“Perhaps the only thing born from one conflict is yet another conflict. Those who are fools will continue to fight.”
Welcome to the Ogre Battle Image Album: The Entrance. Like the Final Fantasy III arranged album or the “Symphonic Fantasy White Witch,” this album opens with an English narrator telling the story of Ogre Battle from time to time, with music carrying us through the game’s plot, and an occasional vocalist (male and female) making an appearance. However, unlike the other two albums I had mentioned, this album has a pretty strange concept of arrangement. Were you expecting grand symphonic music to carry you away? You won’t find much of that on this album. What you’ll find instead is progressive rock, techno, and other experimental sounds reminiscent of bands like “Genesis.” And, unfortunately, the narrator of this album doesn’t make reappearances: his occasional statements in the first track are all you have to work with. A shame, isn’t it?
Said opening track, “Constellatus,” sets the stage nicely for what listeners will experience throughout the album. The British narrator has a firm grasp on what’s happening, but the male vocalist sounds as though he struggles with the English language. Many have mocked the vocalists on this album for its “Engrish” sections that are supposed to sound serious but just turn out sounding silly.
After that six minute introduction track, “Spectrum” takes us into a lighter territory. I enjoy this song a lot, particulary for the piano work. The progressive sounds here remind me of Iona or some of the lighter Dream Theater work. Musically, this whole album is impressive, but not in the way many would desire it to be. But even those who don’t enjoy the album overall find that this lighter tune can be enjoyed. It’s also the shortest song on the album.
“SHADE OVER” opens with a luxurious, indulgent, and sappy melody accompanied by a simple rhythm and some lovely piano and synth string work. Before the first minute is finished, however, a female vocalist (singing in Japanese, thank goodness) takes the stage and sings a ballad that is as beautiful and as familiar as “Kokoro” from Xenosaga Episode I. Her operatic voice carries nicely over the background music. Then, about halfway through the song, she changes to singing the song in English (a translated version of what she had just sung in Japanese), and we discover that the song is about rain, children’s hearts, and the sorrows of life. Despite the clichéd lyrics, it still sounds good!
“Textures” takes us back to the progressive rock and near-atonal sounds of Constellatus, but it features some pretty impressive slap bass work and an outrageous violin solo. This song is definitely experimental, though it does work with some standard conventions of the genre (especially in the case of the organ solo). This completely instrumental song runs for over five minutes, and it is a treat, though it sounds nothing like the music from other Ogre Battle soundtracks. If you haven’t put two and two together yet, you should realize that these songs are so highly arranged that it’s difficult to discern any connection with these songs and their original counterparts. I promise you that they exist, but they’re difficult to find with all these weird jam-band stuff going on.
At track 5, we reach the album’s climax: you know it’s going to be big when they break out the ancient languages. This song is over twenty minutes long. Yeah, that’s right. It’s completely ridiculous too. Let me give you the rundown on this massive song. The introductory 90 seconds sound like something you’d expect to hear on a synth-based arranged album for the series: soft yet creepy, a simple melody sustained in the upper octaves, and big bass drums to keep the beat going. Then, the song picks up out of nowhere with a double-time beat and a keyboard solo that is as impressive as the sort of thing you’d hear on a Liquid Tension album. The song slows down again, and now we are treated to a familiar melody that comes almost directly from All Sounds of Ogre Battle. This simple refrain goes on for a little while, then at the five minute mark the song picks up with a beat and the melody changes. It’s the same melody, but now upbeat. Things are still happy, so that’s nice. Then things get bouncy and a little rough, and then at 8 minutes they’re soft again, and then they get super-progressive-experimental-weird at 10 minutes…and so it goes. Actually, after the ten minute mark, things stay pretty prog-rock-wacky until the 19 minute mark, and then it picks up the main theme melody and gets slower and calmer until it ends on a simple chord. This one track could’ve been released as its own album, it’s that big and ridiculous. However, because it is so large and unwieldy, it is my least favorite track on the album.
Coming in at a close second for least favorite is “INNOCENCE”, which, like “SHADE OVER”, has both Japanese and English lyrics. However, this time we have a male vocalist taking the stage, and the song is a strange 80s pop fusion song. I can’t even describe this song…just listen to the sample.
Now, the ending track is a personal favorite of mine. That’s because I like piano, and this song is dominated by some crazy piano work. Throughout the album, what we’ve experienced is something like a work-in-progress for college students in a 20th century music theory course: lots of circle-of-fifth madness and patterns that don’t sound particularly appealing to the untrained ear. But this song does something beautiful with it, adding tonality (there’s a concept!) to various sections of the song. Booming low string parts, flutes, and orchestral sections fill the space, as do hand-based percussion instruments, creating an overall sound that is virtually unheard of outside this album. I’ve honestly never heard anything like it. Nice work, Matsuo! Good going, Sakimoto! And Iwata…I’m assuming you had a part in this too, so, nicely done my friend.
This album certainly isn’t for everyone. In fact, most people would probably hate this album. If you’re into progressive rock, fast atonal runs on varying instruments, and power vocalists that say stupid things in English, then you really need to find this album. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. I enjoy the album because I’m a big music buff and I love to analyze music; otherwise, I probably wouldn’t like it all that much.
Regarding its availability…well, it’s hard to find. Even with the existence of a reprint, stores don’t carry this one anymore. But, since it appeals to a very limited musical taste, hopefully you wouldn’t have to pay too much to get it. Those are the rules of supply and demand, are they not? Anyway, if you enjoy the samples, and you’re like me, then good: go get it. Everyone else, steer clear.