Shining the Holy Ark OST
Catalog Number: BSPE-1046~7
Released On: December 12, 1996
Composed By: Motoi Sakuraba
Arranged By: Motoi Sakuraba
Published By: Oo Records
Recorded at: Unknown
Format: 1 CD

01 - Prelude ~ Invitation
02 - Uninvited Guests
03 - Festival of Evil (Part 1)
04 - Search in the Void
05 - Over the Horizon of Wind ~ Dust
06 - The Dance of Life and Death
07 - An Elegy for the Wanderer
08 - Festival of Evil (Part 2)
09 - Rhapsody of Repose
10 - Endless Winter
Total Time:

This album is an unabashedly prog affair, but it's just as laden with evocative soundscapes as it is with Space Laser Pitch Bending. Prog might require a refined palate to fully enjoy, but the transitions and movements found in these songs work hard to make the experience a sum greater than its parts.

Jumping into this album with Prelude ~ Invitation From the Eclipse builds you up with a pretty standard fanfare. Brass soars over top of a tasteful vocal patch setting a traditionally heroic scene. While a playful bass jumps in and the brass transitions seamlessly into a violin, the drums find their rhythm, and just as you start to surrender yourself... the bottom drops out. A jazzy, syncopated keyboard and an anxious high hat start to lay the foundation for the whole experience.

Uninvited Guests and Festival of Evil Part 1 aren't afraid to let you know what you came here for. Alternating time signatures accentuate the ridiculous bouncing melodies, full bodied sawtooth patches hum backdrops, and the bass pounds out syncopated counter-melodies. This is some of the finest Sakurock there is: a work that's as earnest as it is ambitious.

Every song here has a feeling of conflict and a sense of resolution that really makes the journey feel worthwhile. While it may feel rough at times, there's a real payoff here, and every bit of composition is backed up by remarkable sound engineering. The way these pieces come together is satisfying and organic, even if the individual parts are not.

That's not to say the CD doesn't sound great as a whole. The progressive rock is varied and meaningful, and peppered in are pieces like the ambient, melancholy Search Far and Deep and the thoroughly composed piano epic An Elegy for the Wanderer. It's a little guilty of crawling across the finish line, and it probably won't win over anybody with an existing aversion to prog rock, but the emotional impact of the tracks and the quality of the production makes this an easy recommendation for anybody on the fence.

Reviewed by: Davi Tesnovich

Originally reviewed November 28, 2007

Motoi Sakuraba comes and goes; at least on my playlist. He can send you into beautiful, enigmatic fantasy worlds, or he can just grate your ears with repetitive drum/bass work. It's been standard for me in the last four years, whenever I write about a Sakuraba album, to warn readers that I have a love/hate relationship with this man's music.

Motoi Sakuraba comes and goes; through time, through the decades. He's always been a very productive, very prolific composer. But he has "off" years in the same way I might have an "off" day. Whole strings of albums will come out that just disappoint me time and time again. But, ultimately, Sakuraba does not fail to please. His "mid-90s" era sported some excellent stuff. In 1998, I was blown away by his score for Star Ocean: The Second Story.

Motoi Sakuraba makes his mark, here, in 1996, with "Shining the Holy Ark." This is a great place to stop, and look at how Sakuraba has shaped himself and his music; that is, if you can find it.

Indeed, "Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack" is one of the rarest, most-sought-after Sakuraba albums to date. I mean, who's ever heard of "Oo Records," or seen the catalog number that starts with "OOCO"...in my experience, the only time I see those letters is in reference to this album. Its obscurity is quite disappointing.

But what is it that makes this album so good? First of all, the softer pieces are divine. Track 4, "Search in the Void," offers some great piano and violin parts among the droning melancholy of the synth chords. Track 7 is a piano solo track: really well-done Sakuraba. It alone has highs and lows, fasts and slows that you could not expect.

Jam-band prog-rock appears for at least 30% of this album. Some of the longer tracks, including the second and third tracks of the album, feature some excellent rhythmic pieces that pre-date classic battle themes from "Tales of Destiny" or "Star Ocean: The Second Story."

I found one song that I simply couldn't stand: track 8, the second part of the "Festival of Darkness." The song just grates on my ears.

But overall...this is a glorious album. All Sakuraba fans know about this album, and those fortunate enough to own a copy cherish it as a gem in their collection of dusty old VGM albums. If I could ask Sakuraba to reprint just one soundtrack of his, this would be the one.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann


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