If only all game soundtracks were arranged this well.
Editor's review by Adam Corn
It would seem a logical assumption that this "Original Game Soundtrack" from a not-so-popular early Playstation RPG not known for its music wouldn't be worthy of attention. Not so. The album is instead a shining example of a proper arranged soundtrack. Though I've never heard the music from the game itself with my own ears, reliable sources indicate that the music on the album is not directly from the game. The extended track lengths and high sound quality suggest the same. Why publisher Antinos would release an arranged album as an "original soundtrack" is beyond me (they did the same with Arc the Lad), but this baby's arranged and it's arranged right.
The first track on this disc is absolutely a masterpiece, an eight-minute delight of sampled orchestral instruments composed and arranged with a progressive flair. The principal melody will have fans of the fantasy-adventure genre drooling, and composer/arranger Motoi Sakuraba makes a good thing even better by developing the theme masterfully throughout the track. What begins as a lonely flute performance evolves into an tumultuous, enrapturing violin extravaganza and on to more progressive form, before returning dramatically at its end to its fantasy roots. It's a bona fide classic.
The rest of the album features similar qualities, but not to the same inspiring extent. Indeed it does seem that the original Beyond the Beyond music must not have been that great, because the latter four tracks just don't have the same memorable, inspiring melodies as the first. However, they do boast the same masterful arranged style. Track four, for example, begins with an increasingly-intensified combination of piano, violin, and drums that leads one to expect awesome things - until the disappointing primary melody comes into play. Sakuraba takes the sometimes lackluster melodies and repeats them, modifies them, and interweaves them so skillfully though that they still make a favorable impression.
Overall the style of music could be considered symphonic/progressive rock. The middle tracks, where the progressive sound is most evident - are a bit of a change for those accustomed to more traditional orchestral fair like Dragon Quest and in comparison even Final Fantasy. Almost all the instrumental sounds are sampled and not live. In fact the only performance credits in the liner notes, excluding Takeo Shimoda on drums, go to Sakuraba and Hiroyuki Nanba on keyboards. Fortunately the sound quality is still quite high. Piano, flute, violin, bass guitar, and more sound excellent. The only real drawback in sound quality is the sampled chorus, which although not terrible is overused and probably should have been substituted with other instrumentation at times.
If Beyond the Beyond Original Game Soundtrack sustained the dramatic impact of the first track, it would be one of the greatest RPG soundtracks ever. Though that's unfortunately not the case I consider it still worth owning for that epic first track alone, with the arrangements in the remaining tracks adding additional substance despite some melodic weakness.