Ever since it was released to the Japanese public in 1990, Record Of Lodoss War has been considered by many to be one of the greatest anime series around. An engaging fantasy tale about elves, dragons, magic, heroes, and villains, the series has won over many fans, myself included.
The musical score for the series has received similar acclaim. Composed by Mitsuo Hagita (who, according the liner notes, worked on many songs before, but never a full score), the score is a mixture of classical music and new age, with just the right feel for a fantasy epic. One can tell that this is a classical score, because many of the tracks recall memories of listening to the great masters. "Parn's Theme ~Warm Friendship~", for example, sounds very much like a Mozart symphony, and "Reminiscence" is a lovely piece reminiscent of Brahms. It is also easy to recognize this soundtrack for its "new age" aspects: "Magic Spells" and "Karla's Witchcraft" seem to rely less on creating memorable melodies than on giving a "mood". However, in this soundtrack, it works really nicely. ("Magic Spells" is mysterious, mystical, yet beneficent, while "Karla's Witchcraft" is decidedly dark and almost menacing.)
Who's performing the music, an orchestra or an electronic instrument that can imitate an orchestra? I found it hard to tell. At times it does sound like actual instruments in an orchestra (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion), but at other times it sounds like sound samples one would find on a synthesizer. Maybe it's one or the other, or perhaps it's both. Whatever it is, it is not really much of a criticism, as the instrumental quality seems to blend beautifully with this soundtrack.
Honestly, I didn't think Record Of Lodoss War had such great music when I first saw the OVA. Even though I did like the music, I was a little bit annoyed that some of the same pieces were used over, and over, and over again. But such is not the case with this album. When I listened to it, I realized just how wonderful this music was. It took me more than one listening, but I now admire the music of Lodoss more than I did when I first heard it in the anime.
There are a lot of wonderful tracks on this album. "Prologue" is an engaging overture which will leave you spellbound from the moment the first notes start to play up to the quiet, somewhat chilling end. "Deedlit's Theme ~Fairy Of The Wind~" begins quietly and mysteriously, then segues to an absolutely ravishing piece of music played wonderfully on strings (I didn't know Deedlit had such a romantic theme!). "Karla's Theme" is suitably dark and malevolent, yet never loud or obnoxious, perfectly mirroring the character of the Grey Witch who has her own designs for Lodoss. The other score tracks are good, too, except for "Dark Emperor Beld's Theme", which seems weaker and less furious than the more exciting action cues on the soundtrack. (It's not a bad track, though, it's just not my favorite.) Two of these action cues ("Fire Dragon" and "Fatal Struggle") are on this album, but the other ones are on the other two releases of the Lodoss soundtracks - more on that later.
The real highlights of this soundtrack, however, are the two pop songs, "Now And Fortune ~Flame And Eternity~" and "Fantasia Of The Wind", performed by Sherry. The two songs are rather different in mood - "Now And Fortune ~Flame And Eternity" is a slow yet lovely ballad, and "Fantasia Of The Wind" is a more rollicking number - but they are both beautiful and romantic and warrant the purchase of this soundtrack altogether. The instrumental arrangements of these two songs are also beautifully done; the piano-violin duet on the instrumental version of "Now And Fortune ~Flame And Eternity~" is delightful, as is the string ensemble performance on "Fantasia Of The Wind".
The album itself contains only 16 tracks, and is somewhat incomplete. But don't worry, there are two other albums with more music from Record Of Lodoss War, so don't be too upset if some of your favorite cues aren't on here. This album is a good place to start for Lodoss fans searching for a soundtrack album of this wonderful anime series, and a delightful introduction to newcomers, as well as soundtrack collectors. You can't go wrong with this soundtrack.