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Soundtrack of the Month 10/2010: Granado Espada OST Volume 1

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This one has certainly been a long time coming.  Granado Espada Original Sound Track Volume 1 is an interesting release for a number of reasons, and is quite special to me in that it was the first album I reviewed for Music4Games.  I admit I’m using some of that writeup as my basis for this review, but it’s crazy how much has happened since 2006 that I’ve been able to expound upon!

What has happened, you ask?  Well, just here on OSV, we’ve interviewed composer Osamu Kubota on two separate occasions about his work on the title, introduced fans to Korean composer Sevin, founding member of S.F.A. and former member of soundTeMP, talked to TaQ about his sole contribution to the game, uncovered the fact that all soundTeMP tracks on this album were actually written by Jinbae “ESTi” Park, and even reviewed the Granada Espada Original Sound Track Volume 2 digital release from Streamline Records.  Yeah, a lot of stuff, and what better time to have Granado Espada as our soundtrack of the month than with the announcement that a proper Volume 3 is now on its way!

Hit the jump to find out why you need to hunt this one down.

First of all, the exotic name and vibrantly colored artwork on the cover may have you scratching your head to just what this album is all about.  I distinctly remember being intimidated by the name, packaging, and the fact that 4 discs were contained within, but I think most who have given the soundtrack a shot have been pleasantly surprised by what they’ve found.

This highly stylized, free-to-play Korean MMORPG came courtesy of Hakkyu Kim (of Ragnarok Online fame), taking players back to 17th century Europe to explore the “New World” in hopes of finding treasure.  In this context, Granado Espada is a clever title, as Spain was one of the major world powers at the time, and the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds on the album cover definitely add that Spanish flair.

I’ve said time and time again that Korean developers really get it when it comes to great music in games.  They spare no expense when it comes to music, and Granado Espada is one of the best examples of this.  A variety of talent was assembled to produce what I think is one of the most memorable game soundtracks in recent years.  SoundTeMP (ESTi) composed nearly half of the tracks, while S.F.A, Osamu Kubota, and Korean film composer Kim Junsung composed the remainder of the pieces.  Since the release of the game, numerous updates have been made, adding music from DJ Tiesto’s Blackhole Recordings (featured on Volume 2), as well as more tracks by the core composer group and the previously mentioned piece by TaQ.

First of all, I love soundTemP.  They can simply do no wrong by me.  While they demonstrated their talents in Ragnarok Online with a number of pop and electronic tracks, ESTi’s Granado Espada contributions are solely electronic in nature.  Some of my favorite tracks include “Forget,” which offers a sweet, floating melody and “Trancephobia” which features driving electronic percussion, brass accents, and distant, underlying rap vocals that make for a unique listening experience.  Finally, “Nangman Trance,” found towards the end of the album, is a beautiful waltz featuring a finger-snap percussion sample with strings and woodwinds driven by a jumpy electronic bass.  This is my favorite track on the album.

S.F.A’s offerings differ greatly from SoundTeMP.  Their first track, “Beyond Hope,” displays the team’s versatility, opening with a staccato violin segment and a thin synth with pitch bends before giving way to a jazzy piano and bass chorus.  Interestingly, S.F.A’s use of the violin reminds me of Masashi Hamauzu at times.  Other tracks fall in line with S.F.A’s established style of rock and blues with violin accompaniments.  “The G Appears” is a quirky track that will remind you of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” while the game’s vocal theme, “Esa Promesa,” is a rock song with Korean vocals that are both beautiful and powerful.

Kim Junsung contributes some amazing orchestral work to Granado Espada.  He is known in his native South Korea for composing the music for the huge hit movie, Marathon, for which he won many awards.  His title track, “Granado Espada,” is a contemplative solo piano piece with a catchy melody that is surprisingly soothing compared to the rest of the music on the album.  The longest track on the album, “Cite de Reboldoeux,” is a sorrowful orchestral piece featuring string, brass, and percussive sections, and again, piano.  This track, more than any other, really begs for a live performance as it really feels as though Kimsung really poured his heart and soul into this masterpiece.

Osamu Kubota actually acts as the “glue” between all the various styles the other composers introduce.  Rock, orchestral, and trance: he does it all.  “Odyssey” is a fun track with rocking electronic guitars and percussion, classical piano solos, and a mesmerizing chant that Kubota used a secret technique to produce.  Another track, “Siren’s Scent,” features an angelic choral performance on top of grungy bass and percussion.  “Temptation,” on the other hand, is a dark trance piece with a highly filtered synthetic bass hitting the off notes while a beautiful interplay between a solo violin and a string section carry the melody.

I can’t stress enough how impressive this album is.  With four composers, each with their own unique style, they were able to create a coherent work spanning a whopping 4 CDs.  That is no easy feat, and each composer really deserves some kudos for this accomplishment.  Along with the four discs of music are some additional bonus tracks, and the booklet contained within the CD case is quite extensive with artwork and biographies of those involved.  I simply can’t wait for Volume 3 to be released (another 3 discs…), and I hope you’re with me in praying for a public release this time around.  Yes, that’s right.  While Volume 1 is one of the greatest game soundtracks ever produced, it’s a promotional release only that was never distributed to the public, and it’s a crime.

What are your thoughts regarding Granado Espada?  Do you have some favorite tracks from the album that I didn’t mention?

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