When I first saw the title "Unchain Blades Rexx," I wasn't sure what to make of it. It looked like a cheesy band name with every stupid emo or pseudo-punk cliché in it. I later learned that Unchain Blades Rexx is a dungeon-crawl RPG led by the staff from Lunar and Grandia. Given how good the music was in the seminal Lunar and Grandia games, my audio expectations were high.
Although the soundtrack was published on Nobuo Uematsu's Dog Ear Records label and Uematsu himself composed two of the tracks, the soundtrack is the baby of Tsutomu Narita. Unchain Blades Rexx appears to be a darker offering than either Lunar or Grandia were, and Narita's music follows suit. This is not some happy little adventure filled with childlike wonder. Even calmer tracks like Tones of Towns (track 3) are heady and have a subtle sense of foreboding behind them.
Sonically speaking, the soundtrack has a good variety of synthesized instrumentation, from the classical baroque or gothic style instruments to the ethereal wood flute to driving electric guitars. The compositions showcase a nice balance where the music is rich, but not so overpowering that the subtleties get lost. I'm not a big fan of synthesized vocals, but their delicate and subtle use in pieces like The Temple of Trials (track 4) works. Even the battle themes sound balanced, are never too "in your face," and allow every audio component to breathe. I also like how some of the battle themes have subtle nods to the styles heard in the Lunar and Grandia games. As a bass player, I definitely took notice of the bass line in Unchained (track 5).
This isn't typical "game" music, with big hooks and recognizable melodies. This is music with complex and intricate melodies and harmonies that I have to listen to a few times for it to grow on me; and every time I listen, I pick up something new. The songs never got boring or repetitive over their lengthy durations, which is a big plus. On the other hand, one listen easily confirms that this music is tied to a Japanese RPG, albeit a Japanese RPG with a strong personality. I really liked the sense of style in this soundtrack.
The only hiccup in an otherwise solid soundtrack is Encounter With the Goddess (track 2). It sounds like cheesy and clichéd vampire music. Considering the complexity of the other compositions, this track is like a bottle of ketchup on a shelf filled with artisan tomato sauces.
All things considered, Unchain Blades Rexx has a very good soundtrack. I did not know much about the game and was not particularly interested in it until I heard the music. Now, my curiosity has been piqued and I will check it out if/when it comes stateside.
Reviewed by: Neal Chandran