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GEM Impact and The Outer Rim Take on the Ninjas: Ninja Blade Original Soundtrack (Reviews)

February 18, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook GEM Impact and The Outer Rim Take on the Ninjas: Ninja Blade Original Soundtrack (Reviews)on Twitter

I’m an honest guy, so let me just tell you something right up front before we get into this album – up until recently, I wasn’t a huge Norihiko Hibino fan. I was familiar with his work on the Zone of the Enders and Metal Gear Solid series and appreciated whatever music of his I had heard in-game, but until I had the pleasure of checking out The Outer Rim album I was merely a spectator to his work. As I listened to the spacious jazz of The Outer Rim my curiosity was piqued and I became more eager to learn more about Hibino and his musician friends at GEM Impact.

A couple of weeks ago I heard the Ninja Blade Main Theme and was completely floored. Where had I been while Hibino and the GEM Impact team were making such great music? As I thought about it, songs like “Yell ‘Dead Cell'” and “Twilight Sniping” from MGS2 came rushing back to the forefront of my memory and I realized that I had been here all along, and as such I had lots of music to search out and enjoy. And the first album up? The Ninja Blade Original Soundtrack, composed by Hibino and the rest of the GEM Impact team. And, believe you me, this is an excellent soundtrack.

Join me after the jump as I pull my head out of the sand and take a closer look at the Ninja Blade Original Soundtrack.

The album kicks off with Hibino’s ridiculously epic “Ninja Blade Main Theme,” an eight minute ride through equal parts calm Eastern soundscapes, driving action music and emotive cinematic and symphonic movements that form a surprisingly cohesive and addictive piece of music. This was the piece that got me interested in Ninja Blade, and it sets the tone for the album quite nicely.

While he is the sound producer for the album, Hibino himself only composed four of the tracks and assisted with three others. His other main contribution is the “Beanstalk” vocal theme, which is reprised twice after its original vocal version. My favorite rendition is the “Acoustic Version,” due in part to the fact that it sounds a lot like a track from The Outer Rim album, which makes perfect sense because The Outer Rim performed the track! They also performed the “Epilogue” version, which starts off as a solo piano and guitar duet, simmers into some excellent and smooth lounge music before mellowing out and finishing up in the same fashion that the track opened with. I love hearing music from these guys, and these two tracks are solid entries into The Outer Rim’s repertoire.

The meat of the album was composed by the other composers at GEM Impact: Takahiro Izutani, Yoshitaka Suzuki and Takahide Ayuzawa. All three bring some seriously excellent songs to the table, and while “Main Theme” and “Beanstalk” act as the heavy bookends to the soundtrack, these composers’ themes audibly tell the tale of Ninja Blade.

Suzuki’s compositions are moody and deliberately paced, as perfectly noted in the almost Metal Gear-esque “Mission Preparation” where he accentuates a downtempo electronic beat with symphonic queues and the occasional traditional Eastern instrument. “Kuroh’s Betrayal” takes a different approach with ambient suspended strings and female vocals. As the track builds, Suzuki imbues it with some truly melancholic melodic phrases that fit the title (and the scene in the game, I’m sure) very well. The emotion continues in “Debriefing,” a sorrowful Eastern new-age composition that makes me wonder what happens at the end of the game. “Sudden Confrontation” is the sore thumb of Suzuki’s compositions, eschewing calm mood and pacing for a more intense and devious battle theme.

Takahiro Izutani takes the role of the aggressor on the soundtrack, presenting tense action themes such as the rockin’ “Boss Battle” and the aptly named “Chaos,” which flies right out of the gate with driving percussion and an almost hostile and loose energy that doesn’t let up throughout the entire track. While not as aggressive, the ambient and dissonant “Searching” gives off a feeling of uneasiness; the ever-present piano keeps things tense, as if the listener is waiting for a sharp conclusion that never comes. And one of my favorite contributions from Izutani, “Big Enemies,” is thick and brooding, sounding like a burial march that gains in intensity to give background to what I can only presume is a battle sequence in-game.

“Ninja Story” is a collaboration between Hibino, Izutani and Takahide Ayuzawa, and is what can only be described as Eastern acid jazz symphonic rock fusion, and it is quite a treat to behold in its entirety. The development in this track is absurd. Finally, there is Takahide Ayuzawa’s sole contribution: “Big Father,” a beautiful piece that is as mysterious as it is serene. The backing chord progression for the first half of the song is peaceful, and as the song develops, Ayuzawa adds some symphonic backing that morphs the piece into a well-orchestrated, heavier version of itself.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to say about this album, I thought it would be a good idea to delineate its success by breaking it down by each composer’s contribution and then wrapping it up with shiny wrapping paper and a pretty little bow. I have come to realize that each composer’s style and compositions only buttress the album as a whole. Each composition holds up very well on its own, but when looked at as a singular piece of the larger puzzle, the real beauty of this album shines through. Despite being woven together by several composers, Ninja Blade always feels cohesive and stands as its own being, not a compilation soundtrack or a varied team effort – and that’s more than I can say for a lot of other albums.

Hibino has led an immensely talented sound team on a two-year journey that has culminated with this double CD release I have sitting on my desk right now, and their long nights and hard work are almost tangible while listening to the album. There is really no other way to put into words how great this soundtrack is other than saying, “Dude, it’s Ninja Blade. And it’s awesome.” My hat’s off to GEM Impact for their amazing work. You can find it at CD Japan and Play Asia.

Does the title’s main theme do anything for you? Do you feel this is a step up from the studio’s previous works?

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