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Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Original Soundtrack Album Title: Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Columbia Music Entertainment
Catalog No.: COCX-35945
Release Date: November 18, 2009
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is a DS spinoff from Atlus' Megami Tensei series that takes a Japanese soldier on a journey to the South Pole to investigate a space abnormality. The music for the game is just as strange as the story, at least for Shoji Meguro's fans. Rather than preserve the rock and electronic influences of earlier instalments of the series, Meguro took an entirely orchestral approach. Throughout the one disc soundtrack release, listeners are presented with haunting and minimalistic orchestrations quite unlike any other. The resultant soundtrack is certainly a select taste, but a work of 'magic' regardless.


"The Eternal Throne" depicts the tone and style of orchestration to expect for much of the soundtrack. The composition is opened with the loud chants of a male chorus — a force used to represent the mysterious and hostile space entity from the opener to the final battle. At the 0:23 mark, the track moves into a militaristic march dominated by desperate brass and desolate timpani. It sounds brutal yet minimalistic, therefore complementing the visuals of the Antarctic region under investigation. A minute in, the composition culminates in a dramatic fanfare — a recurring main theme — that makes all too clear that you are all that stands between survival and apocalypse. This piece certainly won't be desirable for those looking for more of Meguro's Nocturne or Persona work, yet it is outstanding on several levels nevertheless. Even with the limited memory capacity of the DS, Meguro managed to produce an orchestral composition that is simultaneously unusually styled, melodically rousing, cinematically integrated, and entirely representative of the game. There is plenty more where that came from.

Much of the soundtrack preserves the atmosphere and soundscapes offered in the opener. This continuity is essential for representing the cold and menacing environments of the Antarctic, yet the format so often has perplexing effects and leaves listeners asking many desirable questions. Is "Beginning of the End" a heroic march or a requiem resounded before the mission has even begun? Exactly what are creating those malevolent Gregorian chants featured in marches such as "A Scorched Nation"? And why is the exacting depiction of "Fear" somehow more comforting than most other entries on the soundtrack? Perhaps the lattermost of these reflects the biggest contradiction of the score for me. It is surprising that a soundtrack so abstract, hostile, and unvaried is simultaneously so stimulating and emotional from start to finish. This surely can be attributed towards Meguro, who always somehow maintains the correct balance between depicting scenes and attracting listeners. Indeed, this soundtrack reflects Meguro's so-called 'magic' more than all his other works for me. It shouldn't be attractive, but it is.

As ever, listeners can rely on Meguro to offer some killer battle tracks on Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. "Awe" still maintains the same ensemble as other tracks, but is structured in a considerably different way. There is plenty of emphasis on driving percussion during the early part of the theme before things take a sinister turn dominated by more chanting. After this depiction of the enemies, the theme ultimately reaches a heroic climax from 0:49, which ranks as one of the series' finest musical moments. "An Honor Befitting That Name" is also a major highlight with its powerful reprise of the main theme and the continual contrasts between intimate instrumental solos and rousing orchestral tutti. There are poignant and spiritual moments scattered through the disc too, for instance in "Prayer", "Law", and "Land of Birth". However, easily the highlight is "The Scepter of Justice", a truly liberating piano and violin ballad featured at the end of the game. In just over two minutes, Meguro somehow makes all the horror preceded it nullified and the listening experience all the more fulfilling.


The Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey soundtrack is one of the most unusual video game soundtracks in recent years. Meguro persevered to develop a style that was entirely representative of the game, yet also creative, fascinating, and attractive. He maintains the approach throughout the soundtrack, but is still able to offer a range of moods and some substantial highlights. Don't be misled, however, as this is not a soundtrack for everyone and it's even less accessible than most survival horror scores out of context. Those who do find it appealing, however, will really treasure it. Those who are likely to enjoy the music are best importing the soundtrack; while all launch copies of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey in the USA included a bonus soundtrack, only ten themes out of the 31 tracks from the domestic soundtrack were included.

Overall Score: 8/10