After years of fan anticipation for a Chrono Cross orchestral album from composer Yasunori Mitsuda, he and Square Enix have come out of left field with one for Xenogears instead. The original soundtrack is equally beloved by Square fans, and with a respectable ethnic fusion arranged album already available in Xenogears Creid, the question is does "Myth: Xenogears Orchestral Album" merit the double-arranged treatment and live up to over a decade of latent anticipation. Provided those expectations are reasonably grounded, the answer is yes.
Don't expect much in the way of action or danger as often found in orchestral RPG soundtracks, as "Dark Dawn" and "Stage of Death" are the only selections to fit that bill (and incidentally two of the more average pieces on the soundtrack). However the other selections offer plenty in compensation, spanning from the pure optimism of "My Village is Number One" and "Flight" to the poignancy of "Unstealable Jewel" to the tranquility of "Bonds of Sea and Flame" and "The Beginning and the End".
The arrangements don't take many chances but are apt enough at relaying the source themes via orchestra. "My Village is Number One" basically just repeats the same verse and chorus a few times over with different tempos and instrumentation, and the rhythmic bursts of backing brass in "Flight" vary little from patterns established by Mitsuda in his first outing Chrono Trigger, but with such likable melodies at the forefront it's hard to mind.
Did I mention that there are some very nice themes at play here? The main theme in "Unstealable Jewel" is just beautiful, and I can say with complete confidence that "Bonds of Sea and Flame" will go down as one of the most chill-inducing musical moments of 2011, its climax of piano and immersive strings almost spiritual. "The Beginning and the End" would make a strong runner up - one of two arrangements to feature a chorus, it begins as a fairly solemn number but at the climax reaches another almost transcendental state. None of these themes were in their original forms enough to endear me to the two-disc original soundtrack, so it seems a fair assumption that for those who generally prefer a live orchestra to orchestral synth, these arrangements have succeeded in enhancing Mitsuda's original work.
There are certainly arguments to make that the album could have been better. One could rightfully claim that "The Wind Calls to Shevat in the Blue Sky" and the startlingly short "Lost... Broken Shards" would have been more meaningful with longer, more developed arrangements. And the best moments of the album could have been even better with some orchestration and mastering tweaks. Then there's the vocal theme "Small Two of Pieces", which is hardly any different from any standard, sappy Country ballad, just with flutes and orchestral strings in place of steel guitars.
At 51 minutes the album is understandably much shorter than the synth OST, but cut out "Small Two of Pieces" and the dispensable piano version "Faraway Promise" that follows, and it's a very listenable album for that entirety. It may not be perfect, but a few minor complaints do little to tarnish the suit of endearing themes and often beautiful, sometimes inspiring arrangements in Myth: Xenogears Orchestral Album. The original soundtrack has its fans and the first arranged album Creid is an interesting artistic effort, but I consider Myth the best Xenogears album there is.