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Armodyne :: Forum Review

Armodyne Album Title: Armodyne
Record Label: Sleigh Bells
Catalog No.: SBPS-0010/11
Release Date: March 28, 2007
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


Written by Chris

Mitsuda's latest score Armodyne reunites him with the genre strategy games, militaristic music, and the company Omiya Soft over ten years after Front Mission: Gun Hazard. While the score has plenty of typical militaristic music, it is beautifully coloured by Mitsuda with rich orchestrations, a distinctive main theme, and plenty of cultural and stylistic explorations. It is an erratic work in colour and quality, but still a solid addition to Mitsuda's discography. Let's explore further.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) ARMODYNE (Written by Don)

Yasunori Mitsuda opens up this album quite strongly. The track itself begins with some strong percussion and electronic sounds, but the tempo is quickly increased and the development furthered with the addition of strings, brass, and vocals. The vocals themselves help to create an almost heavenly effect and add an exotic tinge. The violin solo in the middle helps to create some melodic differentiation and the brass used helps to generate that this album will be very bombastic and militaristic in style. The distinctive main theme of the score is exposed here and becomes engraved elsewhere in the score with a variety of unconventional efforts. (9/10)

2) The Destined One (Written by Rain)

TIGHT! Gawd this piece puts my ears in a good mood. The mixing of this piece is perfect. The eq levels are perfect. The bass sounds great, the pad noises are ethereal, and the drums are very complementary. Excellent mix.

The composition is extremely ambient but the piece builds well upon its sounds and creates a nice atmosphere in the process. Unfortunately, there isn't any variation at all. Once the piece gets going, it keeps going. The intro is very promising but kind of trails off and then the main music just kind of keeps repeating itself. It's a nice piece, but not very striking and not fun to listen to for long tracts of time. (8/10)

3) Prologue ~Dark Conspiracy~ (Written by Muzza)

Yasunori Mitsuda decides to take a dark approach with this track, while still maintaining a militaristic feeling throughout, with marching drums peppering the ominous atmosphere. The melody eventually builds up to something quite spectacular, and is then reduced to the eerie feeling which permeates the track. While perfectly corresponding with the title of the track, the melody does provoke a few qualms, but all can be overseen due to this track being another stellar Mitsuda composition. (9/10)

4) Tactical Plan (Written by Jampot)

The form here consists of regularly occuring melodic phrases in the strings, over a rhythmically interesting and ambiguous 6/8, 3/4 provided by percussive elements. The orchestral palette is nicely varied, with bells and triangles also making an appearance, as is the harmonic nature of the melody line, which often introduces some Phrygian elements of the harmonic minor scale, giving it a more Arabian influence. It is pleasant to listen to, well orchestrated, and certainly bears repeated looping. (8/10)

5) A Strike from Behind (Written by Chris)

Though one of the shorter tracks on the soundtrack, "A Strike from Behind" makes its presence known. I'd call it a fusion of typical militaristic music with electronic, jazz, and rock influences. Rhythmically, it's very compelling, driven on throughout by a grisly distorted bass guitar riff and some energetic drum beats. The melodic feature is a curious electric guitar riff that adds to theme's sense of action but is decorated in a quirky way to give the track a fun overall feel. At 0:19, most forces dissipate and the secondary feature is introduced, involving the playful interpretation of a series of chords before the track builds up again to repeat. While this track repeats at just 0:31, it isn't simply filler as it is creative and enjoyable enough to be worth revisiting many times over. It's also nice to hear Mitsuda getting his guitar out again after he successfully used it back in Deep Labyrinth. Basically, a short highlight at the start of the soundtrack few would skip. (8/10)

6) Logistical Support (Written by Chris)

When I first listened to "Logistical Support", it cried Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ to me. While the orchestration was a bit more innovative, it did feel like derivative brass-led militaristic music. However, the integration of the Armodyne's colourful main theme at 0:43 made the track much better and made up for the fact that the track's own melody is rather unmemorable, albeit effective. The track is also decorated with low-key but excellently produced electronic sounds to further establish the militaristic-futuristic fusion of the game. If I liked the track's own main melody a bit more, I'd revisit this track much more often. Nevertheless, it's basically a good composition to fit a strategy game and retains some of Mitsuda's charm. (9/10)

7) Mission Accomplished (Written by Scherzo)

A simple 5-note motif, supplemented with thick orchestration and a militaristic beat behind it, and ending with a flourish. There's not much to say about an 11-second track — it fails to impress, but one can't really expect it to in such a short span of time. And seeing as it's not at all in poor taste, it warrants a decent mark. (6/10)

8) Command and Control (Written by Muzza)

This track has a hopeful start, with an interesting combination of sound effects and an ambient melody that suggest a great build up for further on in the track. The atmosphere then gains a mellow beat, which unfortunately continues for the duration of the track with hardly any alteration. A decent track overall, but definitely something that a typical person would consider a filler track. (6/10)

9) The World of Chaos (Written by Don)

This track really doesn't portray a world of chaos to me. It starts off with promise, utilizing some foreboding strings and brass with a hint of percussion, but things quickly change in tone. The brass used seems overly happy and, while the melody is fairly decent, it really doesn't sound ominous or chaotic at all. Overall, this track is enjoyable, and the instrumentation used is nice, but it is really a misnomer. This world doesn't seem chaotic at all! (7/10)

10) Coded Operation (Written by Scherzo)

There is a steady percussion pulse throughout this track, which holds the entire piece together as a unified whole. Over this, various instrumentations and textures are placed: a flowing string melody, unsettling brass dissonances, and percussive piano motifs. The lack of a predominant melody hurts the track — the string part isn't particularly memorable or catchy. But it is set up well, with a good balance between cohesiveness and variation. (7/10)

11) To Dust and Ashes (Written by Jampot)

Funnily enough I had a suspicion that I would enjoy this track as soon as I saw the name. It is, appropriately, a string-led elegy, with assistance from timpani and cymbals for added drama. The string writing is nicely spaced, and the harmonies are beautiful, if a tad predictable at times, with close suspensions liberally scattered around. Also marking this track out are the dynamics, with the strings swelling passionately to the climaces, making them all the more effective. Here the focus is on texture and melody. Interestingly, it is also perhaps the first track on the album not to rely on percussion for drive and rhythmic thrust, and I believe it is all the better for it. (9/10)

12) Under a Free Flag (Written by Chris)

Whimsical but with a prominent snare drum backing? Yes, "Under a Free Flag" manages to be an interesting hybrid once again. It initially creates a sense of urgency with its prominent snare drum introduction and the use of an unconventional violin ostinato, but all the while tinged with the exoticism that exudes throughout the score. The melody is misleadingly presented in the style of a crisis motif, but is nicely answered by brief lyrical flute phrases. The piece eventually blooms into something quite epic, but the subdued yet random xylophone use keeps things still unpredictable despite the enforced rhythmical rigidity. It's a tad short, but is a very pleasant largely militaristic track. (8/10)

13) Training Grounds (Written by Don)

This track is interesting. It has a semi-calypso feel to it, which is generated by the use of the instrumentation used in the beginning of the track. The percussion is pretty strong and the use of the electric guitar creates a nice melody. However, I don't see much development beyond this. The track is catchy, but ultimately falls short in the end. Without context, it's hard to judge how effective this piece is. (6/10)

14) Powder and Shells (Written by Terasclasch)

This track is my favourite on the soundtrack! The introduction starts with an electornic percussion beat, with some sound effects that emulate the sound of reloading guns. The main theme of the piece is then introduce with a nice suspense. The rhythmic pattern aiding the delicious melody reflects how well Mitsuda can be with his melodic compositions. Overall, I find that this piece has the best melody found in the entire soundtrack (in my opinion only though). The rhythmic pattern, combined with the melody, with the occasional emulation of sound effects, fits the title totally and makes this piece stand out on its own entirely. (10/10)

15) Stage Zero (Written by Scherzo)

I'm beginning to see a theme here. This marks yet another track with an interesting percussion/bass line, yet horribly nondescript melodies. The piano used midway through the piece is a nice touch of creepy ambience that disrupts the military atmosphere without being intrusive, but other than that, this track is like "Training Grounds" in that, while Mitsuda's set-up is good (a touch above average, in this case), the actual thematic material fails to impress. (5/10)

16) Black Wraith

(Written by jampot) The most damning thing that can be said about this is that it 'sounds good'. It is a piece of riff-based guitar metal, almost wholly devoid of interest or development, that easily tires. Production values are, as throughout this album, exceptional, and merit a mention, however they cannot cover up a lack of interesting material. In fact I'm pretty sure some zoos have trained monkeys to write binary form ostinato-based music to a similar standard. (3/10)

(Written by Don) "Black Wraith" is quite an enjoyable track. While the main focus is definitely on the guitar riff, the melody that underlies this is gold! It's catchy, works well with the the guitar riff overtones, and there's even an arrangement of "ARMODYNE" thrown in there as well. The use of synth and piano really bring this track to life and the contrast between the instrumentation is really distinct. Definitely one of my favorites on the first disc. (9/10)

17) The March of Iron (Written by Scherzo)

Contrary to my impressions of the soundtrack before, Mitsuda can write an emotionally affecting militaristic piece. Although the piece opens typically with a slow beating ostinato and a simple melody, once the strings come in, we can hear a bit of what makes Mitsuda great. I only wish the track was longer, so that the ideas used in this section could be further developed. Not a bad effort, though. (8/10)

18) Stride (Written by Don)

This is a small little heroic ditty. It's too short to warrant an analysis, but the instrumentation used is very nice. (6/10)

19) Parts Shop (Written by Don)

Talk about a funky track. I love the percussion instruments used in conjunction with the electronic beat. The use of the electric guitar adds a nice bit of development as well. While the track relies mainly on the xylophone percussion to drive the melody, it's quite effective in doing so. It gives the parts shop which it represents a little bit of flavor and lightheartedness. Overall, this track is another great one from Mitsuda in terms of creativity. (9/10)

20) Goodness Gracious (Written by Scherzo)

Although at first listen, this track with it's lighthearted guitar riffing sounds completely separate from everything else on the soundtrack, the quiet snare drum provides a militaristic accompaniment that links it with the rest of the album. This also provides a nice groove for the track, making it a very peppy tune that just might have you bouncing around in your seat while listening. True, it's a bit clichéd, but given how different the mood is from the majority of the album, such clichés are justified. (8/10)

21) Valiant Souls (Written by Don)

"Valiant Souls" is another hit from this album. It starts off with some nice percussion and some synth (can't identify the instrument). The main melody is then introduced via an acoustic guitar. It really adds a nice touch to this album. Once the melody shifts to strings, it keeps its valiant feel to it. The main melody itself is very catchy and is quite memorable, as opposed to some of the clunkers on the album. I really like how it's motivating and conveys the name of the track title in its composition. (9/10)

22) Blitzkrieg (Written by Toma)

Despite a title that does not fit the piece at all, this piece is a nice one. I'm thinking it would go for some pre-battle scene, as it has a feeling of trying to remain calm before charging into battle. Although it's lacking a melody, the piece sets a mood of tension that works very well, with a building percussion groove and little bits of melody floating around delivered by piano, guitar, and synths. As the loop goes on, the piece gets more aggressive, with the piano playing a brief ostinato and some interesting offbeat chimes coming in. One of the better tracks I've heard so far from this soundtrack, I'd say. (8/10)

Disc Two

1) Man on a Mission (Written by Teraslasch)

This track starts off with a fusion of both acoustic percussion and electronic beats combined with the low string motif that repeats quite often throughout the whole piece. The marchy feel combined with the string melody does evoke the sense of "a man on a mission". This piece can be generally broken down into three structures, the main rhythmnic/melodic motif we hear at the start, the "verse", and lastly the "bridge". (7/10)

2) Reason (Written by Teraslasch)

This is such a beautifuuuuul track! This is one of the reasons why I constantly keep listening to this soundtrack! There's the usual piano plus string combination — lovely and sweet. It's such a wonderful piece, and I reckon that anyone would fall in love with this piece instantly thanks to its melancholic melody. This is yet another succesful attempt from Mitsuda to create a piece that would touch the hearts of many. (10/10)

3) Stone Butterfly (Written by Jampot)

This track is a very innovative twist on 'action music'. It's initially propelled by an electronica-fuelled beat, punctuated with brass stabs and synthy countermelodies. Some chord phrasing in the horns is reminiscent of Sakimoto, and here this is certainly not a bad thing. It moves along with considerable momentum, yet perhaps the most interesting moment is when towards the end of the loop it breaks down to a barely supported string pad, which then slides down, in a manner completely startling the first time one hears it, completing the loop in a manner perfectly suited to the unsettled mood of the piece — like a stone butterfly dropping to earth..? Hard to try to reconcile the piece and the title at some point, though to little avail it seems... I love it all the more for the weirdness. (9/10)

4) Smoke Fills the Air (Written by Jampot)

Despite its short length, I believe this deserves a mention for its originality. Some wonderful ambient noises over sweep pads, which gradually reveal a fascinating voice toward the end. I'd like to think I can imagine smoke filling the air in a mysterious and mystical manner. (7/10)

5) Beautiful Day (Written by Don)

While some people may not enjoy this track, it's one of my favorites on the album. It's a very peculiar composition. The use of the acoustic guitar to portray the melody, in conjuction with bell motifs, is a very nice touch to this album and the underlying rhythmic guitar is an interesting accompaniment to the track as a whole. The melody itself is beautiful and the mixing on this track is superb. (9/10)

6) Judgment Day (Written by Scherzo)

Mitsuda creates a sinister atmosphere with this threatening track. The constant pulse of the bass drum and bell give the whole piece a sense of impending doom at the beginning, especially since there are nearly no other subsidiary percussion parts to fill in the spaces between the notes. However, as the track moves onwards, strings and legato horns come in, establishing a more noble feel. Eventually, the pulse drops out completely, accentuating the long string melody. This gradual build up towards a long line makes for a very enjoyable track, since it's not split up into clearly definable sections. Also adding to the tracks effectiveness and sense of chaos is the addition of short ambient piano and electronica fills. A superb effort, but one that ends too shortly to be altogether satisfying. (9/10)

7) After the Storm (Written by Don)

This is a very relaxing piece. The track opens up with tubular bells with hints of snare percussion. This helps ease the track into the dramatic piece it transforms into when the strings and brass come into full motion. The use of these instruments adds a bit of militaristic flair to what seems to be after a battle. A small transition is seen, and is played with woodwind instruments. Around the the 1:15 mark, the brass is reintroduced in short staccato bursts creating a nice bit of development before re-looping. This track is one of my favorites on the second disc. (9/10)

8) Lur Xecran (Written by Ronito)

Put a Japanese male voice over this and you've got your patented "Generic Anime intro song". The electric guitars with the piano hitting the power chords and then the little electric guitar solo really the piece sounds like so much of what we've already heard elsewhere. Very Mitsuda-esque however in the chord progression which keeps it from falling completely flat. "We are, we are on the cruise! We are!" (6/10)

9) Path of Misery (Written by Dave)

I find this track to be really compelling. The melody has a sense of peculiarity about it which makes it all the more interesting to listen to, and when the theme develops, the atmosphere heightens. The theme has a militaristic setting, emphasising the journey our protagonists face, but also has a hopeful nature about it. Exotic vibes are created by some especially colouful orchestration and there are some unusual electronic effects too in places reflecting again the technological influence in Armodyne's world. There is quite a nice bit of development in this theme, making it multifaceted but without becoming tangential. (9/10)

10) Cosmic View (Written by Don)

"Cosmic View" is definitely a piece that can describe a macrocosm. The entire set up of these pieces revolves around this idea. The instrumentation used is grand, the melody builds and builds, and the mixing is superb. I really like what Mitsuda did here. The percussion and strings add to a feeling of awe and the melody is more dramatic in points than in others. Overall, another solid effort. (8/10)

11) Memories (Written by Dave)

"Memories" is a tender piece that ranks highly on this album with me. The piano line is delicately and passionately played against a moving string line. The atmosphere that ensues is perfect and reflects entirely upon feelings of loneliness and loss. Furthermore, it seems to place the listener in a world of their own due to the dreaminess of the resounding piano notes and the reverberation created elsewhere in the theme. This is one of the more moving tracks on the album, and despite it being melancholy, I certainly get a hopeful vibe from it. Good times are there to be relived, after all, though they might be tainted with the anguish which caused the memories to fade. (10/10)

12) Crimson Skies (Written by Muzza)

"Crimson Skies" is a solid track overall. The instrumentation is extremely good, and the variety of instruments also works to the track's advantage, such as the eerie use of shakers at the start of the track. The remainder of the track maintains a subtle approach, meaning it doesn't blow you away in any sense, but it is still one of the more pleasing tracks on the album. (9/10)

13) Deeper Underground (Written by Muzza)

One of my absolute favourites on the soundtrack, "Deeper Underground" offers the listener a truly haunting experience. This is honestly one of the most frightening tracks I've ever heard. The atmosphere it creates really makes me feel as if I'm wandering outside in the dark, with a bitterly cold wind sending shivers up my spine. Having said that, the title of the track corresponds very well with the track itself, due to the (deep) underground being an empty, eerie place. The heart-startling section (0:46-0:54) really adds to the ominous soundscape provided by this track. Highly recommended, especially if you like to listen to your music in the dark. (10/10)

14) Ark of Winds (Written by Kyon)

"Ark of Winds" is a track that you mostly used when you are pit into a battle against the penultimate boss. With this track, Mitsuda seems to be inspired by "Omega" from Xenosaga Episode I. The rhythmic structure of the track is faintly similar of those in "Omega". I must say this is certainly not a very impressive piece per se. But I do believe it serves its intention very well. Despite the track's unremarkable nature and the use of typical standard orchestration techniques used in most military games, Mitsuda did not neglect this piece at all. It has a well developed harmonic structure and tension filling rhythm, allowing this track to become a highlight. (9/10)

15) Storm Dancer (Written by Kyon)

Even though I did not play too far in the game, I believe "Storm Dancer" is the final battle theme of the game and I have to say this is one of Mitsuda's most impressive battle themes since his Shadow Hearts II's "Astaroth".

The track begins in a creepy fashion with a woodwinds crescendo and a brass fanfare, then it dies down a little to give the role to the choir to set a prelude. as the harp performs a glissando at 0:22, the brass and woodwinds return to build up tension. At 0:29, it is the string section's turn to spice it up with a twice-repeated crescendo. After that, the piano tries to ease the tension a little but it does not last when the orchestra slowly takes charge and a horn solo playing a loose arrangement of the main theme. But the horn solo did not really perform it. Instead, the horn takes a different direction and leads the orchestra to a intense climax you could hear in some mecha anime or games before it loops.

Of course, many may disagree with me on this. Sure, I don't deny the fact that this track is fairly underdeveloped in comparison to say, Front Mission 5's battle themes. But we are talking about Armodyne here, which is a simulation game above everything else, whereas Front Mission 5 is a storyline-heavy S-RPG. Thus I do not find the comparison wise, since Front Mission 5 requires drama when composing tracks like this. Thus, to "Storm Dancer"'s credit, it deserves high marks. (10/10)

16) For Peace (Written by Kyon)

"For Peace", you must have guess it, it's a staff roll theme. It's been a while since Mitsuda composed a non-vocal ending theme.

As I have said before, staff roll themes have to be a summary of the game or should tie loose ends. Not only that, but it has to be thematically relevant. If not, what do you need ending themes for? In "For Peace", I not only have exactly what I want, but Mitsuda also delivers a special one, at least in my eyes.

The piano that plays at the beginning seems to reminiscing a journey, a journey that is tedious, cruel, and unforgiving. And the strings that entered later further prove my point, signifying what the protagonist is thinking when he's talking about the war. Just as I was fooled to think that the protagonist seems to get quite bitter about it. The piano playing at 1:34 mark begins to lift up and it signifies something pretty optimistic. As the piano fades slowly, the full orchestra enters and begins to perform in a fanfare fashion. The protagonist thinks he has won, because he finally brought peace to both Earth and Mars, and he settled all his problems. During this fanfare, I believe the protagonist is thinking that despite those terrible hardships faced during the journey, it is ultimately worth it. As for the woodwind section at finale, I might be wrong but it seems to signify a "prayer", a prayer that he would not have to go through this things again.

To sum it up, I am very impressed here, not with the track, but Mitsuda's sensibilities when crafting it. This kind of sensibility not only justifies Mitsuda's standing as one of the top composers out there, it also made him what he is. This kind of sensibility is the sole reason why I love him so much. (10/10)


Written by Chris

Overall, this is one of Mitsuda's most colourful albums ever. There's so much here — the exotic vocal opener, rock 'n' roll efforts, soft acoustic creations, quirky lyrical tracks, plenty of electronica, dabs of jazz, horrifying ambience, a few symphonic epics, and plenty of other experimental creations and weird and wonderful hybrids that defy classification. A certain unity is established, particularly thanks to the marvellous main theme, despite the often wild experiments. Of course, the core of the soundtrack is militaristic music, a mixed blessing. There are clichés, but nothing horrendously derivative as most Western game music scores of similar kin. Sometimes the melodies of the militaristic tracks are a bit plain and the drum rolls and brass fanfares get tiresome. Thankfully, there's more than enough variety to break it up and I felt Mitsuda basically did a good job reflecting the strategic nature of the game while creating a diverse stand-alone creation. Overall, few other albums reflect Mitsuda's stylistic breadth so wonderfully or his capacity to create mature orchestral creations. The core might be bland but the numerous decorations are fantastic. Inconsistent, yes, but better that than colourless. (8/10)

Written by Kyon

Armodyne is an album that is certainly not going to impress a large number of fans of video game music or even Mitsuda fans. I even heard someone said that Mitsuda's talent was "wasted" when he accepted the job. Great, so that means talented guys like Yuzo Koshiro who is now working on small scale projects is a "waste of time" because it "wasted his talents". This is not a very respectful statement as far as I concerned. Because even if a composer is going to secure a large scale project, so what? If he/she did it well, that's great. But what if he/she fails, wasn't it far wasting of time and than working on smaller projects? Thus, to say working on something smaller is a waste of time is not going to help things, because I believe that sometimes working small things in a great way is better than doing big things in a disappointing way.

Still, this does not justify why people must be impressed with Armodyne. Yes, I agree that this album is quite melodically insufficient, and the generic militaristic nature of this album is going to turn many people off, particularly those who has been acquainted with the music from the Front Mission series. Also, half of the tracks in this album are generally unremarkable to say the least.

But what can you expect from a simulation game? An epic soundtrack a la Final Fantasy? That would be absurd, especially if you are working on a game that is relatively low budget like an indie movie and this is justified having the fact that Omiya Soft is a small company and just coming off fresh from creating Culdcept Saga, a huge Xbox 360 game. Thus, an epic and "huge" soundtrack, is not only not going to bring any benefit but it will detract it.

When listening to Armodyne, I had to change my mindset a bit in order to enjoy this soundtrack. Because the soundtrack does not show any signs of greatness, nor do most of the tracks on this album stand out very impressively in an obvious way. The true beauty in Armodyne is its subtlety and development. And the fact that it's a traditional video game soundtrack that I hear from Mitsuda for a while since Hako no Niwa. Also, you don't hear a lot of woodwinds in a militaristic soundtrack, would you? But Armodyne has it, and I'm impressed with what Mitsuda working on the woodwinds in the soundtrack. Also, I think this soundtrack is a fresh change from those IN-YOUR-FACE epic military game soundtracks that is available in the market.

Do I recommend this album? If you are a Mitsuda fan then by all means buy it. But even Mitsuda fans may have the potential to be turned off by the unremarkable and the unimpressive nature of the soundtrack, I can see why. All I can say is you need to hear it yourself to be the judge. As for me, certainly it's not a masterpiece, but it's a very good album. (8/10)