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Gradius V Soundtracks :: Review by Dave

Gradius V Soundtracks Album Title: Gradius V Soundtracks
Record Label: Konami Style
Catalog No.: LC-1742
Release Date: February 27, 2009
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Gradius V game creates a new strategic dimension in the shooting spectrum. The game consists of the player flying on an intense thrill ride to destroy the Bacterian core. This space orientated game naturally has a cyberspace music score, too, and this is composed by Sakimoto, who comes upon a rediscovery of the techno and electronica styles that he left back in 1993 before he was introduced to more orchestral styles. Arguably, the Breath of Fire V Original Soundtrack began this rediscovery, but it is in this album that he uses the techno genre to its full extents. Sakimoto learns how much more he can do with the tracks on the album, as after all, technology has developed. With such a rapid development over the past ten years, an advancement in computer memory, more synth variation, and a massive increase in computer capacity, it means that he will have a much larger task on his hands than expected. A great album was created, as although it is maily electronica, Sakimoto stays true to his present self with the inclusion of many orchestrated themes as well. So, courtesy of Zero Wing, let us "Take off every 'Zig'!!" for great justice, and fly into hyper-space to explore this album, Gradius V Soundtracks.


Many of Sakimoto's tracks on this album integrate a catchy techno rhythm somewhere in its playing time. The first instance of which is "Opening." This track is brought in by a charismatic orchestra, but this soon turns into an extremely science-fiction styled track. The new section reveals a dominance of brass and strings supported by marellous cymbal crashes. The electronica section is just entirely energetic and it really gets the listener prepared for the journey ahead. Such energetic bass beats and intriguing melodies follow into the next track, "Select -Weapon Array-." The menu theme begins with a cluster of synthesiser chords and synth warping sounds. One could only have hoped that it would have been as emphatic as "Opening," but this wasn't possible. Sakimoto's main intention was to create a more relaxed atmosphere, so it could only ever be subtle.

There are eight stages in the game, so eight tracks are dedicated to each level. The introductory "Universe -Stage 1-," the tempting "Cell -Stage 4-," and the trancey "Impregnable Fortress -Stage 7-" all adopt an electronica style ideal for a basic representation of a space mission. However, it is through the other tracks in the "Stage..." series that a real sense of activity is provided. Sakimoto starts to integrate his typical orchestral trademark into this set of tracks as early as "Fortress -Stage 3-," and although seemingly little can be heard from the horn background in places, one can soon hear what a grand effect it has. A similar usage of horns dominates the accompaniment in the first half of "Something Green -Stage 6-" and "Battleship -Stage 2 & 8-" that are occasionally more reminiscent of Radiant Silvergun. All in all, it becomes clear that the best stage themes are the ones which feature an electronica and orchestral fusion.

There are many pure electronica themes on this album, and the first occasion of this comes from the aforementioned "Stage..." series. Relaxing at first, "Universe -Stage 1-" represents the first level, and it is through the increasing depth in the harmony and electronica rhythm that this track finally gets going. It certainly becomes intense, with a variety of different synth instruments coming in at random intervals in the track. Another strong track is "Cell -Stage 4-." The first part consists solely of an enforcing drum rhythm and ambient synth noises, but the overall effect is to create a strange sense of action and suspicion. Sakimoto's best electronica track comes just after the middle of the album. As for "Impregnable Fortress -Stage 7-", the progressive bass line and its leading techno rhythm just add another factor previously unexplored in the album. All in all, the electronica tracks on this album really give something extra to the game.

Even so, it isn't necessarily the stage tracks that steal the show, as the tracks that feature towards the end of the album are just as sublime. The first of such are the orchestrated "Elephant Gear" and its similar, yet electronica styled counterpart, "Demo". "Elephant Gear" is one of the few fully orchestral tracks on the album, and in retrospect, it is one of the best. The brass and string sections take the centre stage to create a true militaristic vibe that runs throughout the scene in the game. Sakimoto moves on to arrange one of the few battle tracks on the album, "Last Enemy," which is a two minute representation of your turmoil with a multi-legged freak of technological nature. The track isn't as dark as the title suggests, instead it takes a much more powerful approach through a nationalist use of trumpets and strings. So, after a large amount of anticipation, we finally reach "Staff Roll," and with a history of excellent ending themes behind him, Sakimoto hardly disappoints with this one. The full orchestra proudly presents the melody, capturing the essence of the mission. The ending is solidly conclusive, thus making the album end on an all round high.


So, is this album better than Sakimoto's shooter works to date? Well, it is hard to say, especially seeing as though this is his first major return to electronica. Even so, he doesn't just provide us with any old electronica score here, as his integration of orchestrated themes within the album really widens its scope. The greatest thing is that these two conflicting genres seem to run in harmony. One great example of this is "Opening," in which an orchestra takes hold of the first part of the track only to be overlapped by a perfectly fitting techno rhythm. Overall, Sakimoto is one of the most versatile composers in the game music world, and this album just tells it all. Gradius V Soundtracks would be a great asset to any album collection, with the contrast of rich orchestral harmonies and pumping bass lines making it excellent in and out of context.

Overall Score: 8/10