01 - Humble Town (Peaceful Macdallena) (Nauts)
02 - Peaceful Macdallena (Strings Version)
03 - Peaceful Macdallena (Guitar Version)
04 - Peaceful Macdallena (Piano Version)
05 - Glorious Capital, Nineveh (Harpsichord Version)
06 - Glorious Capital, Nineveh (Piano Version)
07 - Flurry of Blades (Alternate Version)
08 - Forest Void (Wandering Woods) (Joshua Morse)
09 - Gentle Oblivion (Lake of Oblivion) (Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI)
10 - The Merry Village (Seaside Village) (Dale North)
11 - Seaside Village (Alternate Village)
12 - Show Your Might! (Alternate Version)
13 - Forgotten Archduchess (Vocal Version) (Nauts)
14 - Will of the People (Alternate Version)
15 - Alpha Version Trailer (Bonus)
In the interest of full disclosure, let me first say that I have been friends with Jayson Napolitano and looked to him as a mentor of sorts for years. Scarlet Moon is Jayson's record label, and he is using it as a vehicle to publish music that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day. So, am I going into this review slightly biased? Admittedly so, but I am still going to judge the music as objectively as I know how to.
This companion disc to the OST offers some interesting ideas, and a few guest arrangements that really wowed me. But let's start by getting two things out of the way: you're going to be hearing a lot of the same music up front, and most of this album is a self-arrangement from Nauts.
The first four tracks are all different versions of the splendid town theme "Peaceful Macdallena." This really is a great song, sure, but do I need four versions of it? Do I want four versions of it? Truth be told, I don't. Among the versions available, I think the Guitar and Piano versions are certainly worth keeping, or perhaps better blended together as a kind of medley.
After that, we get two versions of "Glorious Capital, Nineveh," another town theme. I could totally do without both of these tracks.
Nauts offers an alternate arrangement of "Flurry of Blades," one of the battle themes, which has a more interesting violin melody. I prefer this adaptation to what made it onto the OST, and I am left wondering why Maius Games did not choose to use this version.
Tracks 8 through 10 are the best on the disc, as each offers a take on the music that doesn't come from Nauts himself. It's hard to reimagine one's own work, but put a different set of eyes (or ears) on it, and wondrous things occur. First, we have veteran composer/arranger Joshua Morse (perhaps best known in the "Bad Dudes" compilations and some great original work as well), doing an exceptionally creepy and memorable version of Wandering Woods that he has entitled "Forest Void." The soundscape on this track reminds me at times of Parasite Eve, and at other times, the production value seems to sail above even the latest Square Enix offerings, such as the FFXIII trilogy (say what you will about the games, the music is boss).
Metal Gear Solid composer Norihiko Hibino, a master saxophonist, joins pianist AYAKI to create a jazz ballad duo version of "Lake of Oblivion" that is haunting and completely unforgettable. It may be fair to argue that it's the singular reason to buy the album. The improvisational solos help to lengthen the track (over six minutes), but to me, it's the structured work and the masterful, nuanced performance of these two that keep me listening. "Gentle Oblivion" indeed. I want to hear more from these two!
Finally, fellow "Bad Dude" and Editor-in-Chief of Destructoid Dale North lays down a smooth, groovy rendition of "Seaside Village" that he calls "The Merry Village." Fans of Noriyuki Iwadare's Lunar and Grandia soundtracks will, I suspect, very much enjoy Mr. North's style here. Also, if you've heard what Dale has done on past Bad Dudes albums (especially Chronotorious), you shouldn't be surprised by what you find here. It's good. Very good.
Right after Dale's adaptation, we hear an alternate arrangement of "Seaside Village" from Nauts. Not as interesting, and frankly, not as appealing as what's on the OST, either. It's nice to have it for completion's sake, I suppose. We also have an alternate version of "Show Your Might!", a track I don't care for in either version. But hey, it's a battle theme, and it's booming and dark.
Then, we get to Nauts' greatest achievement on this disc. Here, Nauts arranged a vocal rendition of the beautiful song "Forgotten Archduchess." The breathy vocals by singer Hyerim Ryu are enchanting. The accompanying piano and upright bass are also splendid. This track was recorded at the "Corners Groove Studio," which I assume is a reference to Corners Studio, the team behind Bar Oasis. What a lovely setting to sing this song. I wish I had been there to hear it myself.
The disc goes out on a somewhat-improved "will of the People" and a rather compelling piece of music for the game's first trailer, which I personally think ought to have made it somewhere into the OST. It has great choir synth-vocal work going for it!
The Monarch Arrangements and Variations disc, as well as its OST counterpart, can be found for sale at various outlets. If purchasing via Bandcamp, you can pick up a limited edition physical CD version, or just go digital. Other outlets provide digital-only, such as Loudr. Though the OST offers more substance, this companion disc offers some interesting alterations, as well as those stellar guest arrangements/performances from Josh, Hibino-san, and Dale. Not to mention the vocal piece. If you're going to get the OST, my advice would be to nab this album as well.
One final note: the first print version of the CD lists tracks 7 and 8 in reverse order. Subsequent reissues will have this textual error fixed. The correct order is at is presented here on this review, with Joshua Morse's arrangement as track 8.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann