01 - Phantom Kingdom
02 - The Devil's Entrance
03 - The Quickening of Fate
04 - Darkness Darkness
05 - Demons party
06 - JOKER
07 - First Campaign
08 - Wild mood
09 - Big Guest
10 - The Duke of Darkness Royal Kingdark the 3rd
11 - Capture the Universe In This Hand
12 - Rushing Out of the Land of the Demons
13 - Fighting Spirit In the Heart
14 - Alexander the God of Destruction
15 - Super Cool No.1
16 - Burning Fighting Spirit
17 - I am a boss!
18 - Sudden Threat
19 - One More Conclusion
01 - Sabat
02 - Invasion of the Devil World
03 - MAKAI Fusion
04 - Swirling Whirlpool
05 - Cold rain
06 - Sadness
07 - After the rain
08 - Grand finale
09 - Madness of the Moment
10 - March of fear
11 - Transition of the Soul
12 - Quiet tension
13 - Love / Desire / Affection
14 - Salome the Traitor
15 - The Devil's Descent
16 - Great Wilder Kingdom arrangement
17 - Apocalypse
18 - Royal road
19 - intermission
When I popped in Phantom Kingdom for the first time, I was seriously wondering where Tenpei Sato was going to go. He had already done everything possible, and I could not foresee him doing anything better than Phantom Brave. Let me tell you, I was surprised to find out that Tenpei Sato didn't compose Phantom Kingdom. Who composed in his place, you ask? Why, none other than the good folks at Super Sweep! With the exception of Shinji Hosoe (who I don't particularly care for), nearly the whole Super Sweep team is present on this album. Phantom Kingdom is a blessing. Hopefully Mr. Sato can find a job composing for a whole new set of games so that he can further explore his musical abilities.
If you're unsure about Super Sweep, rest assured, they'll sweep you away. While I'm not particularly fond of some of their previous music (which I won't go into, because 89.5 percent of you who are reading this will be instantly turned off by their musical contributions to a "certain" Square Enix title), I was impressed by the level of quality. Super Sweep not only took things to the next level, but they did their homework.. If you like Tenpei Sato, you can hear bits and pieces of his musical style here and there, as well as an arrangement of "Great Wilder" from Disgaea and La Pucelle. If Tenpei Sato had no direct involvement in the making of this album, then the homage Super Sweep pays to him ought to make him proud.
What I like about Phantom Kingdom is that it has a main theme that is established at the beginning of the album and recurs until the very end. To say the most, it's an incredibly awesome theme, and could have sounded right at home on the Disgaea soundtrack. Also, the songs have been mastered to loop twice, curing the "loop and a half" syndrome that Tenpei Sato often had. I should also mention that the instruments here sound better than they've ever sounded before. The fact of the matter is that Super Sweep came into Nippon Ichi with high hopes and fixed damn near everything that was wrong with Tenpei Sato's compositions. It's about time!
Phantom Kingdom was written by 7 composers, and each composer has his/her own unique style. Takayuki Aihara is keen on dynamic orchestral pieces and sweeping (no pun intended) techno, Ayako Saso sounds like she could be an anime composer, Hiroshi Takagi jumps all over the place, Ryou Sakai focuses on more saccharine pieces, Hirohito Saitoh tends to focus on engaging melodies with style that you’ve never heard before, Tsuyoshi Kaneko has an ethnic feel, and Tamiya Terashima is, well....useless. The two winning composers on this album are Tsuyoshi Kaneko and Ryou Sakai, because their music stands out and captures emotions more than their comrades.
The first disc introduces you to the main theme, but unfortunately, it is a bad introduction to the album as a whole. The first disc contains mostly standard strategy RPG themes, and doesn't start to become truly diverse until a little over halfway through. If you're sick of traditional strategy music, then bear through the first 10 tracks. However, if you like this kind of stuff, you'll enjoy "Phantom Kingdom," "The Devil's Entrance, "The Duke of Darkness Royal Kingdark the 3rd," and "Demons party," which are orchestral masterpieces. There are also a few ethnic tracks, too, such as "JOKER," which is jazzy, "Big Guest," which is unmistakenly Celtic, and "Alexander God of Destruction," which has an infectious Gypsy beat. The real winners on this disc, though, are toward the end. "Rushing Out to The Land of Demons" is probably the best song I've heard this year. It's good techno, but not to the point where it turns you off. The melody is wonderful, too, and for me, this is where the album started to gain momentum. "Super Cool No.1" is a cool composition that doesn't take itself very seriously, and hauls you along for the lazy ride. The disc finally ends with "One More Conclusion," which was so great that the rest of the album left a slightly bad taste in my mouth compared to its greatness. It is a beautiful, beautiful song that will take you places with its gorgeous piano and string harmonies.
The second disc is the best. It encompasses entirely what this soundtrack is: eclectic. Not only are there still orchestral pieces here, but there is a more diverse selection of tracks. It starts off strong with "Sabat," a variation of the main theme that has a Middle Eastern feel. "Invasion of the Demon World" is a great rock theme that is yet another variation of the main theme, but it you don't really notice it because the melody just takes off after the first few measures. Then, we meet Ryou Sakai’s compositions. Tracks 4-9 are some of his songs, starting off with "Swirling Whirlpool," which reminds me of ancient Egypt. The chord work is subtle and his ingenious use of instrumental harmony makes the track shine. "Cold Rain" is an eerie theme by Sakai that reminds me of an underground tunnel filled with water. "After the Rain," again by Sakai sounds like a love theme. It is very bright and cheery. "Transition of the Soul" is one of the more unique songs on the album. It is a style all its own, with a groovy beat and a jazzy melody. It's hard to categorize this song. "Quiet Tension" is a mild techno piece that uses only electronic instruments to give a sense of urgency and quietness, which is ironic because when you first hear the song, it doesn't sound quiet at all. "Love/Desire/Affection" is another great track by Kaneko that has great chords and could be a love theme. Its electronic feel is very fresh, and doesn't get old. Next is the arrangement of "Great Wilder" by Ryo Sakai. Personally, I hate this track. The original version of Great Wilder focused on using extremely strange instruments to carry the melody: all of those instruments have been replaced with more conventional ones, and it just doesn't sound the same. Because of these "conventional" instruments, many of the song's chords lose their meaning, and make the song feel empty. Wrapping up the album are the two (and only) compositions from Tamiya Terashima, which blow chunks. Terashima tries very hard to create an orchestral ambience that is pleasing to the ear, but falls flat on his face trying. His track, "Apocalypse" literally is an apocalypse. Go back to school, chump.
So what exactly was wrong with Phantom Kingdom? Two words: Incoherence and inconsistence. I say that the album was "incoherent" because it is painfully obvious that the composers hardly collaborated at all in its production. Every composer offers his/her own unique style into the mix, and while this isn't a problem, I feel that a little collaboration could have only helped the album, not hurt it. This album is so diverse that if you put two of its tracks together, the common man would not think they were a part of the same album. This irks me because while each composer was good on his own, think of how much ass they could have kicked if they worked together!
I say the album is "inconsistent" because the track listing could have used a little work. Order is everything. As I mentioned before, the first disc doesn't do enough to introduce new listeners to its diversity. It starts off with around 10 tracks of straight orchestral music; and considering that orchestral music is a minority on this album, it's unneccessary. I personally think the first few tracks should have been in this order: Phantom Kingdom, Devil's Entrance, Demons party, Rushing out to the Land of Demons, Alexander the God of Destruction, and then Big Guest. What a diverse introduction! That would have set a better tone for the entire album, and made the weaker songs on the second disc ("March of Fear," "Great Wilder") slightly more tolerable. Although, even with this setup, nothing could've helped Terashima's crappy compositions.
Phantom Kingdom surpasses Tenpei Sato’s musical abilities in every way. This OST is a limited edition that came with the Japanese game, so good luck finding it. If you can get past the first 10 tracks on the first disc, an amazing aural experience awaits you.
Reviewed by: Mike Wilson