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Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dave

Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack Album Title: Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog Number: KDSD-00078/9
Release Date: August 24, 2005
Content: 2 CD Set - 64 Tracks
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


Yoshitaka Hirota used to be a Square employee who specialised in the sound effects department, and, with experience from games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger behind him, he soon decided to set out on a compositional journey as a freelance artist in 1999. Alas, he arrived upon the scene of the Shadow Hearts Original Soundtrack plus 1 in 2001 to compose an impressive gem whose epic qualities were only really noted upon its re-release in 2005. Hirota certainly gained a lot of popularity thanks to his efforts on this album, and so he was called back to compose for the Shadow Hearts II Original Soundtrack in 2004. Indeed, with such recognition in the game music world being received by the Shadow Hearts series, it was only natural that the games would become increasingly popular, too. Many fans found themselves buying the games solely to experience the soundtracks, which in most peoples eyes were amongst the most diverse scores to date.

Shadow Hearts II or Shadow Hearts: Covenant proved to be an excellent sequel to the first game, with its interesting gameplay and inspirational storyline sweeping the world. The soundtrack for the game was one of its best parts as it managed to mix so many styles and feelings that it became an invigorating experience. With Hirota being assisted on each of the scores, Aruze Corp decided that it was now the right time for him to now play an even wider part, composing some even more diverse tracks than he had on any prior albums. So, through ditching Yasunori Mitsuda and Kenji Ito, and introducing Tomoko Imoto and Ryo Fukuda, up came the marvellous epic known as the Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack. There is seemingly no decrease in variety with this soundtrack, but an increase in passion instead. Only recently released in August, this album will be greeted by many as one of the greatest Shadow Hearts scores to date.


The album starts off with a typically awe-inspiring Hirota track. With a dominance of female vocals, a heavy guitar bass, and an invigorating violin experience, "From The New World" turns out to be an inspirational composition. Soon to follow is an ICARO theme; ICARO themes are a signature track of the Shadow Hearts series, and "Et Unam -Chant Of ICARO-" proves to be no different in style to the others. This track enhances the soundtrack with its presence, and with this being the best ICARO arrangement to date, one can't help but feel that this album is going to be wonderful. Once again, it is the interweaving female vocal chanting that gives the track its edge, and with the singers doing the majority of the work, one can come to learn that a sense of melodic stability will grow to become a main feature of the album. On the whole, the opening tracks on the album are profound, leaving us in anticipation for the rest of the album.

The album begins to give a sense of relaxation as we are introduced to tracks such as "Ala of Sacrum" and "Garland Office," some of the jazzy representations of Hirota's diversity. "Moon Shine" is probably the most relaxed track on the first disc, with its slap bass guitar rhythm tantalizing the eardrums of any barely audible person. Nonetheless, it is mainly the second disc that features the widest set of ambient themes, with the majority of them being composed by Tomoko Imoto. Her tracks are unquestionably the simplest tracks on the album, and although they may seem feeble in comparison to others, one will find their typically playful nature to be enjoyable. Still, the best relaxation-inducing themes don't come from her mind but from Hirota's instead. It is through tracks like "Deposition Of Memories" and "Talking About You" that Hirota gets his message of purity across, but it is through tracks like "ICARO -acoustic arrangement-" that these feelings are put into full effect. This track's heartrending melodies and passionate harmonies really give the listener something to think about, and with this mood becoming increasingly similar to the likes of the main theme from Mel Gibson's Braveheart, one can't help but adore and lay back to it either.

Even so, opinions of Imoto's contributions shouldn't be lessened due to Hirota's excellence in creating lighter themes as she goes on further to produce three tracks of an outstanding quality. The first of these is "Oh smania! Oh furie! ~ D'Oreste e d'Aiace," which beats operatic masterpieces such as the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version's "Aria Di Mezzo Carattere" hands down. The vocalist sings with such passion that the sense of turmoil initially suggested by the title immediately comes into effect. As well as this, a series of erratic violin motif and rash timpani build ups also tells of this chaos. Imoto's next impressive gem is "Tirawa," a short yet extremely pleasing vocal track. One easily comes to understand through these tracks how Imoto loves making his melodies sing, as, although "Tirawa" is extremely different to her opera track, it reveals the same sense of passion. With this in mind, Imoto finally moves onto the ambient and wistful "Wheel of Fortune." Admittedly, the track takes longer to develop than others, but when it reaches some heartwarmingly gentle piano chords, a sense of purity like no other track before it is emitted. All in all, Imoto establishes herself as a capable composer with these tracks, surprising many with her melodies.

Hirota takes the lead in the area of dark track with a great deal of rhythmically- and harmonically-profound tracks being featured. One such example is the main battle theme, "Dead Fingers Talk." This is a track that relies completely upon an aura-boosting drum line and an increasingly tension-emitting electronica melody. It proves to be one of the most impressive tracks on the album by surpassing earlier battle themes in the series. Hirota uses similar techniques with "A Silver Smile" and "Kiss of Malice," too, and it is in these two tracks that the instrumentation causes a dependence upon harmonic diversity. Nonetheless, it is through other, more complex tracks that any real tension and sense of action is brought about. The perfect example of this comes on the first disc, and with its swiping violin notes and a series of Psycho-esque chord strikes, "Muy Malo" ranks as one of the most inspiring tracks to date. "Le Gran Luxe" is another of these, and it somehow creates a smell of blood through its powerful harmonies and erratic rhythms.

Eventually, after journeying through fifty-five stimulating tracks, we reach the grand finale of the album. The first track is named after Bythos, the monadic first being and originator of the spiritual world of the Pleroma. "Bythos" proves to be an amazingly fitting track for this legendary beast, as, with its techno bass and intriguing timbre, a sense of enormous power is certainly created. The next track after this is "Lady Tears I," a powerful and emotional pleasantry that explores a variety of instrumental techniques. Nevertheless, it hardly proves to be as impressive as the proceeding "Lady Tears II," a track built up on two parts. The first part of the track acts as a dark introduction, collating the ideas of a stage-by-stage battle. Never failing, in comes a wailing vocal line that is filled with raw emotion, and moreover, we see the introduction of a suspense-filled accompaniment. And so, with the majesty of "Lady Tears II" behind us, we are introduced to "Astral Tears," yet another ominous track from Hirota. The term "Astral" relates to a supersensible body believed by theosophists to coexist with and survive the death of the human physical body, so this truly is the reincarnation of the last boss that you have fought. It turns out to be a much shorter battle theme than the likes of the "Lady Tears..." tracks, yet, with it being just as tense and expertly composed, one can't help but feel overwhelmed by its presence.

So, with the album drawing to a close, we are introduced to the main vocal theme, "Spread my Wings." This rock and folk fusion from Takehara Tomoaki goes through a series of inspirational developments to give the album a well-integrated feeling of pride. So, this then leads us into the next track: the ominous "Un gemito dell'estinto," or "The Groaning of the Extinguished One." The best thing about this track is not its written music, but array of sound effects instead. Hirota proves to be impressive in this area, providing us with many such examples throughout the score. This track reveals a sense of despair through its melodic falls, thus suggesting that the demon may still haunt the lives of the heroes. Even so, we soon reach the last track on the album. "SABBATH -Demon Banquet-" comes to pass as a very fear-inducing track, with the likes of a pulsating bass and a hardcore guitar taking over in the second section. It proves to be an excellent way to end the album, as, with the first section of the track being reminiscent of the first theme on the album, one can really reflect upon the emotions built up throughout the soundtrack.


Very few soundtracks feature such a wide use of timbre and sound effects as this one. Hirota, who has composed for the series ever since Shadow Hearts Original Soundtrack plus 1, doesn't let the franchise down with his mass of inspirational themes. The Shadow Hearts II Original Soundtrack was criticised for not being as diverse as the original series, but when push came to shove, it was apparent that Mitsuda and Hirota could work well with each other. Nonetheless, Mitsuda seemingly vanishes from the scene as Tomoko Imoto begins to compose her own themes for the series. One could describe Imoto's works as being both enthusiastic and childish in places ("Pirates of the Caribbean," "By a Moustache Hair," and "Sneaking Heart") but also being epic as well. There aren't too many themes as impressive as "Oh smania! Oh furie! ~ D'Oreste e d'Aiace" and there certainly aren't many themes that explore the same originality that "Tirawa" does. With Hirota having the larger role, it is all too easy to forget Imoto's contributions, but still, she makes sure that she is noticed by rivalling some of Hirota's finest tracks.

Hirota really does seem to excel with this album; he comes to explore a number of different emotions, but with themes of relaxation being amongst the first that we hear one can easily get the wrong idea. The Shadow Hearts series is renowned for its mysteriousness, so it may come as a surprise to find such ambient themes outnumbering the more ominous tracks in places. Still, some amount of flair from the original albums is retained through the recapulation of the ICARO theme, "ICARO -acoustic arrangement-" is a truly heart touching experience. Still, with these relaxing tracks taking up a small percentage in practice, it is the darker and more mysterious tracks that come to reign the album. The last battle themes are the most inspiring out of these, with "Lady Tears II" being the best simply due its development and fantastic suspense increasing techniques. Hirota really doesn't fail with this, his most diverse score to date.

Percentage Overall Score: 98%

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