A lot of people have mixed opinions about Record Of Lodoss War - Chronicles Of The Heroic Knight. This TV series spin-off of the now-classic Record Of Lodoss War was a "retelling" of the events that happened in the fateful battle in Lodoss following the death of Ghim. Some cast the TV series off as a disgrace to a beloved series, while less picky fans enjoyed it (I fall into this category). The TV series *is* entertaining in its own right.
With this out of the way, how does the music hold? Well, first of all, this music is not composed by Mitsuo Hagita, but by Kaoru Wada (who worked on the music to the popular anime Ninja Scroll, and conducted the Shinsei Nihon Symphony Orchestra on Synphonic Suite from Actraiser). As such, this score is quite different from the first Lodoss score. None of the themes Hagita created are hinted, nor is the music given the classical-new age treatment. This is not to say that this music isn't any good. It is, in many ways, better than the first Lodoss score, in that it's more of a suitable "fantasy" score. It's got a number really impressive (and yes, heroic) tracks that define the meaning "fantasy" and work really nicely in the context of the TV series. It also employs a full orchestra, something the original Lodoss score never had, primitive percussion (particularly on the battle themes), and, much to the surprise of many, a chorus. The result is something that sounds like it could come from a live-action fantasy adventure rather than an animated film... but that makes the music all the more magnificent.
From listening to this album countless times, I have been able to pick out a number of themes packed within the music. First, there is the theme for Lodoss itself, a grand march piece with a hint of the Star Trek fanfare tucked in the score. It is given a spectacular performance by the orchestra on "Birth Of A Hero", with full gusto and bravado. Then, there is the theme for Parn, the heroic Free Knight (still my favorite character in the series, alongside Deedlit, his high-elf love interest), which is introduced on "Travels Of The Young Knight" - a short, but impressive heroic fanfare ending as triumphantly as it begins excitedly. (This tune was used, on the English dub, for the trailers for the next episodes, rather than the last few seconds of "Birth Of A Hero" on the original Japanese version.) There is also a dark, malevolent theme for the Marmo Forces, hinted on more than one track, including "The Black Knight", and "The Witch's Line Of Vision", which is more than appropriate for the theme of the bad guys. Three other recognizable themes include the theme for Spark, the young knight-to-be, introduced on the very medieval and irresistably bouncy "Descendants of Flame"; a sad, haunting ballad for Neese, the doomed "Doorway Girl" - "Young Fate"; and "Travelling Elf", (I can't remember whose theme this is; it does appear frequently, though), which is mysterious and beautiful.
Those of you who were spoiled by the battle themes of the original Record Of Lodoss War may be taken by surprise at the quality of the ones found on Chronicles Of The Heroic Knight. Kaoru Wada employs the aggressive power of the percussion instruments found from Ninja Scroll and mixes his excellent orchestration of Yuzo Koshiro's Actraiser tunes on Symphonic Suite from Actraiser to churn out battle themes which shake the speakers like thunder and don't get old fast. Of particular note is "Falling On Troubled Times", where it hints the motif of Lodoss in a very aggressive, anxious mood. Probably the best of the battle themes on this album is "An Angered Berserker", played whenever Orson the Berserker goes insane and becomes a crazed killer. The percussion pounding and the orchestra's power takes a back seat here to the awesome might of the male bass chorus, who chant "Dies Irae", for a powerful effect. (A similar technique was used by Alan Menken for his overlooked score to Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.)
As amazing as "An Angered Berserker" is, it is only one of the four choral tracks on this album. The other two include "Sacrifice to Earth Goddess Marfa", which uses a female's chorus, bell's chimes, brass, and tympani rolls to give the illusion of a dramatic magical spell being cast. The third one, and probably the most rousing of the three, is "Song Of Battle", the hymn to the God of War, Myrii. Although brief, this 50-second piece, employing a male's tenor and bass chorus, is powerful, stirring, and a treat for fans of this type of music. The last track, "Awaken The Spirits", which once again employs the female chorus for a slow, beautiful prayer, is ravishing enough to almost evoke tears. (I always cry at tracks like this these days!)
Also of note are two dance tracks, "The Dancing Minstrel" and "Palace Tower". The fomer track uses a primitive, high-pitched drum and a panpipe (or a wind instrument of some sort), and is up-tempo, while the latter track is slower, and uses the strings, most notably a violin and a lyre. Both tracks are quite catchy, though.
The vocal tracks are another matter. On the first Lodoss soundtracks, they were all treats to listen to. On Chronicles, the vocal tracks are less memorable, and more bland. (The last track, a scratchy pop song called "Inverted Rainbows", is one that falls into this category.) However, the same can not be said for the other two vocal tracks that are on this album. "Sea Of Miracles", the opening number for the TV series (composed by Yoko Kanno of Macross Plus and Uncharted Waters fame), is a beautiful, rocking, memorable song performed radiantly by Ma-aya Sakamoto (who voices one of the series' new characters, Leaf the Half-Elf), and an instant highlight. "Barefoot In The Light", the ending song (written by Akino Arai), on the other hand, starts out a little bit more on the bizarre side, and features a questionably high-pitched vocal (Chie Ishibashi, who voices Little Neese), but it gets better fast. Of the three vocal tracks, "Sea Of Miracles" and "Barefoot In The Light" are the most listenable.
Like the original Record Of Lodoss War soundtrack albums, Chronicles Of The Heroic Knight has been divided into three different albums which contain a large majority (but not all, unfortunately) of the music from the TV series. This album, the first, contains an excellent amount of songs, but the second half of the album contains more of the slower, beautiful (and occasionally tearjerking) songs than the uplifting, heroic oomph found in the beginning. It's an uneven balance of the exciting and the mellow, but all the tracks are very enjoyable (and bring back happy memories for those who have seen the TV series), and that is a wonderful bonus.
This album is exactly what it is intended to be: a collection of the first (and best) parts of the Lodoss TV series music, and an invitation for people to search down the other two soundtracks. The Record Of Lodoss War: Chronicles Of The Heroic Knight soundtracks - this one especially - are worth such a hunt.