Game Music, Reviews

Passing the Torch: Sakimoto’s Semi-Rockin’ LORD of VERMILION II Soundtrack (Review)

August 16, 2010 | | 12 Comments Share thison Facebook Passing the Torch: Sakimoto’s Semi-Rockin’ LORD of VERMILION II Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

We were thoroughly impressed with Nobuo Uematsu’s rock ‘n’ roll antics on the original LORD of VERMILION soundtrack in January 2009, so I admit I was surprised to hear that Hitoshi Sakimoto and the team at Basiscape would be handling the sequel. As it turns out, Hitoshi Sakimoto is responsible for all of the composition this time around, aided by a large list of arrangers from the Basiscape roster, who mainly handle the more rock-oriented tracks.

Another interesting note is that while the first LORD of VERMILION soundtrack was published by Dog Ear Records, LORD of VERMILION II’s soundtrack comes courtesy of Square Enix directly. Who knows what the reasons are for the change, but I was certainly curious to hear how Hitoshi Sakimoto would interpret the world of LORD of VERMILION.

Find out what to expect in our review after the jump.

While Uematsu went all out heavy metal with the original LORD of VERMILION, Sakimoto keeps with tradition while injecting his own signature orchestral sound into the mix, making for an interesting blend of styles (I was constantly reminded of the Symphony & Metallica album from 1999, which I happen to love). I mentioned that a host of Basiscape members arranged Sakimoto’s compositions, but many also lend their guitar skills throughout a number of the pieces here, so know that you’re getting live guitar on this album.

We start with “Dawn of Vermilion 2 -Opening Theme-,” Sakimoto’s arrangement of Uematsu’s opening theme for the original game. While it opens with the same wailing electric guitar notes, Sakimoto allows strings to carry the melody, lending a more regal edge to the piece. This is a nice transition for fans of the original LORD of VERMILION soundtrack, as it effectively blends Uematsu and Sakimoto’s styles. I also really dig the fact that Sakimoto decided to work this theme into numerous pieces throughout the score, bringing continuity to the album as a whole.

Next up, we take an excursion into jazz territory with “Name Entry,” featuring a funky bassline and string stabs set against an ascending electric guitar progression. There’s also a tasty piano solo accented by some jazzy brass to get that lounge vibe going. It’s quickly into the more rock-oriented material, however, as tracks like “Aguirre Atoll,” “Veteran Gallant,” and “Eternal Garden” give fans of the original LORD of VERMILION exactly what they want to hear, with the Castlevania-esque “Eternal Garden” being one of my favorite tracks on the album. The overdriven sound of “Hell Court,” which effectively conveys a blistering environment, and the impressive guitar solos in “The One at the Summit” should also please rock fans.

Other pieces, however, including “Combat Preparation,” “Ark,” and “Dracovantel” act as distinct reminders that you’re listening to Hitoshi Sakimoto’s soundtrack as they make use of his signature orchestral sound, temporarily abandoning the rock roots of the series (although guitar does peak through the bottom of the mix on a couple of these tracks). Straying even further away, “Arcania” injects a foreign sounds into the mix with its fast-moving melodic lines that hint at a dusty desert vibe while “Dragon Tomb” and “Toy Box” delve into electronic territory. “Dragon Tomb” features a tense synth bass, punchy percussion, and a chaotic brass section while “Toy Box” almost sounds like an evil circus its use of meandering bell and string notes.

The tail end of the album features the most epic tracks, starting with the heart-pounding “Eden” before moving onto the horrifying “Faux Supreme God” and the truly heavy metal “The Temple at the End of the World,” complete with rapid-fire percussion and electric guitar aplenty. The final track, “Lord of Vermilion2” is an ethereal vocal piece performed by Yasuko Otsui. Melancholy strings accompany Otsui’s indiscernible lyrics that sound mumbled and distorted, making for a really neat sound. The track ends the album on a rather peaceful note despite the intensity of everything that comes before it.

But wait, there’s a bonus track tucked away at the end of the album remixed by Manabu Namiki and performed by aRCaNa. You can forget about ending on a peaceful note with this one, as “Coin” combines Namiki’s electronic know-how with aRCaNa’s… I’m not qutie sure. Is this a rock group? The track does work in rock elements along with vocal snippets from the game, and covers a lot of territory throughout its 5-minute run time.

Overall, I have to say that while I like what Hitoshi Sakimoto and Basiscape have done with LORD of VERMILION II, I prefer the original game’s approach and production values. Not only was it a dedicated heavy metal soundtrack, but I certainly came away from it with some memorable moments. I don’t hear a lot of catchy melodies to bring me back to LORD of VERMILION II, although I do enjoy the Symphony & Metallica spirit that Basiscape has achieved. I also feel that the production quality is generally a bit muddy, as I would have preferred to a more crisp and clear sound.

At least there are a lot of pretty images to look at in the booklet. Sakimoto provides liner notes and commentary for each track, and the album cover is actually an opaque plastic sheet with a LORD of VERMILION trading card attached to the back. The album is available from both CD Japan and Play-Asia if you’re interested.

What do you think of the sound team shuffle for LORD of VERMILION 2? Do you think one approach works better than the other?

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