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Myth: The Xenogears Orchestral Album

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SQEX-10230
Released On: February 23, 2011
Composed By: Yasunori Mitsuda
Arranged By: Youki Yamamoto, Sachiko Miyano, Natsumi Kameoka, Yasunori Mitsuda
Published By: Square Enix
Recorded At: Bulgarian National Radio Hall
Format: 1 CD
Buy this CD from Play-Asia
Tracklist:

01 - Dark Daybreak -Orchestral Version-
02 - My Village is Number One -Orchestral Version-
03 - Flight -Orchestral Version-
04 - Unstealable Jewel -Orchestral Version-
05 - Stage of Death -Orchestral Version-
06 - The Wind Calls to Shevat in the Blue Sky -Orchestral Version-
07 - October Mermaid -Piano Version-
08 - Bonds of Sea and Flame -Orchestral Version-
09 - The Gentle Breeze Sings -Orchestral Version-
10 - In a Prison of Peace and Regret -Orchestral Version-
11 - lost... Broken Shards -Orchestral Version-
12 - The Beginning and the End -Orchestral Version-
13 - SMALL TWO OF PIECES -Orchestral Version-
14 - Faraway Promise -Piano Version-
Total Time:
51'33"

The Xenogears original soundtrack is considered by many to be one of the great original RPG soundtracks. Yasunori Mitsuda succeeded in composing some truly memorable tracks and fans immediately began to dream of a possible orchestral arranged album. However, while many other RPGs ended up getting a fully orchestrated arrangement, fans of the Xenogears soundtrack were left waiting and waiting and eventually came to the realization that such a dream would never occur... Until 13 years later when, out of nowhere, an orchestral arrangement for Xenogears finally materialized.

To say that this soundtrack was eagerly awaited would be an understatement. The only question now is to figure out if this soundtrack was worth the wait. And the short answer to this question is... yes and no.

First of all, I'd like to put a little disclaimer on this review. I have to admit that I've always been a big fan of orchestral arrange albums. I much prefer an orchestral arrange album to other types of arranged albums like Xenogears Creid or Chrono Trigger's Brink of Time. Obviously, this would make me a little biased to this album from the start since it's my favorite style so keep that in mind while reading through this review.

Okay, let's start with the good. On the technical side, there is nothing wrong with the album. The sound quality is good and so is the performance by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra. As far as the arrangements are concerned, those looking for an album that takes liberties with the original material will be quite disappointed as the arrangements stay mostly true to the original compositions. If you're looking for a different take on the Xenogears music, you're better off getting the Xenogears Creid arrange album since Myth, in most cases, simply takes the original songs and performs them using a full orchestra. While it may be a disappointment to some, I have no qualms about this since this is exactly what I want out of an orchestral arrangement.

The album starts off fittingly with the music from the anime intro of Xenogears. It's difficult to find any fault to this song since the original was such a great song and this version follows the original to a tee. This is then followed by the popular "My Village is Number One" which in my opinion is one of the best song on the album. Mitsuda decided to take a little more liberty with this one as it doesn't follow the original as much. This version is perhaps not as light-hearted and joyful as the original and sounds a little more melodic and adds a little vulnerability to the song and makes it more emotional. The song varies the tempo quite a bit going from slow to fast to slow again so I feel like it's the more interesting and balanced song of the album and infinitely better than the original. Especially noteworthy here is the work of the strings. In fact, this is pretty much the case for most of this album as the strings section seems to be the one that sticks out the most.

The tracks "Flight" and "Unstealable Jewel" continues the good start of the album and are definitely enjoyable tracks. The same could be said about "Bonds of Sea and Flame", "The Gentle Breeze Sings" and "Lost... Broken Shards". In fact, if the entire album was like those 7 tracks I mentioned so far, I would have considered this album a complete success.

However, the album has 14 songs and unfortunately the rest of the songs don't achieve the same high level that I was expecting. Keep in mind that none of the songs are bad, it's just that they are either forgettable, phoned-in or a poor song selection for this album. "Stage of Death", "The Wind Calls to Shevat" and "The Beginning and the End" all fit in the okay but forgettable category while "Small Two of Pieces" is still a great song but it's not really any better than the one on the OST. The fact that they simply used the Joanne Hogg vocals from the OST and dropped it into an orchestral arrangement is probably the reason why it doesn't work as well. I think it would have been better to have her perform it again live with the orchestra instead.

This brings me to my last complaint about the album which is the song selection. As great as "October Mermaid" and "Faraway Promise" are, I feel like they are on the wrong album and would have been a better choice on a Piano Selection album since they are pretty much that... piano solo songs. It feels like a waste of resources. If you have an album called "The Xenogears Orchestral Album", I think it's only natural to assume that ALL songs would be "orchestral" and I feel like this is a pretty big oversight. There are so many good songs on the OST that could have benefited from an orchestral arrangement that I felt cheated by these 2 piano solos. The songs "Knight of Fire", "Steel Giant", "Fuse" and "Graaf, Emperor of Darkness" especially come to mind since they are songs that "sounded" orchestral on the OST but with midi synth. I would have loved to hear those songs performed by a full orchestra.

Overall, I still think that this soundtrack is great. I love at least half of the songs on the album and even though the other half isn't perfect, they are still pretty good songs. Even though many fans might be a little disappointed by this soundtrack because they have such high expectations coming in , I still feel like this is a worthy soundtrack and definitely worth purchasing, especially since the soundtrack is readily available to US customers on the iTunes store for a fraction of the cost it would take to import.

Reviewed by: Eric Farand

I'll be completely candid—I've been apprehensive about this album since it was first announced. It seemed to be not only out-of-the-blue but also somewhat unnecessary and certainly not very timely. Probably most importantly, though, it was announced and released in a very short period of time, something that cannot be said about the still-unreleased Chrono Cross arrange album. How could it possibly be of a high level of quality in such a short period of time when it has taken this long to only hear small snippets of news on the Chrono arrange? However, when I chose to review Myth, I tried to put any preconceptions about the music away and to be completely fair to it, since, after all, it is pretty awesome to have a new Xenogears album.

Unfortunately, some of my worries about this album appeared to have come to pass. For starters, the album undoubtedly seems rushed. The production values here are great, but the arrangements are very vanilla and there is a distinct lack of "punch." After the absolutely stellar Drammatica album from Shimomura, which had so much punch it could leave you sprawled out unconscious on the floor with two black eyes, I honestly couldn't help but feel like this entire album was phoned in. The original compositions are strong, and Xenogears fans will be pleased to have orchestral arrangements at last—even if those arrangements offer few surprises and won't turn over your insides the way Drammatica can.

As the title suggests, the album is made of orchestral arrangements of Xenogears music, but it also features a few piano versions, which also feature competent, no-frills arrangements. Light of the Netherworld (Dark Daybreak?) is just as effective as it always was as an introductory track, and the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra knocks it out of the park in terms of the string performance. As I mentioned earlier, the general quality of the arrangements is good, but very unadventurous. The string section of this orchestra does deserve special note, though, because they are great and lend a lot to the original songs.

Two of the better tracks are "Flight," a personal favorite of mine from the original, and "Bonds of Sea and Flame." I single these tracks out in particular because they're some of the only ones that I really felt any of the aforementioned "punch" in. Flight has the same powerful optimism and cruises along its classic highs and sweeping melody predictably, but still enjoyably. "Bonds of Sea and Flame" really benefits from the string-heavy arrangement, giving it a bubbly, upbeat sound that I liked a lot. "The Gentle Breeze Sings" also fares well in arrangement, with the violin giving it a sweet, melodic sound that works for the song.

As for the game's theme song, "Small Two of Pieces," sung by Joanne Hogg (who I don't know at all), it fares pretty well here. The live orchestra gives the song a nice, high-fidelity backing, and it comes off not sounding nearly as corny as most vocal themes can (although I admit, I don't particularly care for many vocal themes).

I also take issue with the track selection. I seem to recall hearing that the tracks were chosen by fans, so perhaps I'm just in the minority here, but I think there are some seriously glaring omissions—where, in the name of Deus, is "Awakening?" Or "One Who Bares Fangs at God?" Or "Knight of Fire?" These songs would have been outstanding if played by a live orchestra—and they certainly aren't lesser known tracks. But I admit, it could be just my own personal taste here and not an error on the part of Mitsuda and the team behind the album.

So what do I think of this album? It's good. It's not great. Most of its goodness comes from the strength of the original songs and the nature of it being a live performance. The production quality is high, but the arrangements are plain and don't vary things up much. I just can't shake the feeling that the whole album is a badly-timed cash-in—I just don't hear the same passion and love for the material here that I did in Drammatica. All I hear is "hey, we just PSN-released Xenogears, and people love that game! Orchestral album!" Still, at least we got a new album from Xenogears, right?

Reviewed by: Stephen Meyerink



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