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Near Death Experience, Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks :: Review by Resk

Near Death Experience, Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks Album Title: Near Death Experience, Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-00077
Release Date: August 24, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


"NDE" is the acronym for the original battle track of the Shadow Hearts series, so it is quite fitting that it is also the title for the first album to feature arrangements of tracks from the Shadow Hearts series. Shadow Hearts, Shadow Hearts II, and Shadow Hearts From the New World all contribute their own set of tracks to this album, and for the most part, the arrangements are catchy. Each track has its own individual style which mimics, but doesn't copy the original style of the track. I'm looking forward to this.

I feel I should start things off with a message: this album is not a remix compilation. Some of the tracks will sound as if they have undergone what traditionally is described as a 'remix', but this is still an arranged album, and the tracks have been designed to fit that formula. Therefore, this review is also going to follow a formula. Instead of my traditional style of reviewing the tracks by style or theme, I'm going to review them chronologically to give you a real sense of how these themes have evolved over time.


We begin with "'Sphere -qu-' - Sacred Shrine edit," a track from Shadow Hearts. Originally played on the Japan map screen, this track has undergone an interesting change. The most prominent addition to this arrangement is the presence of a beat. The original track focused on ambience, while his track provides a little more structure. The Japanese percussion sounds great with the ambient flowing synth sounds from the original track. Another thing you may notice is that the wood chimes from the "Result" track from Shadow Hearts also appear, which help to associate the track with the first game of the series (the chime changes to a different sound with each game). Nature sounds help to balance out the track, and provide a very calm opening and closing. Another track from Shadow Hearts is "Asian Parfait - Jasmine." Originally the dramatic tune of Shanghai, the flute is still the dominant instrument, but this time around provides a more hollow sound on an ocarina. An interesting beat is included in the track through chimes and cymbals. Other light drums also accompany the track to fill in the lower range. Altogether, the track does justice to the original version, but for some fans, it may not hold onto the true Asian roots that made the track so memorable on the soundtrack. Finally, we look at "n.d.e / near death experience - Muddy Water edit," an arrangement of the battle theme from the Europe portion of Shadow Hearts. 'Muddy Water' is a great description for this track, which had a lot of potential. The entire track seems to be, well, subdued from the original. The sharp rhythm and the dramatic percussion of the original track are replaced by subtle, less noticeable instrumentation.

The majority of the tracks appearing on this album come from Shadow Hearts II. "Twilight Street - Ambient Remix" was originally driven by very clean guitars, supported by a strong acoustic bass, along with an accordion. The new arrangement of this track is a dramatic change. Instead of guitars, we have a very strong solo piano which gives us the track's main theme. This is supported by very light synth and creates a very soothing atmosphere. When the track picks up, the real arrangement of this piece comes into focus: a soft, delicate beat and bass line accompany the soothing piano, while a flute replaces the accordion. "Never Ending Sadness" was one track from Shadow Hearts II that really spoke to you. There was simply so much emotion in that one track that you could almost feel the anguish and distress from the main characters in the game. This scene in particular stands out as the music accompanying Yuri's physical expression of anger and despair against a Japanese General in front of his young grandson. "Never Ending Sadness - Pain edit" simply does not measure up. The piano and violin of this new arrangement don't even begin to express the emotion of the original track. The strong violin in the second half of the track is particularly out of place. More importantly, this track does not exude any amount of 'pain' on the listener. Grief is a possibility, but not pain. "Astaroth - 8-minute note mix" on the other hand, is a fantastic adaptation of its original track. Almost all of the things that made this track great the first time around have been enhanced in this version. The addition of the epic 'ping' sound really gives a sense of vastness to the track, and the gradual introduction of instruments into the track really help to bring it all together. Mitsuda included vocal samplings of his own voice the first time around, and they appear again in this track. In my opinion, they really create the track in a way that wouldn't have been accomplished with the female vocals alone.

"Grey Memories - Floating edit" is a very interesting interpretation of the theme. Originally put together through long synth and string notes which were very irritating, we now have short electronic synth notes which are equally irritating. Really, there's just very little to work with as far as this track goes, and both versions are disappointing. The addition of female vocals adds some variation to the track, but not enough to make it worthy of being on this album. "Deep In Coma - minimal work" totally makes up for it though. Easily one of my favorite tracks on this album, this track was originally the Japan map battle theme in Shadow Hearts II. I'm particularly fond of this arrangement, because of it's heavy techno beat throughout the entire tracks, sometimes backed up by nothing but a single vocal line. Marimba hits and an electronic 'tick' sound help to round out the track before it plunges into the more substantial part of the piece, where bass and synth fill in the holes. One part of this track that is particularly interesting is the vocal section, which repeats the same vocal set seven times in a row with the background instrumentation coming in over time; quite a unique sound. The final track to appear from Shadow Hears II, is "The 3 Karma - Cogito, ergo sum." This is a very... unique track, and will definitely not suit everyone's tastes. Originally, this track was the combined effort of the album's three composers, Yoshitaka Hirota, Yasunori Mitsuda, and Kenji Ito. When I say combined, I literally mean combined: they each wrote part of this piece and then threw it all together. While this may seem an odd choice for the track, considering the final boss of the game (for which his piece plays) is actually one boss with three supporting bosses which guard it, it matches perfectly. The real instrumentation of this track is very dense and complex, so I won't even begin to try and describe it to you; this is simply one of those tracks that you need to hear and decide for yourself on. What I can tell you is that this arrangement of the track is also very unique in its sound. Each contribution from the different composers in the original track gains its own special time with your ears, allowing you to really deconstruct the track into different segments and hear just what makes this track so different.

We now come to the remaining two tracks, which come from Shadow Hearts From the New World. "Ala Of Sacrum - Spirit of the Air" is originally an extremely boring piece. Only a few strings are repeated throughout the entire track, with a few low piano chords, and some fast paced percussion near the end. This arrangement is actually quite enjoyable to listen to. Light handed percussion is accompanied by the occasional flute and guitar, built up by water sounds and haunting synth in the background. Later in the track, a heavy dance beat is introduced, adding an interesting rhythm to the continuing hand percussion. Some cymbal also comes in, with low strings. Then, everything comes together with some harder sounds near the end, creating a track that would have been much more preferable in the game than what we were given. Finally, we come to "The Wheel of Fortune - Fortuna." Originally, this track was a very slow version of the "Icaro..." theme, put together with strings, piano, and percussion; somewhat reminiscent of 'Someday the Dream Will End' from Final Fantasy X. This new version however is almost purely a vocal piece. A light choir (heard in other tracks from the album) returns to give the "Icaro..." theme to us in full lyric, backed up by a harp and light organ. Later on in the track, an orchestral feel is given to the track when the solos in the vocals are introduced. Overall, this track is really very pretty, and a great addition to the album.


This album won't appeal to all audiences. There is a wide variety of styles throughout the arrangements: some will find certain tracks boring, while others will find different tracks to be wonderful ambient creations. It's always hard to judge an arranged album, because of the temptation to compare the tracks to the original versions. Indeed, throughout this review, I did little else. But knowing the original tracks can also be a benefit, because it allows you to hear a track you know well in a way you may never have imagined it could work. Because of its versatility, and its dedication to keeping true to the original work, I would definitely recommend this album.

Overall Score: 7/10