Choral and symphonic excellence... but not without flaws.
Reader review by Eric Bowling
Although it has its bumps and downsides, Elemental Gearbolt: Original Soundtrack and Drama is an excellent - but in some ways short - symphonic CD. Fans of the Final Fantasy series who like stirring, dramatic arranged music will find that this CD has a special place on their shelves.
The CD starts out with a 24-minute drama track, which, as best I can tell, is all the audio from the FMV cut scenes of the Japanese version of the game. I suppose if you understand Japanese, this could be really enjoyable. It's quite interesting to listen sometimes because of the drama music in the background, as it punctuates the dialogue very well. It would've been very cool if they had made an English release of this CD, with English dialogue instead of the booming Japanese dialogue. It's worth a listen, but you'll usually just skip it.
Other than the first track, this soundtrack is pretty much gold! It must be said that many of the same themes are used repeatedly on the CD, so the repetition factor is a little high. Luckily, those repeated melodies are excellent and hold well to being used over and over.
Track 1 features a haunting flute, which sounds remarkably like a pan flute, joined by strings and a piano. It's eerie. Track 4 is a dramatic symphonic masterpiece. Although only 2:19 long, it is packed with deep drum bursts, light cymbal strikes, and a glorious violin solo that all together evoke worry and uneasiness. It is quietly aggressive and tense. The theme from track 4 is carried over into other subsequent tracks and re-arranged in different ways that change the mood of the work. Track 7 is adrenaline-pumped, with booming drums, whimsical flutes, and dissonant violins, giving it a very tense and urgent mood. The CD continues with its mood-creating musical pieces, changing between themes and styles, all the while using the orchestra to its creative fullest.
Track 11 is also a great piece of mood-setting, dramatic music, with building violins, flutes, and drums. The intensity is halted and frozen in place, then, a single bell begins another upward building of intensity, higher still. A chorus suddenly breaks in, accompanied by ever-urgent violins, and is then joined by a gothic organ. The overlapping of choral vocals, the organs and the violins make this track really powerful. I feel like I'm walking through a series of dark, wet caves, full of danger, into an ancient catacomb or temple, full of unknown horrors.
The highlight of the whole CD, the track which caught my attention and excused me thoroughly for plopping down the 35 bucks, is track 16. One of the greatest choral compositions ever, it features booming drums, punctuating trumpets and trombones, and dissonant strings. The chorus sings along, its pitch moving up and down, up and down, along with the highs and lows of the melody perfectly. The delivery is better than that done by the chorus in "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII. It sweeps you up in its intensity and you feel as if the world is at stake, that all the forces of good and bad are fighting for control - mythical powers beyond our comprehension clashing together, biding for superiority.
Elemental Gearbolt: Original Sound Track and Drama offers superfluous mood and choral music, done with a symphonic arrangement that makes it a cut above the rest - but just a little. You only get about 40 minutes of actual arranged music, and with the repeated use of melodies, it sometimes has the tendency to sound short and repetitive. The choral arrangements in the songs, however, along with great orchestrations, make this a strong buy. Track 16 gets a lot of quality time on my CD player, along with a few others. In a way, this is the emotional opposite of the Romancing SaGa arranged CDs. Those albums offer very dramatic, emotional power that is light and peaceful in mood and composition, while Elemental Gearbolt offers the exact opposite - tension-filled, nail-biting, action-packed works. Its execution would be flawless, if only there was just a little more on the CD to listen to. A little more variety. I can heartily recommend this CD to anyone who likes good song composition, but doesn't really care too much about song length. It's not a marathon, but I don't think you'll be too disappointed with it if you're into good symphonic music.