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Baten Kaitos Original Soundtrack :: Review by Aevloss and Harry

Baten Kaitos ~Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean~ Original Soundtrack Album Title: Baten Kaitos ~Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean~ Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-00024/5
Release Date: December 17, 2003
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Role-Playing game releases are certainly not a common occurrence on Nintendo's Gamecube console. It was to the relief of many Gamecube owners when company Namco announced two forthcoming games that would take that very format. Even more intriguing was that one of these games was to be developed by those responsible for the Xenosaga series, "Monolith Software'. Understandably, this generated hype, particularly in Japan, where RPGs are considered mainstream, and the feeling was only amplified when Namco unveiled their other title as Tales of Symphonia.

Baten Kaitos, the product of Monolith Software's work, is centered in endless sky where huge landmasses float on which people live. The seas of the earth below are but legend in the existence of these people and have become a subject of some cynicism. Amongst all this, a plot to destroy the floating continents and eradicate all memories of the ancient seas is afoot; a corruption into which Kalas and Xelha plunge into for their different reasons, and end up trying to prevent it.

The game is noticeably stunning visually, which is commented on by game composer Motoi Sakuraba in the soundtrack liner notes. His music score would need to be diverse indeed if he wanted to encapsulate the world to which his music would accompany. This is quite possibly why he was selected in the first place — though many would claim that his soundtracks all sound similar, it is generally because he has experimented with most kinds of music already that innovation has become more difficult for him to establish anew over his years as a composer. Something about this project managed to inspire Sakuraba however; this was no mere rehash of one of his "tales" scores; quite the contrary — Baten Kaitos is a work that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile; a video game score of considerable quality.

"I think the score for Baten Kaitos stresses the divide between beauty and drama in music more than is usual for me. I suppose I could say that, overall, I attempted to illustrate the world of Baten Kaitos with an orchestral sound, but I also utilized folk music styles, so there's a lot of variety." — Motoi Sakuraba

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Prologue Peak

The soundtrack begins with this interesting number, which happens to be one of the worst on the disc. In typical Sakuraba fashion, the main title screen music is short and quite non-descript. The strings and brass instruments build up to crescendo after which a violin passage occurs. While pleasant, the piece is criminally underdeveloped, and though it has a tranquil, airy feel about it, the piece lacks any fervor as an opening track. In all fairness, there is little else that could be done to accompany a title screen, but when listening to the album, such a track is very forgettable and leaves no lasting impression. (6/10)

2) Nadir's Whale

The anticipation the first track leaves you feeling is satisfied in this next track. Opening with some ominous tremolo strings, the track proceeds at an alarming pace with its dynamic structure fluctuating regularly — at one time you hear a courageous string and brass melody before it cuts out to be replaced with a gentle harp, which consequently shifts to a frightening choir section. The track never stays in one place, not lingering about one theme for any lengthy period of time. To fully appreciate this piece, I recommend viewing the opening FMV to which it accompanies; that Sakuraba was able to convey so many feelings in one two minute long piece is no mean feat. His use of the orchestrated music is really quite remarkable, and deters what antagonism the first track might have spawned. (9/10)

3) To the End of the Journey of Glittering Stars

This piece is somewhat typical of Sakuraba. It opens with a harp melody, the instrument a common feature of his scores, playing a rendition of the main theme. His skill is evident, but it is when the strings — particularly the leading violins — and the powerful horns enter that the song really takes off. It suddenly becomes much more powerful and quite beautiful to listen to. It is very well placed on the album, offsetting the aggressiveness of "Fish at Heaven's Pole" and establishing a good central theme for the game. (9/10)

4) Soul Poetry

Sakuraba is well known for using sampled choir voices regularly in his music, arguably often enough that the tracks begin to sound a little melodramatic. In Baten Kaitos, he managed instead to secure live performances, which adds a new haunting dimension to these pieces. Accompanied by a mysterious piano and a harpsichord harmony, the voice takes on a frightening edge that somehow sounds peaceful and troubled at the same time, comparable perhaps, to a moments respite in a horror game. The song becomes quite moving when the solo child vocal replaces the woman; soul poetry does seem an apt description of what the music achieves, used perhaps in more personal situations in the game itself. I think it would have been even more successful if the melody had developed a little more, as it seemed short for a track that sounds so meaningful. (8/10)

5) The True Mirror

"The True Mirror" is the first of Sakuraba's battle themes on the soundtrack. This one is the main piece that plays in the basic monster encounters. Its purpose seems to be primarily centered on being catchy and not so obtrusive that it draws unwanted attention to itself. A violin shadowed by a rock organ leads the piece and the upbeat synth adds interest to the background — at no point does it attempt to convey power, it simply blends away with the battle screen and is calm enough that you would not get too bored hearing it in the game. Sakuraba realizes the importance of battle themes, and since the card-based system used in Baten Kaitos is not incredibly fast-paced, the music doesn't attempt to "pump" the listener as many of his other similar pieces have in the past. The use of the violin actually interlinks the battle music to some of the more beautiful pieces on the soundtrack, thus creating a more coherent feel and a sense of place. It is quite unique and might not impress all, but I think it is very successful and fits its context perfectly. (9/10)

6) Vitriolic a Stroke

Evidently, Sakuraba's approach to the first boss theme is quite different to the battle theme. Making full use of the live electric guitar performance by the talented Tohru Iwao, he gives us a progressive rock piece more true to his original battle style. Its success surpasses its predecessor though, managing to develop a great deal in under three minutes, leaving the listener satisfied that it has been fleshed out to its full potential. It begins with an ominous guitar riff that betrays the power that is held by the boss monster/character, before the main tune kicks in played on the guitar once again. At about 1:10, the lead plays a seemingly improvised guitar solo that sounds very good, and at two minutes it is still going strong, the piece developing further, making it that much more memorable and epic. When it finally loops, the track has come round a full circle without having ever lost momentum, showing just how good a rock composer Sakuraba can be. Without a doubt, this is one of the strongest battle themes in the game. (10/10)

7) Dark Conviction

After the amazing "Vitriolic a Stroke," this track might not get quite as much credit as it deserves. Upon listening to it by itself, I think that "Dark Conviction" is not too far short of achieving the greatness of its predecessor. It takes a completely different style, dominated by strings and bombastic brass instruments instead, and the percussion also plays a much more notable role. To me its militaristic sound would have fit perfectly into a strategy RPG such as Final Fantasy tactics, which shows how diverse Sakuraba's boss themes can be. There is a passage at about 1:30 that reeks of power, where the drum-rolls and the strings are particularly strong, and it is a shame that it was not built upon a little more. Aside from this minor complaint however, the track is, once again excellent. (9/10)

8) Glowing Cloud

"Glowing Cloud" takes on qualities from both of the other two boss tracks, and boasts a power greater than either. The short section 28 seconds in immediately asserts strength and makes the listener realize that the battles in which this is played must be really quite climatic. Sakuraba's rock organ work is in abundance here and he works his skill with the instrument in an excellent solo with the horns in the background establishing a heroic, courageous feeling. For the first time, after this moment the synth plays a part in the track — a saw tooth wave (echoed by the organ) that brings the piece back to where it begun. Like in "Vitriolic a Stroke," there is never a moment of relaxation, just raw authority that develops amazingly and leaves a strong impression. Sakuraba is certainly a master at battle music. (9/10)

9) Chaotic Dance

It was interesting choice to place six battle themes one after the other on the soundtrack, but the fact is, they are also so different that you never lose interest. "Chaotic Dance" is done in a trance style, predominately synth and vocals, comparable to "Bitter Dance" on volume 2 of the Star Ocean Till the End of Time Original Soundtrack. The vocals are obscure, but the male that begins the song sounds like he is merely talking/chanting while the female that enters later actually sings and adds to the melody. It creates an unusual atmosphere; knowing that it is a battle theme makes you a little wary — it is not so obviously and outwardly powerful like the boss themes before it, yet something about the piece warns you not to underestimate it. It may be that the piece is used in conjunction with lost technology in the game, but I get the feeling that it is trying to portray reticence and ability at the same time; reserved yet unquestionable capability of a human enemy perhaps. Nevertheless, Sakuraba works wonders with the style, and it evolves as it progresses, becoming increasingly more sophisticated as a piece. Even if it is not as overtly commanding as its predecessors it is certainly most effective. (9/10)

10) Rumbling of the Earth

The last of the main boss themes, in "Rumbling of the Earth" Sakuraba takes on a different style once more. I don't know exactly how you would define it; tribal rock perhaps? It begins with some jungle calls before overlaying a traditional string and brass melody with a bass guitar and some odd percussion work. In some ways it is very original, especially when the strings and brass cut out and we hear more tribal chants and percussion. The choice to use a guitar in a track like this is also intriguing, but works surprisingly well. Although it is perhaps the weakest of the boss themes, it is still far above average and casts Sakuraba's skills in a favorable light. (8/10)

11) Coolant

"Coolant" is the victory piece of the soundtrack, and although it is only about half a minute long, it is quite captivating. The melody is played by a flute and is accompanied by a harp and a lush string harmony that together creates a piece that works better than your usual fanfare. I find that this sort of victory tune is much more meaningful than trumpet blasts and really does give a rewarding feel at the end of a battle, especially if it has been a difficult one. It also manages to blend into the album quite well without disrupting the flow because of how short it is. (7/10)

12) Between the Winds

This track is almost completely played on the harp, with some wind sound effects in the background, which help to form a good image in your head of the locations it might accompany. As usual, Sakuraba's skill with the harp is profound, but there is only so much the instrument can do by itself. This track is not original — it would not seem out of place on any of Sakuraba's soundtracks; yet it still manages to perfectly create the atmosphere of a tranquil location with wind whistling gently through the air, and we couldn't really ask for more than that — it is a game soundtrack after all, and mood-setting is arguably the principal objective. As such, this piece fails to stand out and is quite unoriginal, but deserves credit for the mood it creates. (7/10)

13) Gentle Wind

I think that the music seems to be trying to communicate how striking the islands in the clouds seem to us at this early point in the game. This is the first town theme, and has a distinct airy theme about it, thanks in particular to the fluttering woodwind instruments that perfectly accompany the acoustic guitar and the percussion. It is like Sakuraba is trying to dive into the graphics and pull out a deeper sensation through his music — it really feels magical and soothing and is a lovely contrast to the long string of battle themes from before and serves to help wind the listener down and make them feel safe and untroubled. It works wonderfully well, and the more I listen to this track the more I appreciate how it manages this. (9/10)

14) To the Garden of the Moon Butterflies in the Moonless Night

This next piece follows a similar principal. Beginning with a banjo and a flute arrangement of the main theme, we are once again made to feel at ease, subtlety reassured by Sakuraba's rich melodic music. The ethereal live vocals once again add to the piece much more than usual in a way that is very appealing to the ears. The use of live instruments here makes the music seem especially existent and wholesome, which must work so well in the game itself, bringing the visuals to life, adding the final dimension to an already wonderfully artistic creation. Once again, this is moving, creative work and Sakuraba's ability to experiment with all kinds of styles and succeed admirably in creating thoroughly enjoyable pieces of music seems intensified in this soundtrack in particular. (9/10)

15) Rays of the Rising Sun Flowing Through

Unfortunately, this track sounds similar to other pieces of Sakuraba's work, and would have easily fitted into the Star Ocean Till the End of Time Original Soundtrack. Having said that, the striking horn and its majestic string accompaniment create a triumphant piece that sounds very much like a fanfare of some sort. It develops very well and at about 1:10 a beautiful passage occurs where the orchestration is particularly good and we are introduced to some brief choir work, which ascends the successful feeling, replacing it with a feeling of elation and perfection. Once again, the composition makes me envision a luscious, welcoming setting and transcends into something more of an artistic piece, with Sakuraba painting a picture with notes — it hardly matters if you have not played the game before; you can let your imagination run wild to this kind of music. (8/10)

16) Limpidly Flow

In its first appearance since the moody "Soul Poetry," Sakuraba employs the use of a piano. In my opinion in it is an instrument he often does not use enough, considering how adept he seems to be with it (he shows off his compositional ability with the piano more in "Addressing the Stars" later in the soundtrack and has in the past with "Ending Staff Roll" from the Tales of Symphonia Original Soundtrack). Once again here, the track is not intended to be warm or friendly, but creates an atmosphere that hints at something corrupt or menacing that is defacing the wonderful world of Baten Kaitos — the sorrowful violin and the vocals form a resonance that makes me think of bereavement and grief, as if the color is slowly being drained away from this picturesque existence. Later in the track, some percussion enters which helps develop it further, quickly panning out for a piano solo with the vocals moaning on in the background. I think this track was effective, and made a nice change from Sakuraba's harp-based pieces — it actually sounded more akin to Iwadare's music due to the instrumentation, and it's nice to know that the man still wishes to try out new ideas. (8/10)

17) Soft Labyrinth

The run of good tracks continues with "Soft Labyrinth," which takes on a decidedly quicker pace. This was a good choice, as it is nice to break up the slower, evocative pieces to prevent loss of interest. With the electric guitar and drum playing in the background, the strings take center stage once more, with the horn complimenting the melody at times. Although parts of the track sound quite serious, the upbeat sections make me think that this was intended as a way of creating a sense of anticipation, escaping the more atmospheric roots the tracks of before had taken. I think it is a good follow-on from the previous pieces, even if it does not offer as much inspiration and the same emotional depth. (7/10)

18) Bellflower

The second town theme rivals the first ("Gentle Wind") and the acoustic guitar, as always, seems a very appropriate choice of instrument. It is actually significantly well layered when you consider that the music is composed for the one instrument with no percussion to accompany it (unless you count the hand clapping just before it loops). The harmony and melody are perfectly performed so that neither is overpowering and you get to hear both clearly — it sounds similar to the style that Mitsuda often uses for his town themes, the guitar used to show serenity while also keeping the spirit of the residents in mind. Whereas "Gentle Wind" sounded a bit more secluded, "Bellflower" could easily be used in a bustling city with it's quicker pace and foot tapping style. I would have to say that both are very effective in their own right, but individually each is very good piece of music. (9/10)

19) Imperial Dynamics

"Imperial Dynamics" is the main epic theme of the soundtrack in my eyes. It was used in all the game trailers, so it obviously holds significant importance. Comprised mainly of strings, brass and percussion, it is very much the usual sort of instrumentation for a track of this kind. It does not try to be original and is in the very distinctive Sakuraba style. It begins on a strong note, with no build up — just the low strings and brass hammering a bass line to create a militaristic feel and the strings delivering heroic chord progressions accompanied by the frequently used horn. It gets particularly good when the strings reach a high section and some bells, a piano and a harp enter the piece shortly before it loops from the beginning, never having lost its vigor."Imperial Dynamics" is powerful and effective if not inspirational. (8/10)

20) Icy Fog Flow

This track is unusually successful despite its atmospheric nature. Clearly, its purpose was to depict a cold, icy setting and it achieves this very well through use of some unusual synth instruments. It sounds like the piece is made from up of different echoes and synth pads that resonate to form something reminiscent of a cold wintry wind with the occasional bell or triangle entering to add to the effect however marginally. It is quite hard to describe it in words, but it is definitely effective and gives the image and feeling of a chilling area through its strange instrumentation. I think that it is one of those tracks that you could listen to without ever having played the game or read the title of the piece, and determine what the composer was trying to create. For that, this piece examples experimentation employed to great use and demonstrates Sakuraba's musical versatility. (8/10)

21) Feudal Guardian

"Feudal Guardian" is the one exception to my earlier comment about this soundtrack not being a rehashed "Tales" work. Indeed, the track is uncomfortably similar to "Kratos" from Tales of Symphonia, featuring the same militaristic use of brass, strings and percussion in the background with a similar beginning motif too. Studied individually it is quite good, and certainly makes the listener register some degree of authority, but since Sakuraba has composed for so long, one cannot help but notice similarities to his past works and when it is so blatantly obvious as in this, my respect for the piece drops considerably. I am sure that "Feudal Guardian" aptly fills its space in the game, but musically it is unoriginal and is not nearly as memorable as the piece it tries to emulate. (6/10)

22) Flighty Spirits

Sakuraba returns to form with "Flighty Spirits" — while also not entirely original style-wise, overall the piece is a whole lot better; for a start, it flows well and certain interludes borrow from the Imperial Dynamics theme which makes it fit into the soundtrack very well. It is well composed in the way that the original Sakuraba styled synth rock with the frenzied wave instrument and the accompanying bass seamlessly integrates with the epic string and harpsichord passages with neither taking anything away from the other, actually both adding to the piece making it feel more wholesome and well-developed. Undoubtedly this is one of the best upbeat area themes on the soundtrack, succeeding melodically and in its expansion where the earlier track, "Chaos Labyrinth," fell short. (9/10)

23) Heaven Sea Flower Temple

Once again, this is a perfectly well-suited area theme, which sounds like it really works in its context. This was another piece that reminded me of some of Iwadare's cheerful tracks actually, as well as showing similarities to some of the composer's own work such as "Lively Step" from Star Ocean Till the End of Time Original Soundtrack. The lively primary and supporting violins and the harpsichord sound jolly in unison and the tune progresses surprisingly well too, refusing to get repetitive. It is also reasonably rich melodically, and shows inspiration that helps enhance the overall accomplishment of the first disc as a whole. (8/10)

24) Mystery Crystal

This track feels like a return to the style of some of the earlier tracks. A harp provides the main harmony alongside a harpsichord and choir voices, with a flute playing the main melody. The combination makes the track give an impression of sanctity and awe as though the object or place of the protagonist's attention is as sacred as it is important. Midway through, the flute and the voices leave temporarily and the harp and harpsichord together have a short ethereal solo that effectively portrays the aforementioned themes. While it is not as entrancing as perhaps "To the Garden of the Moon Butterflies in the Moonless Night," it exudes a similar mood and enjoys a similar success. (8/10)

25) Deterioration

"Deterioration" is a unique track in that it is horror-orientated and is not a piece that one would immediately associate with an RPG soundtrack. A piano and strings begin with a sinister sounding melody offering an unusual horror-style discord that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat listening with anticipation. It sounds like something is awfully wrong, and I am sure it would have added to the scenes in which it was used in the game — perhaps it could signify a part where you are being chased by something inhuman and are always wondering what will be around the next corner, or maybe it is just another area theme for a cursed dungeon; either way, the shift in dynamics throughout makes us restless and is possibly the most effective way of portraying danger of the unknown. The high-pitched, jarring strings in conjunction with the menacing piano together form something that is quite disturbing, and is assuredly like no other track on the album. Once again, Sakuraba manages to flawlessly create the appropriate mood this time using a chilling style of music too. (9/10)

26) Holo Holo

It is a shame that such a poor track must succeed such an effective one, but that is clearly the case here. "Holo Holo" seems to be an African-inspired piece, but it fails to display anything like the creativity of the tracks before. It starts of promisingly, with tribal drums and a slow marimba harmony, but frustratingly never seems to get much further than that. At certain points one modulated woodwind instrument might sound out, or some slightly different percussion and even some strange vocal chanting sometimes, but I can't help but feel under whelmed by its lack of development and repetitiveness. Indeed, there is no main melody, and the inspiration Sakuraba had does not seem to have been elaborated upon, unfortunately. I presume that this is supposed to depict some kind of tribal village in a forest, but it is completely lacking on a standalone basis and is the first track that the listener might truly wish to skip. (4/10)

27) Azure Soul Fountain

An unusual track, "Azure Soul Fountain" seems to be trying for a similar feel to "Mystery Crystal" and "Limpidly Flow." Regrettably, I cannot say I think it is as effective as either, but that does not brand it a poor track. The piece is primarily an almost ambient acoustic guitar work, with some weird groaning sounds in the background, which presumably add to setting more than the music. However, it does develop quite well, and although it is not the easiest track to appreciate outside of its context, it makes better listening than the awful "Holo Holo." I tend to imagine a fountain that has been somehow polluted, and that the groaning noises symbolize its contamination, as the guitar plays some kind of lament. The track is not one that will stand out, but seems adequate and fits in the album well enough. (7/10)

28) Dust Dancing in the Wind

The last track on the CD sees an appreciated return to form. It starts off quite minimalist in its approach to the desert setting, not another Arabian or rock inspired track, thankfully. As it progresses, Sakuraba really builds upon the background, assigning the strings a very powerful melody that is relatively uncommon for an area of its kind. I happen to think it works very well though, merging the more elegant and beautiful style with the sadder, moving music featured in "Mystery Crystal" and "'Azure Soul Fountain." It seems as though a musical evolution of some kind is progress, in the atmosphere of the game and in the gamer's perception of the world in which it takes place. At the beginning we were drawn to the splendor of the islands in the sky, communicated by the game's graphics and the music. Tracks such as "Gentle Wind" and "Flowing Through the Waves of the Morning Sun" are examples of the majestic backdrop conveyed in Sakuraba's score. Yet as the disc develops, that thought seems to deteriorate, as the more ominous themes grow in number. This obviously sets the stage for the evil themes that consume disc 2. "Sand Dancing in the Wind" is a good case of the elegance becoming lost amongst the need to be purified or saved from the gradual digression into darkness. The disc is left on an unresolved, worrying note indeed, one that only the second can dispel... (8/10)

Disc Two

1) Dead Beat

You could instantly tell that Motoi Sakuraba composed this track because of the deep brass and the booming introduction. Compared to "Fish at Heaven's Pole," this track is dynamically, musically, and mentally weak — being not diverse and grand like the former nor as interesting and gallant. From the moment "Dead Beat" starts, you can predict the twists and turns from start to end, as the typical depressing melody haunts and controls the direction of the track. This is shown clearly in the introduction and in the middle when the choir dominates the scene with chilling notes of sorrow and superiority. I guess I wasn't expecting a sitar in an orchestral piece, but being Sakuraba, he obviously decided to try the instrument out. Alas, it was a success and manages to improve the track. The entire piece does tend to drone on and on though. (7/10)

2) Disorder

I don't think that the title fits the music represented in this track. You can't feel any sense of disorder or chaos when listening, instead, you can imagine an army preparing and finalizing their tactics before they enter an epic battle. Militaristic percussion is the key focus in "Disorder." It provides and stabilizes the basic imagery that is built into the core of music and keeps the listener interested while they focus on the main melody. Talking about the melody, it is nothing unique or special, but it's somewhat noble and gratifying to the extent of being undeservingly memorable. Instrument choice is spot on as usual, with the Sakuraba stereotypical brass, powerful strings, and serious trumpets and horns. In the middle of the composition, Sakuraba slows down the pace by removing the percussion and letting the strings and horns flow in earnest. "Disorder," much like the previous track, is an above-average piece. It may take some time to get used to before it becomes accepted by your ears. (7/10)

3) House of Cards

Sakuraba has always been known to use the same compositional styles in the majority of his work. "House of Cards," however, breaks this image and takes the composer to a whole new level of success. Never have I seen the Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean series composer create a masterpiece quite like this before, as he introduces some brand new styles and tricks that took me by complete surprise. The tracks starts off with what sounds like a distorted electric guitar wailing and panning from left speaker to right speaker, then slowly builds up by simply adding more instruments every couple of repeats. Some appropriate instrumental background noises fit nicely into the song from the introduction to the ending, giving it a nice flowing feeling that supports the distorted electric guitar. Believe it or not, this composition is surprisingly catchy and addictive which is largely due to the awesome bass line. Slowly, the track creates its own little climatic ending, which unfortunately ends rather abruptly. The climax is formed a little too early making the songs development lose marks. This is rather sad as it could have been much better. "House of Cards" is the first great track on the second disc. Sakuraba clearly put a lot of effort and thought into the construction of this piece, and he definitely succeeded in creating a magnificent and widely likable track. (10/10)

4) Divine White Bell

Every symphonic score for a Video Game usually has that one organ track that simply rocks! Well, Baten Kaitos has one, but instead of being fast, vicious and downright frightening, it is soft, melancholy and surprisingly good. Like other organ tracks, "Divine White Bell" has its powerful moments with strong organ passages, but a large portion of it is slow and buoyant with the addition of a mellow gothic choir seemingly inspired from John William's music in Star Wars. The only problem this track has is its track time. It's far too short, and being non-looped, it consequently disappoints me to see such a great track being short-sided. These issues aside, this is an awesome track which ranks among some of the best organ video game music compositions ever. (10/10)

5) Start on a Voyage

Despite their differences, this track is what should have been used for the introduction to the second disc. Sakuraba once again creates solid imagery, and you can definitely see the main characters starting a journey. The music itself is overtopped with grandiose emotion thanks to the excellent use of instruments and perfect expression of the melody. Like earlier tracks on this disc, Sakuraba loves to use his brass, and it is used exceptionally well here (which is more than what I can say for the other previous tracks). The composition is structured almost identically to "Disorder," as most of the piece is loud and clear, but when it reaches beyond the halfway point, it takes a slow break before powering up again. Another immaculate track by Sakuraba and one of the better tracks on the second disc. (9/10)

6) Glittering Violet Moon

As the name hints of a sense of subdued tranquility, so does the music in this emotional journey. "Glittering Violet Moon" is the first track on the second disc to use a harp, and Sakuraba utilizes it greatly to draw in the listeners. He also uses operatic vocals, which creates a near perfect sense of harmony and surrealism. The light bells (which remind me of Iwadare) do an unbelievable job in simulating the image of a glittering moon in a sky full of stars. In fact, it is almost tear-jerking to imagine this when listening in context of the music. Once the harp finishes crafting the mood, a harpsichord enters to further expand the scene but in a much more relaxed way. The ending is great when the bells, harp, harpsichord and vocals re-enter, sounding mysteriously beautiful, but also partially scary. I can't help but feel this composition reminds me of the Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time Original Soundtrack in terms of style, but this isn't necessarily a problem if you liked the music from that album. If all the tracks on this album were like this, you would be in heaven for sure, but, sadly, nothing is perfect. "Glittering Violet Moon" is close though. (9/10)

7) Twisted Time and Distorted Sky

Sakuraba returns again from "Divine White Bell" with a church organ and struts his creative stuff in "Twisted Time and Distorted Sky." Following the previous track's success, I was expecting something incredible from the man himself but I only received half of what I was looking forward to. I was quite disappointed to hear this track. It didn't impress or entice me but neither did I despise it. It was just an expendable track with little new to offer me. To describe it, I would definitely call it "Divine White Bell" Part II: The More Dramatic Side, as it is identical to its former's style, structure, and emotion, save for the more dramatic approach. Sakuraba clearly overuses the operatic vocals as it drowns the apocalyptic tone that the organ is trying to portray and also regrettably destroys any demonic feeling that the composition is trying to create. That said, you can also look at it as a nice mood setting piece for the upcoming track which fulfils the lead up that this and other previous tracks have started. I don't mind this track, but if I had the choice to strike it off the soundtrack, I would go for it. (7/10)

8) Strike Off the Enemy

Probably the weakest electric track on the Original Soundtrack, "Strike Off the Enemy" doesn't have much to offer. It sounds like a conclusive action piece to the first third of the album, which also ends the build-up from the previous tracks. Similar to the other rock tracks, this piece has its own unique feeling that only Sakuraba could create and master. The composition conceives a great sense of hurry or speed and I can imagine that it would work just fine in play with the game, but outside of its habitat, it sounds bland and passable. The guitar work isn't as flashy or creative as the other action compositions, so it doesn't actually sound very interesting. But it is a nice change from the past orchestral / organ tracks. Development is a must in a piece of music, but it has little presence in this track leaving it highly undeveloped and sounding like a roughly-compiled mess. A nice breath of fresh air, but nothing I would consider very intense or intelligently structured. (7/10)

9) Awakening Disaster

Sakuraba adds to his long string of decent compositions with "Awakening Disaster." I see no interesting features whatsoever or any redeeming qualities that lie in this track other than the obvious fact that it would work superbly in the game. The song is quite simple, with Sakuraba keeping it on a small scale. He uses only eerie percussion, signature operatic vocals, and dooming horns with the occasional fluttering appearance of the baroque harpsichord. Suspended vocals and the horns are appropriately used to demonstrate fear and sublime chaos, but I feel that the harpsichord has no place in the piece. The dark brooding sensation is used excellently, making you feel cold, dark, and anxious for the next song on the album. "Awakening Disaster" is, without hesitation, a filler track, but at least it isn't a drop-dead awful one. (6/10)

10) Late at Night

"Late at Night" is an emblematic goodnight theme. Like most other sleeping compositions, "Late at Night" exposes a beautiful fatigued expression that is hideously immature in development. It is pleasant to hear a different theme compared to the previous team of decent songs, even if it lasts only a couple of seconds. Sakuraba uses the elegant harp and a symphony of lovely strings to create this theme, and it is possibly one of the more beautiful straight-to-the-point resting themes used in a video game. A filler track, but short and sweet best fits the description of its infinite beauty. (6/10)

11) Level Up!

Taken by the name of the track, this is the level-up theme of the game. It is pretty straight-forward, lasting only about 4 seconds. Strings, horns and brass govern "Level Up!" in its short time, but it is an effective fanfare nevertheless despite its underdevelopment. A neat theme when used in context with the game, but on the outside, its just another filler track that could have been left out of production. (5/10)

12) Class Up!

Just like "Level Up!," this theme was used as a small event in the game, primarily the spot in the game where you gain a class, hence the "Class Up!" Out of the four short themes, "Class Up!" is undoubtedly the most developed composition. It lasts slightly longer than the previous theme and is probably the most enjoyable of the themes. A Grand texture is firmly set foot in the structure and chances are you won't miss the epic flavor in this piece. The strings and brass make great cohorts and significantly help in crafting the diminutive but tremendous development which drew my liking towards this track. Sakuraba nicely conceived "Class Up!" but it is still slightly underdeveloped despite it being a great track. Overall, this composition is the best of the shorter tracks on the soundtrack and deserves praise. A nice effort. (7/10)

13) Together with the Spirits

Here, we have the final short theme on the Original Soundtrack. "Together with the Spirits" sounds very reminiscent of the Star Ocean series music with its wide, grand and rich emotion but also on the other end of the spectrum, it sounds unique to Baten Kaitos. I love how Sakuraba used the harp, while compared to other harp-based tracks, this one sounds more "authentic&,#39; especially when paired with the bells and the light organ. "Together with the Spirits" is certainly on level with "Class Up!" and maybe even succeeds it, but it doesn't have the same likeable persona that the latter had. But nonetheless, this piece is a testament to Sakuraba's ability to create incredible music. (7/10)

14) Splash of Opposition

Noticeably, the music in "Splash of Opposition" resembles some sort of a building crisis scene. This is quite evident when listening to the opening bars in the composition which tells you immediately that something isn't right. Sakuraba creates the right tense environment by giving the track excellent build up from start to finish. It begins by playing soft repetitive jolting strings with soft fearful percussion, and then slowly, as the piece continues on, it gets unavoidably louder and more brutal but still manages to keep its original form. To get an idea of what this track sounds like, I can imagine that it would be a great candidate for a scene in a horror movie where the heroes manage to escape the murderer, but are now looking for a place to hide or escape. My only grudge would be that it's a little too short and by giving it a longer timeframe, it could've been expanded to its fullest potential. "Splash of Opposition" is a solid Sakuraba composition that is agreeably pleasing on the Original Soundtrack. (8/10)

15) Bottom Out

"Bottom Out" symbolizes another brass-filled track. Nothing interesting happens in its 1:53 seconds of playtime, leaving it very dull and almost filler. It does seem to situate the scene correctly though, overflowing with a mild sense of danger and gripping with mysterious ambiance. It starts like most other tracks on the Baten Kaitos Original Soundtrack by means of a loud and sudden introduction, developing to its fullest near the very beginning. The main body of the track is somewhat repetitive, yet doesn't repeat in the slightest. It must be the slow strings that provoke this theory since they aren't enough to keep me interested, even if the overall melody is appealing. The section around 1:09 to 1:30 is brilliantly done, with the miserable orchestral strings lifting the track off its mediocre ground for almost 20 seconds, before the track's repeat. In the end, "Bottom Out" is just another average tune with average flair. (7/10)

16) Hailstorm

After the long, endless series of average compositions, Sakuraba finally makes up for his loses in "Hailstorm," a confused piano solo which is sure to stir up your emotions. I think Sakuraba was originally trying to create a chillingly terrifying scene, but his mind must have been overcrowded with ideas when he was crafting it. Needless to say, the end result was satisfying. His original ideas are more vulnerable in the beginning, and towards the end where you can vaguely distinguish the loneliness in the piano notes and style. But it's when the track transforms entirely that my interest kicks in. The track turns from dark and dramatic into tear-jerking and strangely suspenseful. The ending differs from the rest of the track, being clear what mood it represents: conclusive and defeated. Comparing this solo to other Sakuraba solo's wouldn't be fair to "Hailstorm," as it stands out on its own being one of the composer's more exceptional piano tracks. (9/10)

17) Heaven and Earth Panic

We now delve into the final tracks of the album with "Heaven and Earth Panic." Taken by the name and the nature of the music inside, Sakuraba must have been trying to present a sudden crisis scene. He does succeed in doing so, but in more of a generic way. If it weren't for the screeching strings, it could have been used in a movie scene. The brass plays an important role by providing a good sense of a chaotic surrounding, but in doing so also ultimately makes the track slightly boring. After several heavy brass tracks on the second disc, it can get a bit frustrating. But overall, "Heaven and Earth Panic" is an effective composition even though it has these flaws. (8/10)

18) Brave Way

"Brave Way" is probably one of the more appreciated tracks on the controversial second disc of the Baten Kaitos Original Soundtrack. It is the first widely likeable brass composition on the disc, and there is a good reason for that. For one, the melody, though typical for a Baten Kaitos track, is awe-inspiringly heroic, suitably using the horns and strings. Sakuraba paints an image of the heroes' departure for the final area of the game where the final enemy lays rested waiting for the final battle. If you imagine this scene when listening to this track, I guarantee your emotions will run wild in the composition's epic glory. Besides a few other tracks, "Brave Way" is presumably the most developed track on the disc. To some extent, its structure is even better than the monster ending theme, "Addressing the Stars," which is arguably the most complex piece on the entire album, but, its simplicity and straightforwardness prevents it from winning over its competition. The piece itself is split up into three movements: the beginning, the middle, and the end, all of which impact differently and lead into each other perfectly. For example, the beginning is heroic in nature and transfers effortlessly into the second movement which is aggressive though serene. Regardless of what type of music you like, you just can't turn your back on "Brave Way." This is Sakuraba at his best. (10/10)

19) Enshrined

Welcome to part three of the organ tracks on the album. This one is a lot different than "Divine White Bell" and "Twisted Time and Distortion," being more expressive than the former and more ferocious than the latter, but it's nowhere near as good. The fact is, though it is a good track, the all-around quality of the track isn't high enough to maintain interest, especially after the finer previous track. Unlike the other organ pieces, this one continues the use of vocal sampling from start to finish. Also, it is too dark and cluttered, rendering many ideas Sakuraba was trying to convey inaudible to the naked ear. But gripes aside, "Enshrined" stands alone as a strong theme, but it's just a pity that he left it "half complete" because it could have been something really great. (7/10)

20) Acceptance and Refusal

Here, we have the last touching track before the beginning of the end of the album, and considering its length, it's incredible. For a track length that leaves no time for development, Sakuraba amazingly gives it structure and consideration that you can clearly hear when listening to the track. The orchestration is perfect, baring no flaws and sounding very much like a live performance. The beginning sounds identical to the beginning of "Fish at Heaven's Pole" with the trembling violins, but quickly breaks the resemblance by transforming into something more powerful and epic. Besides the short track length, "Acceptance and Refusal" is a wonderful achievement and a nice surprise on the album. (8/10)

21) Survival from The Force

"Survival from The Force" is the final of the two battle themes that don't have a guitar, or an instrument that resembles a guitar. No, it's all Sakuraba, with no sign of Tohru Iwao, so expect crazy organs and powerful yet enigmatic synthesizers to rule this track. After the disappointing "Strike Off the Enemy," this composition feels fresh and original, yet borrows bits and pieces from previous battle themes (noticeably "The True Mirror" and "Vitrolic a Stroke" ). This is not a problem since Sakuraba manages to arrange the piece in the most enjoyable style, so chances are you won't recognize the reappearances. As most know, Sakuraba loves his solos, and in this track, he doesn't disappoint, leaving only a total of a few seconds for the main melody. Compared to the other battle themes, this one may feel a little calm, but it does set the mood right for the following conflict and malevolence themes. "Survival from The Force" is by no means the worst encounter track, nor is it best, but it stands on its own fighting ground. That alone makes this piece a winner. (8/10)

22) The True Mirror ~Guitar Ver~

The name pretty much suggests itself, "The True Mirror ~Guitar Ver~" is another version of "The True Mirror," but instead of having a violin as the leading instrument, Sakuraba uses Tohru Iwao and his electric guitar. The end results are not what you expect. Besides the violin's replacement, virtually the rest of the composition is exactly the same as the original track, so it isn't original in the slightest. But towards the end and middle sections, major difference occur. Whereas the violin version had an empty but sophisticated body, the guitar adaptation continues string action throughout the entire piece, surprisingly even touching on Noriyuki Iwadare's style in small bits and pieces. Though a positive reaction so far, you can't get rid of the fact that the guitarist's personal style has adopted techniques from his previous known projects on the Guilty Gear series. This is both good and bad, being helpful by providing some neat chords and notes, but also negative as his powerful techniques wreck the mood by sounding rather harsh. However, it is undeniable that the track's success is largely due to his efforts. "The True Mirror ~Guitar Ver~" is certainly apart from the stronger battle themes, though loosely arranged. Furthermore, this is a great heart-pounding composition that will no doubt guarantee your full attention. (8/10)

23) Supreme Ruler of the Nine Heavens

"Supreme Ruler of the Nine Heavens," I'm guessing, is the track that plays when you have the last appearance or conversation with the final enemy before the epic showdown. And how intense and malicious the result is! Right from the beginning, Sakuraba molds together a truly frightening score that rivals some of his greatest orchestral Video Game Music. It begins immediately, cutting to the chase, with rapid orchestral strings, dictating horns, and bone-chilling male vocals — each conveying the same image but in vastly different ways. For example, the strings portray a sense of limited time, the brass demonstrates enormous power, and the vocals enlighten us to immoral capability, which all, ultimately, mean the same thing. Unfortunately, the track loses its meaning when it reaches the final part as it transforms into something unacceptable in comparison to the greatness of the overall track. It is too calm and tranquil for the composition's own good and, sadly, you can lose interested reasonably fast. "Supreme Ruler of the Nine Heavens" is the definition and reason why Sakuraba excels at orchestral pieces. A work of brilliance. (9/10)

24) Violent Storm

Never mind "Vitrolic a Stroke," as the final battle theme outshines the regular boss battle track. Tohru Iwao returns one last time to perform for Sakuraba's "Violent Storm" which is a step above the previous battle tracks and also, surprisingly, manages to combine both composers and guitarist's token styles into one fierce composition. The energy level is sky high during the track's playtime, being more active than any other theme on the entire soundtrack. This is due to the creative guitar work by Iwao, who, in a bold move, evidently enforced his methods from Guilty Gear which, unlike the previous track, actually did the piece complete justice. But Iwao isn't the only person who gets all the fun, as Sakuraba is indeed a highly necessary part of the track. He obviously plays the synthesizer and organs and proves to Iwao that electricity-based guitars aren't the only way to form incredible fighting tracks. Compared to the guitarist, Sakuraba doesn't have as big of a role, but the quality of his contribution is astounding, presenting to us smooth solos and interesting harmonies with the guitar. "Violent Storm" can't be anymore incredible than it is, verifying it as one of Sakuraba's best battle compositions in history. (10/10)

25) Last Moment of the Wicked Way

"Violent Storm" was incredible for its full use of energy, but the return to an orchestral style would likely disappoint you, and, in this case, "Last Moment of the Wicked Way" does just that. The brass is back with the organ as its sidekick, but the piece isn't exactly a great achievement. It sounds too much like the other previous organ tracks, except that it's much shorter and less developed. Just expect more organ, vocals and lot of brass. "Last Moment of the Wicked Way" is what I would call a semi-filler track. Nothing amazing, but it's strangely appropriate for the soundtrack. (7/10)

26) Earth Advent

Considering the failure of "Last Moment of the Wicked Way," I was expecting that Sakuraba learned from his mistakes and would compose something great. How wrong I was to be expecting this. Well, actually, it's not too bad, just a little boring for its own good. Much like many other compositions on this album, this track uses a lot of brass which sadly sinks the entire piece. It's not helped much by the overused amount of vocals either. But the major issue and letdown of piece is not the instruments used, but both the actual composition style itself and the absurd track time. For a theme that adopts a strong sense of melodious ambience, it goes on for an incredibly long time. I assure you that you would be sick of it before it even reaches the halfway mark. Saying that, if it were reduced and compacted a minute or so, the theme would have been a success and an accomplishment. In general, "Earth Advent" had potential, but Sakuraba chose not to utilize it instead leaving it "untamed." (7/10)

27) Deep Sea of Tears

Following after two decent tracks, Sakuraba finally decides to compile something interesting, showing once more that he has an emotional side as well as his orchestral side. The theme starts off with a short, flowing piano solo that feels vacant yet oddly meaningful. Then, a solo violin joins in a duet with the piano, playing the melody while the empty piano performs the backup and secondary tune. Operatic vocals are also present, but Sakuraba gains more control over them compared to previous tracks where they stream hysterically. The primary melody, like the piano, has a vast sad feeling (representing the deep blue ocean) but also is incredibly bare. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when the track is meant to show such feelings. Without a doubt, the greatest part of the composition is the piano solo which begins around the middle of the piece, as every key stroke is heart-wrenching and deep. "Deep Sea of Tears" easily compensates for the run of average themes and manages to set the mood for the proceeding track. What more could you ask for from a track? (9/10)

28) Speaking With the Stars

"Speaking With the Stars," as mentioned previously, is the ending theme for the Baten Kaitos Original Soundtrack. At a length of 7:28, it is also by far the longest track on the album. Sakuraba's ending themes have always proven to be a highlight on the particular CD, and this one does not diverge from the tradition, though I must warn you that this one is quite different from the others. Previous ending themes, like "We Form in Crystals" from the Star Ocean The Second Story Original Soundtrack, saw somewhat simple designed bases but marked good competition. This one, however, does not seem to follow suit. From start to finish, the theme is always complicated, moving in and out of many transitions, and features a fairly diverse sound. It plays host to a variety of instruments, including brass, strings, piano, and a solo violin. Its melody is a mixture between original material and re-arranged versions of some tracks spread across the album, and what he does to them is similar to what Hitoshi Sakimoto does in his finales (taking the melody and arranging it in a majestic form). Each section of the track is significant to its success, whether it be the small dramatic piano solo from 3:24 or the epic conclusion from 6:40, every bit counts. The only problems I see as debilitating are the violin solo at 3:57 and some of the transitions between sections. There's nothing wrong with the solo violin's composition style, but instead, its quandary is its length — it is a little too long for my enjoyment. As for the problem with the transitions, some of them don't fit their scheduled segment, but since the track is excellent on the whole, this may be disregarded. "Speaking With the Stars" can safely be heralded as another sparkling ending theme by Sakuraba, who has proven his ability to provide sweeping orchestral marathons that rival his most renowned progressive rock arrangements. (9/10)

29) To the White Peach Fragrant Afterlife Banquet

Epic proportions aside, we are treated to an odd little track by the name of "To the White Peach Fragrant Afterlife Banquet" that consists of music box sound effects. It is pretty much a summary of the previous masterpiece, "Speaking With the Stars," but it is cut down dramatically to fit with the music box's simplicity. There is nothing much else to speak about other than it's a nice melody, but isn't a crucial piece for the soundtrack. Unfortunately, it is a fairly dull way to end an inspiring album. (6/10)


Motoi Sakuraba's more serious orchestral works have never been appreciated on the same level as his progressive rock compositions. This score, however, is an exception. With so many successful experiments, some marvellous battle themes, and lots of gorgeous symphonic textures, a diverse and gorgeous album is created. While annoyingly brass-heavy throughout the relatively poor second disc, there are more than enough highlights to make this album an excellent purchase.

Overall Score: 9/10