Following the standards set with the first AT’s concert albums, Hymmnos Side Blue (AO) is a vocal album featuring Akiko Shikata and Yuko Ishibashi. The album is printed by Hats Unlimited, the publisher under which the vocalists have close ties (and probably some contractual obligation). This explains why the album is not printed by Team Entertainment.
I am going to split this album into two parts: the Shikata section (ends at track 9), and the Ishibashi section (begins at track 10).
Akiko Shikata’s vocals are great, all throughout this albums. I love her performances; she brings a special feel to Ar tonelico that makes it different from other Gust games (where Shimotsuki is always present). After a pleasant instrumental track, the album begins with the game’s opener. This isn’t the greatest song, but it makes use of very interesting rhythmic ideas.
The next three songs are interesting melodic pieces, some using instruments that are common on other arranged albums, though generally uncommon on Gust albums (“grunge” electric guitar, industrial sounds). Then there is the “SUBLIMATION” three-parter. These songs are very chant-oriented, using the made-up language of Ar tonelico.
But the best Akiko Shikata performance, I believe, is saved for last. The title track, “MIO,” is brisk and beautiful. Check out the audio sample.
And then there was Yuko Ishibashi. Ms. Ishibashi only offered two tracks on the last “Hymmnos Concert,” and I thought they were the worst songs on the disc. But Ishibashi turned the tables, because now she has some excellent songs to offer. Granted, her voice is not the issue, but rather the compositions. These songs are so well-written, it’s absurd. Reisha’s Lullaby is a nice soft piece, and “Eternally Connected” is a standard mid-tempo piece (by “standard” I mean Gust Sound Team standards so…it’s good). But the best is “HAIBANATION” (kudos to “direct” romanization; they meant Hibernation). This 15 minute operetta is at times heavy, and at other times light. It puts you into a peaceful trance, only to be rudely awoken by powerful group vocals.
All in all, this album is decent. It’s certainly better than its “blue” predecessor, though I’m not sure if anything can top the original “Red” album.