 3: The Prince's Departure
     - Field
     - Battle
     - Dungeon
     - Event Clear
04 - Chapter 4: The Sacred District
     - Castle
     - The Word of God
05 - Chapter 5: The Riddle of Iselhaus
     - Ship
     - Dragon
     - Neargead Castle
06 - Chapter 6: And the Legend of Heroes
     - Ending 1
07 - Encore Track: Falren's Victory Parade
     - Ending 2
     - The March of Heroes
Total Time:
42'56''

I'm not all too familiar with Dragon Slayer's soundtrack, and even though I have both the Perfect Collections and JDK Special, I still haven't listened to them as closely as I'd have liked. Then, what exactly made me so interested in Dragon Slayer Symphonic Poem? The name of the album had always intrigued me (Symphonic Poem indeed sounds romantic), but perhaps it was when I learned that Tamiya Terashima (Ys Symphony '95, Ys V Orchestra Version, Legend of Heroes IV Electric Orchestra) arranged the music that I knew I absolutely had to have it.

Dragon Slayer is what Falcom is all about. The melodies are catchy, the battle and field themes exciting, and the opening and ending themes peaceful yet triumphant. Imagine all of that incorporated into a grandiose orchestral arrangement and you've got Dragon Slayer Symphonic Poem. The music isn't as dramatically arranged as the Ys symphonies, but the pieces are quite intriguing in themselves.

As with most of Falcom's symphonies, the tracks are divided into chapters in which the original pieces are arranged into movements that together more or less musically tell the story. I've always enjoyed this setup, and with excellent compositions to work with the result is never short of fantastic.

Although the instrument samples are not as advanced or as realistic sounding as in Terashima's later arrangements, he is still able to accomplish wonders with these pieces. Terashima is a master at reworking different melodies to complement each other without dramatically altering the original composition. "Chapter 3: The Prince's Departure" is a prime example of this; Dragon Slayer's "Field's" melody is weaved throughout the other compositions giving the entire Chapter creating a coherent sound while conveying the chapter's story through the music. In "Chapter 3" we hear the determination of the journey to meet the enemy, an intense battle, uncertain relief after having destroyed him, then surprise and a quick regrouping to continue fighting the undead enemy, and finally the victorious march onward.

The final track, the "Encore," is a rather interesting piece. Arranged as if it were actually an encore at a real concert, we have an audience applauding and clapping along with the music, which is played as if it were following a conductor's lead. I'm pretty sure this was not performed live (not even live on synthesizers), but it gives you the feel that it's part of a concert event and is a nice touch.

All in all, Dragon Slayer Symphonic Poem is a wonderful arrangement of wonderful melodies that any fan of symphonic music will enjoy. And for those of you who appreciate the arranging talents of Tamiya Terashima, I urge you to seek the out this jewel. It can often be found on Yahoo Japan selling for as little as 2000 yen (about $16 USD). You'll need a Japanese contact to purchase it, but it's not a bad deal at all.

Reviewed by: Lucy Rzeminski

Generally, I'm not a fan of symphonic game music arrangements. I feel that too many pieces of music lose their overall feel in the transition from synth to real instruments, and that synth arrangements bring out the best characteristics in the music. Many times, especially if you're not familiar with the source material, the end result is a very boring experience despite the live instruments. Thankfully, for synth-lovers like myself, our friends at Falcom have been kind enough to provide us with a happy-medium between synth and orchestra: The JDK Electric Orchestra!

I don't know how he does it, but every time Tamiya Terashima gets behind the wheel of the Electric Orchestra something good happens. The unique usage of real-sounding synthesizers that sound like a synthy orchestra has yet to let me down in ANY arrangement it has performed. This stands true especially for the Legend of Heroes series, where each game (except the recent fifth) has gotten the Electric Orchestra treatment with splendid results. While Dragon Slayer: Symphonic Poem isn't my favorite of Terashima's works (Legend of Heroes III Electric Orchestra is my favorite), it does come closer to bringing out the true nature of the original Legend of Heroes score than any other version. Even though I listen to Dragon Slayer: Legend of Heroes Perfect Collection much more than this, this is one of the most satisfying listening experiences I have in my collection.

Dragon Slayer: Symphonic Poem was conducted in front of a live Audience (unless Terashima is using an electric audience as well. . .). After each selection ends, there is a bit of clapping and other various noises. I can see where this can bother a few people, but I personally like the live feeling it has. Speaking of the selections, three of the seven tracks focus on specific pieces, while the rest are medleys of various others. I'm especially impressed with the way the medleys flow seamlessly from track-to-track. I was a little disappointed that my favorite Legend of Heroes piece, "Pirate Island", didn't make it, but the rest are all fine selections. Sound quality is excellent overall - a few nit-picks on the last track, but no major complaints.

The single-track selections are 1 (Opening), 2 (Town) and 6 (Ending I). My biggest complaint is that Opening and Ending I, while both are excellent, have basically the same composition. In a nutshell, the opening is a bit faster, while the ending has a somber, slower feel to it. Terashima did his best to differentiate between the two, but it's almost impossible to ignore the similarities. Town is my second favorite arrangement here, as it features a bombastic, classical take on the original.

Of the medleys, track 3 is my hands-down favorite on the album. It starts with the excellent "Field" theme, before cutting over to the "Battle" theme. Afterward, it cuts back to a slower version of "Field", then it goes to the ominous "Dungeon" music, then back to a slower version of "Battle". This magnificent track ends with "Event Clear" snippet and ANOTHER version of "Field". Track 4 starts and ends with "Castle", with "The Word of God" showing up in the middle - a classic example of a fast track being paired up with a slower one. Track 5 isn't anything special, just three more solid tracks that flow into each other. Finally, the album ends with "Ending II" and "March of Heroes". Both of these upbeat tracks are done justice with the orchestral treatment, but they aren't as good as the Perfect Collection versions. Still, the album goes out with a bang.

Overall, a very impressive effort. Even if you're not familiar with the original score, this should be an immediate purchase if it shows up. I've seen it quite a few times on Ebay and on message boards, so it's not the hardest Falcom album to find. In fact, most Legend of Heroes albums aren't as popular as Ys ones, so don't expect to pay more than $30 for it.

Reviewed by: Andy Byus



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