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Xenosaga Episode I :: Forum Review

Xenosaga Episode I Album Title: Xenosaga Episode I
Record Label: Sleigh Bells
Catalog No.: SBPS-0004/5
Release Date: May 19, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Don

Having done the soundtrack for Xenogears, Yasunori Mitsuda has already experienced what it is like to compose in the Xeno universe. In his first entry in the series, he composed a mixture of styles, ranging from his forte, the Celtic style, to more experimental styles for him, such as ambience. In his second encounter with the Xeno universe, Mitsuda experiments as well. In his first experiences with live orchestration, in which he orchestrated his pieces himself having no prior experience, we are treated to a soundtrack that sounds like it may have come from a movie. After DigiCube went bankrupt, the Xenosaga Original Soundtrack became unavailable, but a re-release called Xenosaga Episode I was made by Sleigh Bells with a revised track order, two new tracks, and three re-recordings as reviewed here. The game itself is very cinematic, so does this approach work for Mitsuda? How does it fare in comparison to his former Xeno soundtrack?

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Shion ~Memories of the Past~ (Written by Don)

This is a poignant piano rendition of "Kokoro." While it doesn't break any new ground, it is more enjoyable then "Rising Emotions." There is heartfelt sorrow to the atmosphere of this piece, making the corresponding lyrics of "Kokoro" stick out in the mind of the listener. (9/10)

2) Prologue (Written by Dave)

Played by the prestigious London Philharmonic Orchestra, "Prologue" opens the Xenosaga Original Soundtrack in style. Accompanying an epic FMV sequence, the theme tells a dramatic tale through its twists and turns, which may seem elusive when taken out of context, yet complement and heighten the experience when played alongside the visuals.

As the track opens, the camera spans across a vast ocean. Slow moving strings and restrained brass surmount to give a feeling of something mighty, secretive, and even daunting, an effect which seems to be heightened by ominous suspensions. At the 0:20 mark, the track moves on into section which seems to create an image of activity. In the FMV, we see a hazy desert environment filled with workers and diggers, and with the repetitive bass line of the track playing, an impression of persistent, almost slave-like, work evolves. This section soon ends on an epic tone, and we are taken into a bridge section which isn't too impacting since the focus on screen is placed upon the storyline. As the characters walk across the site to the location of a new finding, the track starts to build up, preparing us for an important event: the placing of the metal key into its rightful place in the ground. What could such a key unlock? What dangers would it provoke?

As soon as the metal key is place in the ground, the orchestra picks up and accompanies the FMV in a dramatic sequence in which a current passes from the key into the ground in an intense magical reaction. Focusing on feelings of fear, apprehension, and unease, the instrumentation becomes heavy before we are greeted by a repeated melodic line and let through the door by a dramatic uplift as the workers decide whether to flee or to wait for the event to unfold. Around 3:23, a choir comes in to accompany the sequence which sees the appearance of the Zohar, a source of power believed to be unrivaled in the Xenosaga universe. Golden in appearance and holding an aquamarine jewel, the Zohar gives off a sense of holiness, which is intensified more by the dreamy choir melody which the track yields. As a beam of light comes from the Zohar to pierce the skies, and bring forth rain, the track comes to a satisfying close.

The whole piece is immediately fitting to the sequence which is supposed to be played alongside, and in truth, this is all Mitsuda had to do. A somewhat faulted and perhaps ordinary performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra seems to betray the track and steal it of its true glory, but all in all, the track is very much a dramatic journey. The fact that this journey can be followed on CD and still be just as captivating is certainly a plus from my point of view. Although the track isn't perfect itself, it works gloriously alongside the FMV to create an epic and inspirational scene. (9/10)

3) Gnosis (Written by Don)

Gnosis: Knowledge of spiritual matters; mystical knowledge. No doubt using this definition to influence this track, Mitsuda is able to craft a brilliant melody. Considering the Gnosis in the game were very mysterious, able to appear in space-time without a moment's hesitation, as well as commandeering an extreme power the likes of which no human has seen before, the overall effect this piece creates fits like the last piece in a puzzle. The melody itself infuses Egyptian mysticism into the brass sections while the pounding timpani and snare drum accompaniment display the power of these marvelous creatures. The violin countermelodies that occur in this piece had a sharp contrast to the nature of this entire score, while the soft woodwinds help to create the ethereal appearance these creatures portray. While portions of this track may have been influenced by Hollywood scores, Mitsuda is able to take a typical Hollywood sound and create a very fitting and unique rendition of a dramatic entrance. (10/10)

4) U-TIC Engine (Written by Dave)

This is probably one of the best tracks on the whole soundtrack. With the London Philharmonic apparently finding their legs after their less-than-brilliant performance for "Prologue," we are offered a dissonant, melodic, and timbrally rich composition which truly brings out an electric atmosphere. The whole piece seems to be based around creating a sense of anticipation, as if a huge event is about to happen. Flutter-tongued flutes add a sense of unfamiliarity as the U-TIC organisation storm the base as the look for KOS-MOS. As they draw closer to KOS-MOS, the track builds up with a series of crescendos with dramatic changes in timbre through a shift to more accentuated and heavy instruments. The track becomes more militaristic as the FMV turns to the main scene where KOS-MOS wreaks havoc throughout the base. This is one of the most inventive tracks on the album, and this is mainly down to the ways in which each instrument is used. The timbre here is truly unique, and the fact that everything works together so well is ingenious. (10/10)

5) The Girl Who Closed Her Heart (Written by Don)

"The Girl Who Closed Her Heart" is a very tear-jerking rendition of the "Kokoro" theme. Mainly arranged to include the chorus, the atmosphere generated by the piano for this piece is simply stunning. The tone is very somber. Towards the end of the track, the tempo changes a bit creating a bit of development. Overall, the performance of this piece is simply stunning and definitely draws you into the game. (9/10)

6) Ormus (Written by Don)

This track is an a capella performance. Considering Ormus is a religious organization, the tone of this track is quite fitting. The layering of the male and female choirs create a holy atmosphere, but at the same time, a foreboding one. The melody that Mitsuda creates in this piece is quite breathtaking, and the lack of instrumentation helps this track, rather than hurt it. By adding instrumentation, I feel that the overall effect of this piece would be lessened. (10/10)

7) Nephilim (Written by Don)

This track is essentially about the little girl who contacts Shion throughout the story. As such, the piano melody created in this track is at once both captivating and mysterious. The peaceful nature of this track is seen through the excellent performance by Yasuharu Nakanishi. Toward the end of the track, violins are introduced. This changes the tone of the piece from captivating and mysterious, to captivating and somber. The strings work well to develop the piece a bit more and are my favorite part of this track. (9/10)

8) Warmth (Written by Don)

The melody created in the original "Warmth" was quite a touching melody. Expressing the feeling of love, it was quite a nice composition. The synth piano however, ended up hurting the track. The re-recorded "Warmth" solves that problem. Using a live piano, the track, still elegant and displaying love as normal, has more emotion than the original and by doing so, makes the composition quite strong. (8/10)

9) The Resurrection (Written by Dave)

This track plays during an encounter with the Realians, and takes upon a very sacrilegious form. The intricacies of Gregorian chant are divine and create such a resounding atmosphere that it's hard not to enjoy the track. The sumptuous harmonies and interweaving melodies pretty much sum up this track, which works surprisingly well for a stand alone choir. The development around the 1:05 mark truly adds something great to the track too in that it increases the passion which seems to flow from the melody to the listener's ears. This is a fascinating listen. (8/10)

10) Beach of the Void (Written by Dave)

This theme sounds so much better in its re-recorded glory. The main melody yields so much more energy and emotion than the original synth version, thus making it a million times better to listen to. The only thing that is different in the track is the instrumentation, so once more we are presented with a bleak atmosphere through a rather minimalist approach by Mitsuda. He seems to focus much more on subtle musicalities, which creates the overall atmosphere, which is a perfect balance. (9/10)

11) Green Sleeves (Written by Don)

Mitsuda does quite an interesting arrangement of Green Sleeves. While not overly complicated, his introduction is quite nice and the arrangement that follows is genuine. The re-recording of this track is much sharper and more emotional and does a good job at keeping the original melody intact. He also seems to slow the track down a bit in this new recording which I feel adds more melody. A very simple, yet beautiful, arrangement of "Green Sleeves." (9/10)

12) KOS-MOS (Written by Dave)

This solemn arrangement of "Rising Emotions" sounds brilliant on the pipe organ. The melody is far more effective taken way from its electric piano form and performed deeply by Leslie Pearson here, who seems to get the atmosphere just right. The emotion that this piece evokes is what makes it so special, since the melody itself is fairly simple, though obviously suited to the organ. (9/10)

13) The Miracle (Written by Don)

Mitsuda employs the use of chorals again in this track, but rather than a capella, he actually uses some instrumentation to produce a nice countermelody. The strings used, with splashings of percussion, help to build the track's tension up. The vocals are quite strong as well. Once the track gets halfway through, the effect of the entire track is heightened. Percussion enters in full force, the vocals become more dramatic, and the string melody is more noticeable. The brass addition of the "Gnosis" motif also adds some development to this track. Another one of my favorites, this track is definitely worth multiple listens. (9/10)

14) Zarathustra (Written by Don)

This track evoked so many emotions within, I thought it was a psychiatrist! This track starts out with a pipe organ playing quite a dark melody. While short in nature, the duration of this playing really sets up the tone for the rest of the track. Once the pipe organ finishes, a violin plays a somber melody. Some brass is also used as an accompaniment. The true strength of this track, however, lies afterwards. The violin continues to play its haunting melody, but some vocal chanting is added. This track invokes emotions of sorrow and despair. It's quite a beauty and is one of Mitsuda's best on the album. The meshing of all the instruments is a testament to this accomplishment. (10/10)

15) Omega (Written by Don)

"Omega" is definitely one of the most epic tracks on this album. Starting off using strings as a tension builder, it opens up quite nicely. The spattering of vocals every once in a while adds a bit of chill to the track. As the track builds in intensity, it erupts into a track emphasizing heavy brass and percussion. The melody created here is quite powerful. While brass and percussion play the counter melody, strings play the main melody. This helps create a nice contrast in the track. But lo and behold, what is this that my ears hear? Electric guitar? Of course. The electric guitar, although dubbed over the original recording, sounds as if it was there during the original recording. It adds so much power to this track and is very reminiscent of something that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra would play. A brass fanfare is heard after the electric guitar and the track continues with its electric guitar and stringed melody. The track ends on a very bombastic note with some strong percussion and brass. This track easily portrays the power seen in the FMV in which it accompanies. Another solid effort by Mitsuda! (10/10)

16) Escape (Written by Dave)

This is the last that we see of the London Philharmonic Orchestra on the soundtrack, and what an awesome job they do too. Though the theme perhaps isn't as inspiring as those which surround it, it remains impacting and a pleasant listen. Thrilling strings, emphatic brass, and blazing percussion really help create that image of escape. As one would expect, the theme is filled with tension and focuses around a sense of fear. The ending is extremely powerful, representing the conclusion of the escape, be it successful, a near-miss, or a complete misery, it leaves us hanging! (8/10)

17) Pain (Written by Don)

"Pain" is quite an interesting track. The lyrics are meaningful, sad, yet hopeful. The melody that Mitsuda uses to portray these lyrics is extremely relevant. The instrumentation used creates both hope and sadness in the listener's heart. While some may complain that it sounds similar in style to "Small Two of Pieces," and it does, I think it was beneficial for Mitsuda to stick to something that he is known for. Joanne Hogg's voice is spectacular once again and her performance really brings magic to this piece. Towards the end, the vocals disappear and we are treated to a small celtic portion without words. While this part is very nice, I don't necessarily think it was needed for this track to succeed. (8/10)

18) Kokoro (Written by Don)

The second vocal theme on the album, "Kokoro" has a more touching experience to offer. A story about lost chances and unspoken love, "Kokoro" clearly captivates the listener. While it may not fit entirely into the scope of the soundtrack, that doesn't mean it isn't a good piece overall. The message this song gives is one of hope and strength. The instrumentation used is very soft and Celtic-influenced, and offers a nice change from the normal action packed, orchestral theme this soundtrack was centered around. The use of the flute is extremely poignant and the overall development of the melody is fantastic. One of my favorite Mitsuda vocal tracks of all time. (9/10)

21) Shion ~Emotion~ (Written by Don)

A piano rendition of the vocal track just heard ends this track. It keeps the poignancy and lost chances feel of the lyrics. While nothing super spectacular, it ends the soundtrack quite nicely. (8/10)

20) World to be Born (Written by Dave)

This is such a beautiful track which I would have liked to have seen on the first soundtrack. It starts off slow with a decadent choir, some simple harp plucking, and an easy-going oboe, but as the theme progresses, we are greeted with an astounding development which really blew me away the first time I heard it. The melody just seems so natural and all so powerful. Soon, the track reaches a whole new section where the strings dominate with a hope-filled melody. There's something about this track which puts it at the forefront of Mitsuda's creations, and in my opinion, it's not just the performance which makes it grand, but the diversity of the dynamics which the theme offers. There are so many highs and lows that a chill has been sent down my spine at least twice over the time it played. (10/10)

21) Pain -piano version- (Written by Dave)

I prefer this version of "Pain" to the original. Although I did feel that the lyrics added a lot of meaning to the track, the melody seems to be brought forward so much easier here — it sounds much more natural. The performance on the piano adds a lot of extra emotion which I felt was amiss in the vocal theme, and although the theme perhaps doesn't expand as much as it should in terms of development, it remains a solid listen. (8/10)

Disc Two

1) Opening (Written by Don)

After the striking "Prologue" opened up the first disc of the album, we are treated to "Opening." Does it continue maintaining the epic feel to the album heard so far? Granted, the context between the two is different, in that we are transported into the future, whilst catching glimpes of our heroine hard at work, but the overall effect is still present. The futuristic rhythm, generated by electronic sounds and percussion, open up the track quite nicely. Once the strings are placed into the equation, the grandiose scale of the previous track is emulated, while being used in a more subtle manner. Towards the end, hints of "Light from the Netherworld," from Mitsuda's previous soiree into the Xeno world, can be heard. By doing so, Mitsuda connects the concept between Xenosaga I and Xenogears quite nicely. (8/10)

2) Battle (Written by Dave)

"Battle" is somewhat dull and repetitive. Don't get me wrong, it is quite a lethal concoction in that it holds both vigor and hope over a short timescale, thus making it fairly intense. There is something missing, however, which seems to lie around instrumental and melodic variation. In comparison to the two earlier themes, it just seems less impacting, which a battle really should be. It's quite saddening to know that although the battle scenes will be changing throughout the game alongside the different enemies which much be defeated, the accompanying music will have little new to offer after just a few appearances. Perhaps Mitsuda should have aimed for a melodic and timely track, rather than this theme, which seems to get the job done, just not in the most productive way. (5/10)

3) Battle's End (Written by Dave)

As with most RPG scores, we once again see the appearance of a victory fanfare. There is, however, a difference with this little tune in that it doesn't only seem to focus on an idea of success and victory, but also feelings of relief and fatigue. The repeated melody which leads the track into silence towards the end, for one, really reminds me of someone catching their breath. I'm impressed with how unique this piece is, even if it lasts for a very short time. (6/10)

4) Starting Examination (Written by Don)

This track opens up quite strong in terms of effect. String and brass countermelodies strengthen one another while overlapping a futuristic bassline. The track soon tenses up, foreshadowing an error in the Encephalon virtual testing center. During this section, the instrumentation becomes softer and more sporadic, letting the electronic bass line keep the tension; however, this is soon broken with the addition of some intense crisis motifs. While this is a bit cliched, there is still a sense of foreboding doom present. The track ends with a slight Egyptian flair, produced by a brass melody of an undeveloped "Gnosis." (8/10)

5) Rising Emotions (Written by Dave)

I really enjoyed this track despite its limitations. It reveals the first snippets of the endearing "Kokoro" main theme for the first time in the game. Indeed, the electric piano perhaps doesn't do much good in terms of how striking the melody can be, but overall, it creates a sentimental atmosphere. The melody and harmony go so well together that the piece just feels natural, and for that, it can be called a success. There are better renditions of this theme on the album, but this is still a touching theme. (7/10)

8) Awakening (Written by Dave)

After the Gnosis appear inside the Woglinde, KOS-MOS's 'coffin' starts to open up after reacting to the presence of the Gnosis. Incessently dark and ominous, this track reflects upon the fear of the people on the deck at the time of her awakening. The last time the capsule opened, KOS-MOS wreaked havoc and went insane, hence the nature of the piece. Mitsuda gets the main idea across well; with indistinctive background noises to represent a hazy and uneasy environment, the track sends shivers down your spine, especially when put in the context of the game. The theme seems very futuristic, and this reflects upon the nature of the character too; indeed, it isn't every day that we get to see someone rise out of a coffin in heels. With her eyes glowing red, KOS-MOS spies a person backing away from her in the room, and then the track ends after a long crescendo. In terms of its musicality, "Awakening" is pretty much made what it is by its selection of instruments. The interesting blend between strings and more mechanical and electronic instruments seems to truly heighten the experience and bring the best out of each section. (8/10)

6) Awakening (Written by Dave)

After the Gnosis appear inside the Woglinde, KOS-MOS's 'coffin' starts to open up after reacting to the presence of the Gnosis. Incessently dark and ominous, this track reflects upon the fear of the people on the deck at the time of her awakening. The last time the capsule opened, KOS-MOS wreaked havoc and went insane, hence the nature of the piece. Mitsuda gets the main idea across well; with indistinctive background noises to represent a hazy and uneasy environment, the track sends shivers down your spine, especially when put in the context of the game. The theme seems very futuristic, and this reflects upon the nature of the character too; indeed, it isn't every day that we get to see someone rise out of a coffin in heels. With her eyes glowing red, KOS-MOS spies a person backing away from her in the room, and then the track ends after a long crescendo. In terms of its musicality, "Awakening" is pretty much made what it is by its selection of instruments. The interesting blend between strings and more mechanical and electronic instruments seems to truly heighten the experience and bring the best out of each section. (8/10)

7) Shion's Crisis (Written by Don)

This track starts off with ambience in full force, allowing for a slow, strong feeling of tension. The tension is abruptly broken by standard crisis motifs played by brass and strings. A sharp constrast is then witnessed as a slow "Kokoro" motif is played on violin. This fits quite well as it serves for the basis of a flashback in Shion's life. The ambience is then brought back into the track at the end. Overall, this track is one of the weaker ones on the album because it doesn't really convey much of a crisis at all; however, it is effective counterpart to the FMV in which it plays. (7/10)

8) Battling KOS-MOS (Written by TheShroud13)

"Battling KOS-MOS" is an energy filled track which reminds me a great deal of Mitsuda's score for Chrono Trigger's Zeal sequence. "Undersea Palace" and "Black Dream" come to mind especially in the harmonic progressions and the rhythmic lines in the timpani and brass. The opening's focus on rhythm is contrasted by a more lyrical string section that is perhaps a bit too brief, but is a suitable contrast. My main complaint with the track is that in order to facilitate a transition between the rhythmic section and the lyrical, Mitsuda basically brings the piece to a complete halt between 1:00 and 1:10. Nothing is really happening, and Mitsuda is basically just letting the piece slow down into the lyrical section. I think a more immediate change would have been more striking and not slowed down the piece as much. Still it's an exciting piece of music and an effective narrative. (8/10)

9) Sadness (Written by Dave)

This touching theme plays during a conversation between Shion and KOS-MOS after KOS-MOS shoots Lieutenant Virgil for being in the line of fire. Shion attempts to teach KOS-MOS about morals and humanity after learning that her decisions were based purely on probability and efficiency, and hence the music adds a heightened sense of emotion to the whole setting. The theme starts off with strings which play a sorrowed melody, but as we learn more about the reasons why the lieutenant was killed, more instruments are added to give the piece a more powerful edge. A beautiful piano line renders an almost perfect tear-breaking atmosphere, and as the two talk, one emotional and the other emotionless, the scene becomes mesmeric to say in the least. As the camera spans to give a bird's eye view of the setting the strings return in full blast, just to heighten the overall atmosphere. I really love this piece, since it seems to achieve so much. (9/10)

10) Life or Death (Written by Don)

A standard crisis theme. Brass and percussion open this track up quite abruptly and bombastically. Crisis string motifs are heard in the background and serve as an accompaniment. What actually makes this crisis music tolerable is the fantastic integration of the melodic portion of "Gnosis." The brass carries this melody while the strings offer an interesting countermelody; however, at the end of the day, regardless of whether life or death prevails, this is still standard crisis music. (7/10)

11) Game Over (Written by Don)

An extremely heartwrenching rendition of "Kokoro." This version seems to personify the lyrics in a way other renditions can't: "There's so much I want to ask you, but now the chance is gone." The strings and harp work together to create this personification and in the end, a tear drop may leave your eye. (9/10)

12) Margulis (Written by Dave)

This is the main theme of one of the main antagonists throughout the whole Xenosaga series. Despite being a rather vague and suspicious character in the first game, his theme is fairly well formed here to conjure an image of twisted desires, sophistication, and importance. The track is almost used as a prop to support Margulis, who isn't really characterised too much in the first game; an ominous melody, somewhat heavy instrumentation, and a sense of militarism really seem to mark him as a man of war. Despite being well-formed, the development seen in the track is hardly breathtaking or unique, but it could be argued that it does its job. Better tracks lie around this one, though it certainly does offer a sense of character. (7/10)

13) Followed Space Ship (Written by Don)

While this may sound like standard crisis music to some, largely due to the introduction, this piece develops much better than crisis music. While still keeping things simplistic, Mitsuda creates a piece that fits the FMV for which it was composed quite well. While a lot of strings are used in this piece, the brass melody helps to bring this track from standard crisis music into something a bit more substantial. The use of the flute is also an interesting addition, but sadly, it isn't seen enough. The strings themselves do what they are meant to do. The one set of strings carries a melody, while the other set, carries a sharper counter melody, thus creating the crisis effect. While not bad, it's certainly not one of the better action packed tracks on this album. (8/10)

14) Relief (Written by Kyon)

Here you go, your rather generic "relief" or "I'm glad this is over" type of music that has been existed for a long time. However, it is a good track nonetheless. This of course has to do with the composition itself. It's scored with brass instruments, snare drums, and a small string section as a minor accompaniment, with an appropriate melody and detailed musical texture. I believe this simple features has already done the job and completed what does it intended to do. (7/10)

15) Everyday (Written by Kyon)

Despite its upbeat nature and I think it's a pretty track, I however could not get on terms with its presence in this soundtrack due to the overall nature of the soundtrack. Sure, it fits the game very well as a town theme, or the "reprinted version" of the soundtrack. But I'm talking about the Digicube version here so I must say it fails. (5/10)

16) U.M.N. Mode (Written by Kyon)

This track is an electro-acoustic track, a style that is completely unfamiliar to Mitsuda, considering the fact that he does not dabble a lot in the electronica field. But "U.M.N. Mode" is changing the fact though, as Mitsuda will be dabbling in many fields possible. Despite the track is a melodically devoid one, the track's atmospheric instrumentation and the neat structure make it a winner. Definitely recommended. (10/10)

17) Durandal (Written by Kyon)

Although "Durandal" does not convey the impression of a battle spaceship, I must say that the execution for this track is done pretty well. It is quite a complex piece as the track relies more on atmosphere, chordal development, and suspension. I'm pretty surprised Mitsuda could put off such a track considering his experience. He deserves a lot of compliments from me at least. (10/10)

18) Invasion Inside an Enemy Ship (Written by Kyon)

This track to me screams "FILLER!!!". Being only 40 seconds in length, I don't see how I invade an enemy ship with such a short track. Sorry, but no. (3/10)

19) Kookai Foundation (Written by Dave)

The Kookai Foundation is a special organisation established after the end of the Miltian Conflict. The theme itself accompanies the docking of Durandal into the foundation, where it becomes a skyscraper as it pierces through the bottom of the lake held within. With the Durandal towering high above all of the other buildings, Mitsuda ensures that the piece accompanying the FMV is as mesmeric and awe-inspiring as possible. The piece itself is fairly simple, relying upon little development, with an emphasis placed upon some quite dreamy instrumentation. I'm really fond of this track, and especially the swaying strings which play throughout. (9/10)

20) Anxiety (Written by Don)

While Mitsuda isn't all too familiar with very ambient pieces, he seems to pull this one off quite successfully. This track is full of haunting and mysterious piano and woodwind lines, tensile strings, and the occasionally bombastic percussion. This track definitely has a tense atmosphere and the feeling of insecurity is abound. The mood this track creates fits very well with the FMV in which it accompanies. (9/10)

21) Panic (Written by Don)

"Panic" is another crisis-like track, however, it's extremely tolerable. The percussion used is extremely strong, and the piano line used in the track is a very interesting addition as well. Crisis strings are used to build tension, but they evolve into a melodic driving force with some power behind them. The counter melody that plays during the melodic portion, using another set of strings, has a nice rhythm to it. Despite the use of dissonance quite a bit, this track is very enjoyable and much better than most crisis music. (8/10)

22) Song of Nephilim (Written by Dave)

I really wish that a live choir sang this track, rather than the synth vocals which Mitsuda presents us with. To me, three certain aspects of the piece are lost: clarity, expression, and intricacies. Each of these features are important in the track, and the fact that they aren't there in their fullest heights means that it fails a little. The story behind the track within the game is that the theme is a wavelength that was not truly audio in nature, but psychic. Only a very few special people are capable of hearing it, and is perceived by them to be the haunting singing of a female voice. Within the game, humans can fall into madness upon prolonged exposure to it, which although sounds a little harsh, could very well be true in real life! (7/10)

23) Inner Space (Written by Dave)

The melody in "Beach of Nothingness" is brought back in a very surreal way in this piece. It almost seems to represent a very hazy environment filled with confusion and mystery. Over the time that the track plays, there isn't that much development. Perhaps the most inspirational factor about the piece comes from this lack of development; remaining ambient most of the way through, the listener can almost float to the end, almost forgetting that they'd heard the piece. I'm rather fond of this albeit short track. (7/10)

24) Albedo (Written by Don)

Any look into a dictionary will get you quite a few definitions for Albedo. The most common, the ratio of light reflected by a planet or satellite to that received by it, doesn't quite fit the bill on this one. After delving a little deeper, three quite interesting definitions surface, a physical, alchemic, and psychological definition. A latinized term meaning whiteness surely matches Albedo's physical description, but that offers nothing in the way of motivating the composition of this piece. Speaking on the alchemy perspective, it means to remove any impurities. Pyschologist Carl Jung emphasizes this even more by defining albedo as an unconscious contrasexual soul image known as the anima, a phase where insight into shadow projections are realized and inflated ego and unneeded conceptualization are removed from the psyche.

Now how does this relate to our main character. In perhaps one of the most disturbing monologues, Albedo clearly shows his understanding of this concept. From the excerpt:

"The human race, fearful at its weakness, built this world in a futile attempt to elude the abyss they call mortality. Culture, civilization. All delusions created by a powerless race, and of little use, like a barren woman. But amidst all this, you continue to exist as an unfettered soul, free from the shackles of flesh and blood. A completely pure consciousness, an eternal spiral, undefiled by impurities. A fusion of fire, breath, and spirit." What can we call you, but angels? New unadulterated pysches..." - Albedo

But more importantly, how does this motivate the musical composition by which this character is represented? This track is a mixture of many elements, all of which can attest to the mental infrastructure within Albedo. The opening leitmotifs convey the darkness and sinister nature that fills Albedo's soul, a clear representation of his ruthless behavior and his hatred for mankind. The operatic overtones seen early in the piece give that small glimpse into the future, as well as into the mind, of Albedo. The flute that enters can be conveyed as the most pure and unadulterated psyche that Albedo has left. Granted, since it is small, this clearly shows that he is certainly losing, and quite quickly, his purity. However, the true nature of Albedo's mental state is seen in the operatic portions of this track. Strong, haunting, and chilling, this conveys Albedo's mental instability. The fact that it is synth detracts none from the exuding power of this theme. Everything about this piece, from the harmony between the instrumentation, the projected power behind the operatic vocals, and the use of the sinister leitmotifs all come together to form that perfect amalgamation that successfully describes the man known as Albedo. (10/10)

25) Proto Merkabah (Written by Dave)

Having established power with the Song of Nephilim (in the game, not the track), Albedo summons Proto Merkabah as part of his strategy to use it as a superweapon. With the initial intentions of the creation of the base being to discover the true form of the universe, when the Song of the Nephilim and the Zohar are combined with the Proto Merkabah, the three come together to create a large force of energy (taken from the drawn in Gnosis). "Proto Merkabah" seems to be a track built upon two idylls: as a track which relates to the initial means of the ship (as a research base), but also as a track which reveals Albedo's intentions of using evil. The sustained organ gives an image of darkness and evil, but as the melody comes in, the track transforms into a theme with a mission. The theme is stunning, reflecting upon the nature of the base itself. It has such a huge history, being where MOMO was created for instance, that it deserves a grand theme such as this. Mitsuda cleverly integrates these idylls in this, a track I find moving and at some times, tension building. (9/10)

26) Last Battle (Written by Dave)

"Last Battle" is such an interesting theme. A sharp violin melody plays for the majority of the first half of the track as a piano adds to the accompaniment alongside a choir. Suddenly, the track rises a semitone as we are plunged into more action. Following this, the violin melody suddenly lets loose, intertwining with the piano accompaniment which shares its atmosphere. At 1:47, the track rises in tension as the piano receives a prominent development and becomes the more noted instrument. The violin almost seems to create a fiery, yet laboured, atmosphere as it yields the "Gnosis" theme, with the piano later transforming into a provider of hope and suspense. The whole track sees an interesting blend in instrumentation, but perhaps the effectiveness of the piece is lost without noting its subtleties. (9/10)


Written by Dave

This is such a fantastic score, and even more so, a brilliant introduction to Yasunori Mitsuda's composing genius. He composes across a variety of different styles on the album, maintaining the listener's interest, as well as helping to create a perfect image within the game. The likes of "Prologue" are prime examples of his more 'descriptive' tracks, with each theme seemingly telling its own story. There are, of course, the more ambient tracks which he presents us with, as well as the quirky and downright fun. The album is littered with gems, and it's one that should be added to any game music fan's collection. (9/10)

Written by Don

Xenosaga was an interesting album for Mitsuda. Relying mainly on the use of orchestral music, as opposed to Celtic music for which he is famous, he does a fantastic job in creating a cohesive soundtrack. The use of the London Philharmonic Orchestra was a fine choice and, despite some weaker performances, overall they shine in this album. Mitsuda is able to create such masterpieces, and arrange them himself, despite his inexperience in arranging for orchestra. By doing so, it only proves that he is willing to work on his weaknesses. This album is definitely worth a buy. The work seen within will surely captivate the listener. (9/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 9/10