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Disgaea Custom Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Disgaea Custom Soundtrack Album Title: Disgaea Custom Soundtrack
Record Label: NIS America
Catalog No.: D09SD-CD001
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Purchase: Buy at eBay


NIS America decided to offer a bonus soundtrack for those who pre-ordered Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. The Disgaea Custom Soundtrack features 21 selections from the three Disgaea titles arranged in a semi-random manner. The resultant release isn't comprehensive, but it's nevertheless a fine introduction to the Disgaea series' mostly wonderful music.


A considerable number of the selections are from the first and best Disgaea score. "Lord Laharl's Hymn" introduces the castle of the undisputed Overlord of the Netherworld, the main character Laharl, with a magnificent concoction of devilish female vocals and jubilant jazz instrumentals. With its peculiar blend of haunting and fun material, it brings back memories of Danny Elfman's "This is Halloween", but is also true to Sato's own musicality. It sustains its 4:52 playtime well, incorporating some stunningly lyrical instrumental sections without losing its fluidity or atmosphere. Another vocal theme, the "Etna Boogie" blends a temptress' vocals with big band jazz. It's explicit in its execution, featuring risqu� lyrics like "Tonight a dangerous lady has made you her target... She'll enchant all men". An excellently done composition, whether you find it alluring or not.

Moving to the instrumental themes, "Dark Whisper" is an excellent example of what to expect from the series' music. Almost certainly inspired by the introduction to the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack, it is an elegant melancholic waltz featuring fantastical woodwind-focused orchestrated hauntingly supported by female choirs and celesta motifs. Several more epic themes are also represented from the original Disgaea. In "Running Fire", the well-punctuated bright violin melodies of the body would have sufficed alone, but the surprisingly elaborate development section takes the theme to the next level. Probably the most epic composition on the score is "Galaxy Wars", which combines rich brassy orchestration with occasional iterations of a foreboding crisis motif. For the final dungeon, piano-infused otherworldly trance greets listeners in the timeless "Planet X".

The Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories selection is dominated by vocal themes. "Sinful Rose" provides a memorable introduction to the game with an uplifting pop singer and extravagant violin work. Unfortunately, this version has a playtime of just 1:39, meaning it feels over just after it has begun; the full length version is exclusive to the Arrange Soundtrack. More impressive is "White Tiger", an 80s-influenced rock piece featuring heroic beats and a passionate performance from Tenpei Sato himself. This song also receives a cut but it's less significant as it feels established enough at least until the sudden anticlimactic fade-out."Etna Rock" is a transforms the big band jazz original into a fast-paced rock version. The vocal performances retains the seductive power of the original, but the instrumentals are very different giving some cheesy charm. The classic "Lord Laharl's Hymn" is also reprised in a cute three voice chiptune remix.

There is only one instrumental selection from the Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories soundtrack. The final battle theme "Disgaea Rhapsody" is an improvement on its predecessor excluded here. Sato gives it all he's got with heavy orchestration, supporting chorus, ethnic instruments, violin passages, and evocative female wailing. Finally, "Twinkle Star" featuring Akiko Kawakami is the most conventional theme of the bunch, reminding me of J-Pop themes from the Wild Arms series. It's definitely one of the better video game vocal themes out there and would have had potential as a stand-alone single.

The vocal themes for Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice are a select taste. A shortened version of "Demon Academy" introduces the Netherworld School the game is set in. Dominated by menacing females singing alone and as a chorus, it is written in the spirit of "Lord Laharl's Hymn" from the original Disgaea and even integrates a few snippets from the classic theme. Unfortunately, it lacks internal rationale — offering a jazz big band introduction seemingly unrelated to the rest of the composition and frivolously introducing vocal parts to the point of overwhelming listeners — resulting in a relatively abrupt and cluttered creation. Elsewhere on the album, "Demon Academy Prospective Student" features a girl's childish out-of-tune singing against march accompaniment made from all sorts of nonsensical instrumentation, and "Demon Academy Alma Master" is hardly better. Meanwhile "Extreme Outlaw Overlord" has potential but suffers from insistent nauseating backing singing from a young female vocalist.

There are nevertheless highlights among the instrumental selections from the Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice score. The action theme "Rock Crystal" integrates a light rock style reminiscent of Sato's old-school works, adding some of the ghostly Disgaea touch in the fabulously sequenced electric guitar lines. "Poem of the Vagabond" is seemingly inspired by the Wild Arms series, combining catchy enchanting whistling with laidback western style instrumentation. Also of note is "Tales of Innocent Youth", where Iwadare-esque rock passages intersect western style trumpet solo, and "Makai Fugue", a somewhat clichéd but nevertheless impacting organ solo. While certainly the weakest Disgaea soundtrack, there are still evidently highlights, most of which were collected on this best album.


As far as compilation albums go, the Disgaea Custom Soundtrack has plenty to offer. The majority of the selections capture the ethos and diversity of each of the three scores. In addition, those compiling the release were happy to provide plenty of highlights, such as numerous full-length vocal themes and action themes. However, this album should only serve as a starting point to get into the Disgaea series and listeners should seriously considering purchasing the full-length soundtracks for the first two Disgaea soundtracks if they enjoy this. An excellent pre-order bonus regardless.

Overall Score: 7/10