01 - Wizardry VI Opening Theme
02 - Chasing a Hidden Riddle at the Old Castle
03 - Battle and Rest
04 - Trade
05 - The Giant Mountain is in Sight
06 - Island Women and Jungle Temple
07 - You Can Hear the Voice of Ghosts
08 - Magic Forest
09 - Forge's Calamity
10 - Ending Theme ~ Chosen Ending
After the successful formula of the Haneda/Terashima duo used in Wizardry V, it looks like the team decided to work together arranging the next album in the series. "Bane of the Cosmic Forge" was the sixth installment in the Japanese Wizardry series, and it's the last album from Haneda in the series (other than Llylgamyn Saga, which is a different ball of wax).
There are some beautiful moments on this album. The opening theme is one of the best, if not the best, that I've heard for a Wizardry game. The mood is set so well, the variety of instruments bespeaks of the impending adventures awaiting us. The synthesized vocals, particularly the higher female vocals, sounded great (this was one of Terashima's trademarks in the mid '90s).
The next number is a very elegant piece, one that would be well suited for a live concert. Haneda's emphasis on classical tonality is demonstrated more in this song than any other on the disc; I was more than happy to hear it.
"Battle and Rest" uses two contrasting songs and brings them together. You can imagine the musical motifs here, I'm sure. The battle music is tense and unnerving, building with each repetition of the motif. Eventually, the mood switches, and we reach a lovely "rest" piece. I've always loved Haneda's soothing "Inn" and "Rest" pieces, ever since I first heard "Adventurer's Inn" on Orchestral Game Concert. The Rest theme in Wizardry VI isn't one that stands out in my mind as better than the others, but it's still a worthy inclusion. It makes me wonder what it would sound like if someone created a "Rest" collection as an album (or at least a playlist) and just listened to them all straight. It would either be very soothing or very boring.
These "formulaic" pieces, similar to the way Sugiyama has written music for Dragon Quest (there's a standard piece, of a certain style and mood, for similar events in each game), work very well for Haneda in the Wizardry series. However, the formula breaks halfway through this album, as we reach a number of game-specific "environment" pieces. They are all great in their own right, but my favorite is undoubtedly track 5, "The Giant Mountain is in Sight." Like most of the songs on this album, the piece is divided into two different themes. The first half is a slow, droning, ominous piece that still has an airy touch of hope to it. The intervals and progression will probably remind some people of Danny Elfman's trademark style, the sort of thing we heard in Batman or Edward Scissorhands. The last part breaks into an angry, battle-esque dance groove, complete with Latin auxiliary percussion. It's a pretty unexpected surprise, but it works really well.
Haneda's soundscape is still, technically, classical, as he avoids using any artificial sounds. But the typical orchestra setup is thrown aside for a number of these "environment" pieces to help create the proper mood for the game.
The album's end is just as big and epic as the opening. But this time, instead of the unresolved harmonies that leave us wondering, "what will happen next?", we have a tonal structure that presents clarity, victory, and all the good things one would expect in a game of this sort. It's good, good stuff.
Because of the superior audio quality Terashima brings to this album, it's safe to say that if you liked the earlier Wizardry albums, you'd probably like "Bane of the Cosmic Forge" as much as, if not more than, the others. I recommend it to you.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann