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Armored Core 4 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Armored Core 4 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Armored Core 4 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Aniplex
Catalog No.: SVWC-7425
Release Date: December 20, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Every main title in the Armored Core series has featured a distinctive sound aimed at pushing musical and technological boundaries within game music. Armored Core 4, in particular, stands out prominently against its predecessors due to its focus on rock rather than electronic elements. Kota Hoshino persevered to create a unique sound for the game that could also be enjoyed on a stand-alone basis. This time, however, his offerings were greeted with an approximately equal mixture of adoration and disdain...


The brief opening overture reflects the hybridised sound to expect from the soundtrack. In a first for the series, the music is initially dominated by gothic choral chants and turbulent orchestration. At the 0:35 mark, a trap set is unexpectedly added to the mix and the track develops the mood of a head-banging rock anthem, while still retaining the choral lead. These stylings are also developed at the climax of the soundtrack on "Mr. Adam". It seems listeners are split into two camps on whether the results is cool or lame, many detractors considering it a cheap attempt to appeal to mainstream audiences while losing the concept of the series' music.

More extensive rock hybrids are used to accompany the various missions in the game. "Panther" has many of the hallmarks of the series' more unconventional sound, with an abstract piano leads, mechanised electronic beats, and unconventional development. The punctuation with rhythm guitar riffs and wild rock solos certainly adds to the briskness and impact of the piece during the mission. The effect is superficially fulfilling on a stand-alone basis too, but also a little perplexing when considered more closely. After all, what's the point of having original artistic elements if they're going to become overwhelmed by cookie-cutter mainstream ones? Nobody wants to hear a rock band set to Mozart's requiem and the hybrid here is similarly counterintuitive.

Even when the fusions are more compatible, many tracks simply aren't as fulfilling as those in Armored Core 3. The four chapter themes, for instance, feature hybrids of acoustic and rock elements that enhance the dark cinematic mood of the game; yet all but one of these tracks lacks appeal on a stand-alone basis, in part due to the highly accentuated rock backing becoming very repetitive. Despite featuring much potential, tracks such as "Second Development", "Change Gears", and "Fall" are also spoiled considerably by repetitive elements; while Hoshino often uses repetition for artistic purposes, in these cases he often seems to use it due to lack of inspiration or motivation.

That said, Hoshino does do a good job of developing an alternative rock sound on some items here. The various rock and vocal elements on "Twist It" seem much more compatible than in earlier tracks and fuse to create a sound that is simultaneously vivid and enpowering. The dense hybridised nature of "Agitator" and "Rain", on the other hand, partly facilitates their success as more climactic entries on the soundtrack. These are also among the tracks that can sustain considerable repetition without growing frustrating. "Prayer" meanwhile creates a more personal mood by blending a lullaby-esque humming pattern with acoustic guitar riffs. The melody featured here makes a reappearance in the end credits "Thinker", a weird and wonderful amalgamation of all sorts of styles and forces.


The Armored Core 4 soundtrack has proven controversial among fans of the series. The music is quite enjoyable in the game, inspiring abstract imagery with its bold soundscapes and getting listeners straight to the action with its powerful grooves. However, the rock-focused music here is certainly more conventional and less highbrow than the electronic music featured in earlier games and arguably betrays the musical foundations of the series. Furthermore, the soundtrack also unravels on a stand-alone basis, since most fusions are incompatible and the tracks can be repetitious. Though an interesting experiment from an excellent artist, it is easy to see why it is often considered the weakest soundtrack in the series.

Overall Score: 6/10