Tears of Blood: the newest chapter from Softmax’s Magna Carta series is a separate game rather than a sequel to Phantom of Avalanche. The game (known is Japan and Korean as Crimson Stigata) has a new cast, storyline and soundtrack. Thankfully, the soundtrack actually has a full retail release, unlike Phantom of Avalanche. While it’s a shame PoA didn’t get an easily found OST, Tears of Blood does, and it is a fine, fine thing.
First off, the sound quality is amazing: even better than PoA’s, and that’s a very tall order. This may be partially due to more of the music being live, advancements in technology, as well as more funding from Softmax. Whatever the case, it’s incredible. The entire OST is full of life.
Starting out with ‘Prologue,’ the soundtrack gets off to a somber and stern start, much like Phantom of Avalanche. This first song also introduces us to the main theme of Crimson Stigmata, which is used in later tracks like ‘Crimson Whirlwind.’ ‘Yason’ is excellent as well, with an ethnic horn-type instrument and lots of chanting and choir work.
Speakig of choir work, that is something you will hear a lot of in this soundtrack. I don’t know where it came from or who performed it, but these aren’t some cheesy voice clips from some royalty-free sample disc; this is the good stuff. The choir lends a very haunting feel which works well with the darker and lusher tones of the soundtrack. ‘Amabat’ is a beautiful tune which primarily features a mix of live and synth choir, but when the choir use really becomes effective is during the battle themes.
The OST has an interesting track scheme, as it puts most of the town, dungeon and event themes in large chunks. These range from excellent to decent. A couple of them even exhibit a Phantasy Star Online feel at times, which I greatly enjoyed. Mostly, however, they are on the ambient and relaxing side, with some light pop thrown in. ‘The Way of Life’ is one such song, and is one of the better ones. ‘Frozen Breath’ and ‘Land of Raging Fire’ are great too, and ‘Water Ruins’ is realxing with some typical Softmax synth in the background.
Better yet are the battle themes. To quote Azel from the game, these are ‘awesome!!’ ‘Battle Theme I’ is decent, but ‘II’ shines with bright, shimmering brass, strong strings and marching percussion in a very heroic and miltaristic style. Even better is ‘III,’ my favorite out of the bunch. This is what you’ll hear the most of during the game, and the fact that I still love the song after hundreds of listens testifies of its quality. Kind of a mixture of Suikoden I and II’s battle themes with some Gun Hazard sprinkled on, and a whole lot of it’s own personality.
‘IV’ continues the string of solid battle tunes: not as good as ‘III’ or ‘II’ but better than ‘I’. ‘Sorowful Fate’ and ‘Fatality I’ excel at huge, choir-tastic dramatic pauses, and are full of emotion. ‘II’ has some nice rock elements. ‘Four Guardian Kings’ is the song that plays during the intense Yason battles, and is somehow both exciting and enthralling, yet totally creepy. Plenty of synth and yet more choir make for a great boss tune.
But the best is ‘Battle With the God of Beasts.’ Wholly intense, the composition is edge-of-your-seat material, full of choir, dissonant string glissandos. The loud, bassy piano bassline plods along with the percussion and horns for a very menacing sound, and occasionally lets up for short moments of glory, like at 2:04. This segment reminds me very much of the dramatic choir bits from the Gagharv Trilogy Symphony.
Disc 2 stars with a few more town themes, ‘The Song Of Baryux’ being one of the better ones. ‘Peaceful Time of Lester’ and ‘The Sunset of Emon’ are a couple light pop numbers, and fare pretty well. The aforementioned ‘Crimson Whirlwind’ is the theme of the Tears of Blood’s HQ, and is a reprise of the main Crimson Stigmata theme.
The next few are all good event themes. The acoustic bass is especially cool on ‘Chris’ Rescue Operation,’ and ‘The False Mask’ is full of tension…soft, weary, dischordant strings mixed with occasional bursts of electric guitar and freaky choir chants. ‘Let’s Play More!’ has the honor of being the only overly happy/cheesy song on the whole OST. Though it’s not a really bad song, it’s just totally out of place. Everything else here is good, from morose piano solos to more hair-raising tension.
The two ‘Love Themes’ are pretty good – not quite up to Phantom of Avalanche quality, but still very nice. ‘Please Remember’ is probably the better of the two, and is very gentle. The Epilouge is interesting because the melody is originally from Phantom of Avalanche. Sounds great here too.
Overall, Crimson Stigmata/Tears of Blood’s OST is a good one. Though (in my opinion) not quite up to Phantom of Avalanche’s music, it is extremely well made. These are solid, sound compositions that envoke a wide array of emotions. The sound quality is bar none, and there are a few truly brilliant moments that belong in the best of the best. The OST can be picked up at a few online retailers, such as otaku.com, and now that the game is available nearly worldwide, expect companies like CDJapan and GMO to stock it in the near future, if not already. There is one seller on eBay (not otaku.com) that is selling a bootleg: be sure to avoid it and go for the much nicer official release.