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Trusty Bell ~Chopin's Dream~ Original Score :: Forum Review

Trusty Album Title: Trusty Bell ~Chopin's Dream~ Original Score
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1445/8
Release Date: July 25, 2007
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Don

Trusty Bell ~Chopin's Dream~ (aka Eternal Sonata) is Motoi Sakuraba's most recent work as of December 2007. This is quite the departure for Sakuraba and his normal progressive rock approach to some of his soundtracks, especially the battle themes. Given that this game takes place in Chopin's dreams, an album that featured progressive rock would be a bit inappropriate. How did Sakuraba combat this issue? He did what he did in Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria and replaced electric guitars with stringed instruments. As a result, this soundtrack stands out as one of Sakuraba's more classically oriented in terms of style, but at the same time he is able to add his own touch to some of the pieces. In addition to Sakuraba's pieces, some of Chopin's compositions are also featured in the soundtrack and help bring a bit of Chopin to his dream world. How does this soundtrack compare to other Sakuraba pieces and does the blend of Sakuraba and Chopin work for the best? Read on to find out.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Pyroxene of the Heart (Written by Chris)

The opening theme for Trusty Bell ~Chopin's Dream~ captures the emotions of Chopin's bittersweet fantasy. Opening with a distinctive piano and harp motif that depicts a fragile Chopin's fantasies, the voices of Sakuraba's wife and daughter soon intepret a dreamy melody and provide a desperate weeping quality. Sakuraba's harmonisation becomes more elaborate as the game's opening sequence develops with voice, piano, and harp being joined by rich cello, violin, and flute lines. This provides an entirely different context when the melody repeats, intensifying the sense of desperation and drama.

After a solo piano interlude, the theme blooms at 1:44; the instrumentation remains similar, but each force offers raw passion to the theme and the dynamic level increased; clearly inspired by the romantic nature of Chopin's compositions, this peak will touch and overwhelm listeners every time. After some agitated piano work and a descending glissando, this section repeats with greater intensity before a beautiful bridge leads to the recapitulation of the initial melody. Despite its individual elements being simple, "Pyroxene of the Heart" is an incredibly expressive and beautiful composition that demonstrates great maturity from Motoi Sakuraba. Certainly one to revisit over and over. (10/10)

2) Think of Me (Written by Don)

"Think of Me" is an extremely short piano piece that plays at the title screen. Despite its length, some development is heard and there is a general sense of mystery with the track. I quite like it, but it's essentially a bridge on the soundtrack between two masterworks. (6/10)

3) Raindrops (Written by Chris)

The first of the Chopin compositions used in the game was the Prelude No. 15 in Db, a very famous composition better known as the 'Raindrop Prelude'. Characterised by a repeated Ab quavers throughout to represent the sounds of raindrops, the note is initially played by the left-hand. The right provides a fluid watery melody with echoing qualities that is repeated thrice throughout the piece. The middle section of the piece, starting from 1:45, is much darker and shifts to the enharmonic equivalent of C# major. The repeated note shifts to the right hand and the repeated G# eventually becomes reinforced as it is played in octaves. The left-hand meanwhile becomes led by chord progressions that become thicker, louder, and longer as the section progresses, retaining an echoing quality. When the melody eventually returns, it is initially overpowered by rich chord progressions, before being quietly reprised in complete, slightly decorated, form.

Eminent Russian pianist Stanislav Bunin's performance was confident and appropriate. He avoids melodrama or oversentimentality while still reflecting the dreaminess, melancholy, and watery feel of the piece. It's evident from this piece alone that he was an excellent choice of pianist for Trusty Bell's Chopin pieces. His presence in the performance is further evident through some quiet audible sounds of him breathing and navigating at the piano. I feel this adds to the authenticity of the performance and helps to reflect Trusty Bell's artistic intentions beyond being simply 'another game'.

Now with respect to its relation to the game and the score, I feel this piece was an excellent one to choose. It's a prelude, making it ideal for an opening, but also a long emotional substantial composition. It's well-known and would likely be recognised by a significant proportion of gamers. Those not familiar with it would find it an excellent introduction to Chopin. Having not played the game myself, I cannot inform on how it relates to the story, but given the tragic dreamy backstory to the original composition (apparently, Chopin was caught in a large thunderstorm and consoled himself about being unable to reach home by improvising on the piano imagining the worst for his wife while being hypnotised by the sound of rain on the roof), a lot of depth could be added there. With the piano work and romanticism from Sakuraba preceding it, it seems like a natural addition to the score as well. Essentially, a welcome, appropriate, and individual addition rather than an obligatory reprise most would be tempted to skip. (10/10)

4) Relaxing Place (Written by Andy the Drew)

I'm a sucker for woodwinds and for some reason Sakuraba usually has a fixation on them as they usually fit somewhere inside most of his scores. And thus, "Relaxing Place" appears on the horizon to sooth me to sleep. Of course this can be attributed to the highly relaxed pacing of the track.

For the most part this piece seems to consist of the sounds of dual flutes, a bassoon, and a harp. The A section, which runs from the beginning to 0:59, is serene and lovely. Unfortunately, the B section of the piece doesn't quite catch me as much; though there is more interaction between the parts, something just seems off. And the transition between the B section back to the A section at 2:19 suffers from Sakuraba's usual roughshod transition issues in past soundtracks. Overall it's still a solid theme from Sakuraba. Of course as I said I'm a sucker for anything involving woodwinds. (8/10)

5) Leap the Precipice (Written by Argentis)

The main battle theme of Trusty Bell is a welcome variation of "The True Mirror" from Baten Kaitos. What a great battle track to start the soundtrack off with many great ones to follow! The fourth official arrangement by Sakuraba, after the unfortunately dry synthesized orchestral arrangement for Baten Kaitos II version, this version is full of energy and has much more life to it. The strings dominate the track and brings the piece to life, along with piano accompaniment and some of his orchestral chords. He has slightly lengthened the overall melody, adding a rather sweet violin solo that is ended by a sudden final explosion of strings before loop and fade out. A truly exciting track.

Some may feel that Sakuraba has been unoriginal with reusing this theme, I think it appropriate, since the game has been developed by tri-Crescendo, and it is, of course, not the first time Sakuraba has reused certain battle tracks / themes for other developers (i.e. tri-aces's "Incarnation of the Devil"). I am greatly pleased that he has brought it back and revived the piece to a new level. (10/10)

6) Well-Done (Written by Argentis)

The victory theme. It's classic Sakuraba victory music that starts with a powerful fanfare and the looped result music played with flute and harp chords. It's much better than "Bore the Fatal Hour" from Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria, but in my opinion doesn't quite top "Victory Bell" from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. (6/10)

7) Two Ends of My Doze (Written by Argentis)

The game over theme. A nice little piano piece that serves its haunting purpose well if a little weak on its own. It might have been best to place it after a boss theme for preference. (6/10)

8) Reflect the Sky, Bloom the Life (Written by Don)

This piece is a very serene woodwind piece. While it is very simple in nature, the overall atmosphere that this track exudes is one of tranquility. The woodwind melodies overlying the acoustic guitar and piano accompaniments goes extremely well together and helps to convey the atmosphere, while at the same time, offering a bit of development over the semi-stale melody. This is a very nice track overall. (8/10)

9) A Faint Light in My Hands (Written by Don)

This track is definitely an interesting one. Solely using a piano, Sakuraba emulates classical music quite well, I think. It has its somber moments, its light-hearted moments, and, in the end, is a pleasant melody to which to listen to. In the end, this is one of the emotional pieces on the soundtrack that really move me. I recommend it to any lovers of piano music. (8/10)

10) Everyone Seeks the Mediocre (Written by Don)

With this track, the emulation continues a bit. The style of this track is another light-hearted one and the contrast between the piercingly sharp violin line, in conjunction with the woodwind melodic section, is a very nice development in this track. Despite the name, I think that this track truly sticks out on the soundtrack and is something unique for Sakuraba. This is definitely one of my favorites on the first disc. (9/10)

11) Underground for Underhand (Written by Argentis)

Again, the strings are very prominent in this theme, the theme continues its deep tone throughout, played out by cellos and a synth horn segment in the background. A very adventurous theme compared to the more ambient themes meet later in the soundtrack, though I find that it has a lot of potential to be made a much more energetic piece. Most dungeon piece in the soundtrack unfortunately fall victim to a poor melodic structure — more energy is needed for dungeon themes. (8/10)

12) Rapid Fire (Written by Chris)

As reflected by the battle themes, Trusty Bell ~Chopin's Dream~ doesn't hesistant to offer loud, thick, and dissonant action pieces despite its Chopin focus. While the artistic integrity of this decision is questionable, it does add to the impact of the gameplay. "Rapid Fire" is one of the few good examples of a Sakuraba suspense theme. Though it focuses on repeating dissonant intervallic leaps from strings, there is sufficient dynamic variety and elaboration elsewhere — from bold brass notes, jazz-tinged piano cluster chords and trills, and interchange of the feature between treble and bass — for the feature to be promient but not overbearing. The track intensifies wonderfully and its climax ensures the soundtrack is as emotionally charged as ever. Wonderful unexpected composition. (9/10)

13) A Resolution to Stand Opposed (Written by Chris)

Jazzy piano clusters, brassy primary melodies, agitating irregular rhythms, emotionally charged interludes... Sound familiar? "A Resolution to Stand Opposed" is an action theme clearly inspired by Sakuraba's work on Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Though this theme could fit in most of Sakuraba's recent soundtracks, it does maintain the musically authoritative Trusty Bell experience. Unlike some of the Sakuraba's Star Ocean works, the brass use manages to be powerful without being irritatingly bombastic and a dramatic arch is formed resulting in an especially impacting interlude. The overall fluidity of the composition is very impressive too with pace convincingly maintained and development feeling relevant rather than tangential. The rhythms and clusters show some of the great progressive rock influence on a soundtrack constantly tinged by it, but there's still not an electric guitar, keyboard, or drum kit in sight. Phew. (9/10)

14) Can You Recite the Dream? (Written by Chris)

Following three high-octane action tracks, Sakuraba soothes and arouses listeners with the slow developed "Can You Recite the Dream?". With a peaceful atmosphere established by a high-pitched violin note, Sakuraba perfectly uses the flute to interpret an introductory echoing motif. At 0:40, the theme moves into a blissful section featuring dance-like interplay between oboe, flute, and strings, leading to a gushing string section in an emotionally fluid work. At 1:14, the dance-like section receives a tragic variation before a bold chord leads into a rawly passionate orchestral progression prior to a touching conclusion. A stimulating and beautiful cinematic work. (10/10)

15) Illuminant Lives (Written by Bryan)

I never really paid attention to this song until I heard it on the demo, and I instantly fell in love with it. A piano carries the lead, with typical Sakuraba strings and vocals playing over top in sporadic points. About halfway through, some tribal sounding percussion is added for a short time, and really adds to the development of the track. By the end, the tribal beat comes back to stay, and the orchestra starts a steady build in power. As soon as you think its going to climax, it drops back to a short piano interlude before the song repeats. This is one of my favorite Sakuraba dungeon themes. The mix of the piano with the soft strings leads to a very haunting yet serene scene setter. (9/10)

16) A Time When We Are Together (Written by Jared)

"A Time When We Are Together" is a short but sweet piano solo. The writing is generally very simple, using some predictable chord progressions and arppegiations in the accompaniment. Despite this, the piece is emotionally effective and very fitting within the context of the game and soundtrack. The piece takes a nostalgic tone, and often sounds very bittersweet. These small plays on the listener's emotions are what give the track interest, not the actual musicality itself. (8/10)

17) It's Up to You (Written by Jared)

This track is an extremely simple one, consisting primarily of bells and light strings. Occasionally, a soft voice will sing a slightly haunting melody. This melody adds a huge atmospheric effect to the piece. All in all, this track sounds very mystical, and also very reminiscent. Explaining how I feel when listening to this piece is difficult, but I am impressed at Sakuraba's ability to evoke such feelings through such simple music. The track gently fades away, and such an ending is absolutely perfect for this track. Overall, I have no complaints. A very good work by Sakuraba! (10/10)

18) Innumerable Animals (Written by Scherzo)

I very much like the combination of piano and quiet tomtom drumming on this track. It's a pairing not heard often, but it works. The quiet ambience of the tomtoms complements the sleepy feel of the piece, but at the same time provides the bit of forward momentum that keeps this track from being a total bore. The addition of some additional light orchestration (harp, woodwinds, bells) helps in this respect as well. Though it's not a very exciting track, it's still an entertaining listen. (8/10)

19) Pressure (Written by Don)

"Pressure" is one of the few really dark and ambient pieces on the album. While I like the tone of the overall piece, since it contrasts so nicely with a mostly light-hearted album, I find the piece a bit lacking in the end. While the atmosphere is mainly created by a chord progression, with the addition of some vocals towards the end, it just seems to lack the development other ambient tracks of his can sometimes include. (4/10)

20) Flickering is Divided into Light and Darkness (Written by Don)

This piece is another battle track on the album, and mixes together ideas between "Opposition Resignation" and "Leap the Precipice." The brass from the boss theme is present in moderation, which is a nice contrast to some of Sakuraba's overly brassy pieces, and I love the melody the string creates. It's frantic, and while it follows similar Sakuraba chord progressions, it's still very enjoyable. It really makes you want to battle! Overall, I find this piece is stronger than the boss battle, but not the strongest on album. (8/10)

21) Is it Different or the Same? (Written by Chris)

The dance-like elements of "Everyone Seeks the Mediocre" and "Can You Recite the Dream?" are present in this charming romantic work. The harmony line is simple and plodding, consisting of detached bassoon notes and occasional tuned percussion motif, but this simplicity nicely projects the treble and sustains the gentle pace. The melody is woodwind-led with flute, oboe, and clarinet alike being used to create a colourful soundscape and a understated romantic aura. The development achieves some drama with plenty of gentle nuances added to the composition and more prominent features like the occasional chromatic diminutions and low piano chords. An impeccably executed multifaceted wandering composition. (9/10)

Disc Two

1) Revolutionary (Written by Jared)

When I saw that one of the tracks of this album was named "Revolutionary," I had to check it out. My hopes were that the track was the famous Chopin Etude in C minor, and indeed it is. Stanislav Bunin plays this romantic masterpiece with great skill. Contrary to most versions I have heard, Bunin generally takes a slower tempo and gives more inflection to the constant left hand accompaniment figures. rom a compositional standpoint, this etude (which is well beyond a simple etude, having all the qualifications to be considered a fully developed piece of music) is absolutely brilliant, and one of Chopin's best. Saying that just shows how amazing the piece is; Chopin hardly composed a "bad" piece of music.

The piece is filled to the brim with insurmountable tension. The constant bass runs in minor scales lay a tight foundation for the rigid, but beautiful melody of the right hand. The use of octaves and loud, high chords in conjunction with the harsh and striking use of dotted eighths and sixteenths gives the melody as equally a tense feel as the bass line.

Bunin performs the piece excellently, pouring in a ton of his own emotion to the already provocative piece. The sweeping crescendos and accelerandos in the bass figures and the ascending right hand chords sound chaotic but reach brilliant resolutions. Although his version is a bit slower than most others, there is still plenty of action to be found. Nearly anyone could appreciate this track, even if they loathe "classical" music. The masterpiece of this piece is very easy to appreciate. (10/10)

2) Dive Into the Vast Expanse of Plains (Written by Jampot)

It's not a Sakuraba soundtrack without some sort of exciting energetic track. At this point, aside from the battle themes so far this soundtrack has been devoid of that type of sound. First off I'd like to point out the brightness that is the tone of this piece. Even though it is probably an "exploring the world" theme, there's no sense of danger here, just the sense that you are off on a big adventure.

The A section (0:00-1:03), starts things off nicely with a big bold drum roll which sets off the orchestra. Consisting of most of the players, real or synthetic, playing the main core theme. Which as stated earlier is very bright and colorful and rich in sound.

Unfortunately the transition to the B section (1:03-2:23), is a bit roughshod. Which is Sakuraba's only glaring weakness in his compositional skills. He knows how to set up texture and tone right, but often misses the mark entirely with transitions. What really stands out about the B section is a small bit right at the end (2:00-2:23) where everything just falls away for a few brief moments. We get this interesting pause in the flow, which needed a bit more exploration. It almost sounds like he was trying to craft another sub section, but ends up pulling away at the last minute and going back to the core theme. This is a bit of a shame. (9/10)

3) A Stratagem (Written by Don)

"A Stratagem" is another one of the few dark pieces on the album. Sakuraba's use of piano here really helps to give this track a very eerie feel to it. Unfortunately, the piece doesn't really have a melody and sounds more like a disjointed set of chords. While this isn't entirely bad, since it helps to give this piece some great atmosphere, it doesn't give the track any additional listening sessions and this will most likely be a one time deal for the average listener. (6/10)

4) A Wall with No Front or Back (Written by Don)

This piece is used as a dungeon piece I assume. It's got a nice foreboding atmosphere, some nice instrumentation, and I really like the frenetic pace of the piece as a whole. Sometimes the brass sounds a bit overbearing, subduing the other instruments in the soundtrack, but it's still an enjoyable listen. The epic nature of this piece makes it one to come back to and is a very good example of Sakuraba's awesome dungeon themes. (8/10)

5) Breeze the Conductor (Written by Jampot)

The momentum of the piece, propelled along by the insistent snare drum and the lively syncopation of the melody (what a difference real strings make!), suggests an upbeat 'travelling' piece. The orchestration is very effective, providing contrast by juxtaposing legato string lines against brassy chords, or dropping the drums out to allow the softer instruments to take over the melody for a time. Perhaps I could have done with a short introduction at the beginning of the piece, however the way everything bursts in at the start adds to the excited, almost impatient nature of this tune. Excellent work, and an opportunity for Sakuraba to (justly) show off his strings. (8/10)

6) Wavering on the Homefront (Written by Bryan)

Wow, I'm blown away by this track. This seems like a mix of a typical Sakuraba overworld theme, mixed with some Star Ocean The Second Story town theme influences. The bombastic strings that Sakuraba is so known for take up the lead here, playing a lush and beautiful melody. During a short interlute, the flute takes over the melody. Afterwards, we get to hear a small section of brass take the lead. Again, the strings take over carrying us into a beautiful repeat of the piece. I'm not sure where this is used obviously, but whereever it is, I expect it to be somewhere very beautiful. Sakuraba, you have done it again!! (9/10)

7) DANTOTSU! (Written by Don)

This track is probably the most uncharacteristic track to appear on a soundtrack such as this. It's very playful and nature, mainly attributed to its interesting rhythm and the use of the xylophone. Woodwinds also accompany the xylophone and play portions of the melody. Overall, there is a nice mixture of elements here, but I feel that this track is one of the weaker tracks on the album. It's certainly different, which may interest some, but at the same time, it definitely interrupts the flow of the album. (6/10)

8) A Stance to Not Look Down Upon (Written by Jampot)

The motion of this track is sustained by the syncopated low brass stabs which continue almost throughout, and are particularly prominent at 2:03. Whilst this is certainly not a new technique for the composer (it is after all present in most of his battle themes here), here it gives the piece a certain drive and sense of purpose. Fairly solid as a track, but nothing to make one want to revisit it particularly. (7/10)

9) From Strength to Kindness (Written by Chris)

The static percussion and pizzicato strings introduction of "From Strength to Kindness" sets precedent to what could be another repetitive ambient track. However, it actually turns out to be a colourful emotionally charged creation upon the addition of a flute melody that adds clear direction to the piece. In the first development section at 0:44, a passionate string melody leads interjected by ullulations from an ethnic flute. Following a slightly long-winded rhythm-based transition, the second development section enters at 1:57 using instrumentation similar to the first but with increased passion. The piece interchanges from being relatively boring in the rhythm-based sections and utterly beautiful in those with a melody. Fortunately, the sheer majority of the piece falls into the latter category and even the boring sections add to the wonderful mixture of darkness, exoticism, and romance portrayed here. (9/10)

10) Journey to the Projective Mind (Written by Don)

"Journey to the Projective Mind" is a very interesting piano piece. While it isn't the most cohesive of tracks, it still manages to maintain a melody. Unfortunately, the improvisational nature of the piece really prevents the melody from truly shining. It isn't a bad track, it's just a bit disjointed. As such, it is a very nice mood relaxer, but not a track that sticks out among the crowd. (7/10)

11) Pursuit (Written by Jampot)

An eerie track laced with harsh dissonance and string portamenti, or slides up and down the fretboard — a particularly unsettling orchestral effect. This spookiness is offset by brash brass passages. The combination does not make for an especially pleasant listening experience, though clearly the intention is not to put the listener at ease, but rather to unsettle him, and make him look cautiously over his shoulder at the shadows... in which regard it is fairly successful. It is, however, not desperately original. (7/10)

12) I Bet My belief (Written by Jared)

In contrast to the previous track, this piece is very upbeat, and, at times, uplifting as well. Active accompaniment figures, usually in the bass and lower voices, provide an active support for the melody, which is often carried by the strings and woodwinds. The track has interesting material, however the material is also fairly repetitive. The same feel is generally maintained throughout the entire piece, so there isn't a terribly large amount of variation to be found. An inspired piece, but lacking a satisfactory development. (7/10)

13) Fantasy Impromptu (Written by Jampot)

Well here it is — prerequisite of the 'demo' function on keyboards everywhere, and epitome of sweeping Romantic melancholy, Chopin's Fantasy Impromptu Op. 66 is one of a number of compositions published posthumously that have gained lasting popularity and synonymity with the name of the composer (the Nocturne in E minor being another). Here is yet another confident, assured performance from Stanislav Bunin, who makes the fiendish cross-rhythms sound effortless. I am convinced that wherever it is placed in the game, it will be a wonderful accompaniment to it, with its beautifully contrasting sections — the torrential power of the C# minor opening with the long semiquaver figuration rolling up and down the keyboard, and the calm reflection of the Db major (the enharmonic major of the original key). Certainly to be appreciated by fans and non-fans of 'classical music' alike, one cannot but give this piece a perfect score. (10/10)

14) Tranquility and Inhabitation (Written by Jampot)

A lovely piano piece, supplemented occasionally by subtle strings, with somewhat impressionistic harmonic qualities reminiscent of Masashi Hamauzu's piano pieces. The strings are delicately written to the point where one might not even realise they were there, but their high static pedal notes are very effective against the emotion of the piano. The piece is somehow fragile, delicate, echoing both the qualities in the title — silence and life. (8/10)

15) Wonderland of Wanderer (Written by Don)

"Wonderland of Wanderer" is a mysterious piece that relies upon the use of woodwinds and some interesting percussion to convey this effect. While there is definitely a feeling of suspense and tension in this piece, I feel that it doesn't really captivate me. The melody itself is rather generic, and seems to rely upon repeating itself entirely too often. The percussion is a redeeming aspect of the track, but unfortunately, it isn't constant throughout the piece. This seems like a very nice attempt at something sinister, and while it may fit the game, I feel that out of context, it loses a bit of magic. (6/10)

16) Endure and Resist (Written by Don)

This piece is quite the shift from the previous track. The first thing you'll notice is the use of acoustic guitar, something not often seen on this soundtrack. The main melody heard once again utilizes woodwinds, but, unlike the previous track, it's quite captivating. I also enjoy how the melody seems to ride along the accompaniment. The development is very nice and helps add some depth to the track, even if it does include some instruments that at this moment, I can't quite identify. It's a playful track at times and really helps to bring some life to the end of the second disc. (8/10)

17) No No I Don't Die Noooo! (Written by Bryan)

This seems like it could be a game over theme, or at least a track that is played in some sort of crypt like setting. The piece is very dark and creepy. As always, however, this seems to fall into the slump of Sakuraba's signature dark themes. This surprised me, as this album has pretty much defied the odds on assuming what Sakuraba-san's next album will sound like. Aside from that, this is still an enjoyable track, even if it is somewhat generic. (7/10)

Disc Three

1) Grande Valse Brilliante (Written by Don)

Hmm — this soundtrack is proving a somewhat unique challenge to review, is it not? How exactly should one review a recording of a piece acclaimed by the judgement of over 150 years as truly great, and without knowing the context in which it is used in the game. Perhaps by saying exactly that. And adding that Bunin's performance is once again exemplary, with minute variations of tempo and exquisitely controlled phrasing (of which we shall see much more later in the soundtrack, in "Farewell") showing a perfect understanding of what this piece should represent.

It is partly a mocking testament to the fashion of Chopin's time for the parlour waltz. The composer despised the endless series of simplistic crowd-pleasing waltzes emenating from Vienna and the Strausses, and decided to show just how it should be done, giving the work the somewhat humourous moniker of 'Grande Valse Brillante' (Op. 18) — 'brillante' or 'brilliant' here of course having the more antique meaning of sparkling or dazzling, rather than simply great! Far be it from me to critique the music itself but Bunin's performance is firey and deft, sweeping and elegant. (10/10)

2) A Buffer for Quiet (Written by Jared)

A beautiful, though repetitive track, "A Buffer for Quiet" is evocative and emotional. The track starts simple and gains momentum as it progresses, adding in more instruments, harmonies, and accompaniments. The melody is very repetitive, and eventually the chord changes and resolutions begin to lose any effect because they occur so often. The beginning and ending of this track are the highlights; the middle is slightly on the boring side with few developments or variations in the melody. Above average, but with development could have been something great. (7/10)

3) A Walk in the Heart (Written by Don)

"A Walk in the Heart" is a very heartfelt piano piece. While it isn't the most developed piano piece, I rather enjoy its simplistic approach. The piano helps to bring out the most in the melody, as opposed to using an ensemble, and the melody itself is quite beautiful. While it is a bit short, I feel that the scene it accompanies must be very emotional. (8/10)

4) Seize the Artifact for Tallness (Written by Jampot)

If the composer is attempting to seize the artifact for anything, it is for fast, almost athletic violin-led writing (though I agree that this wouldn't be quite such a catchy title). Harmonically and tonally there is little that is new here, so the allure of the piece for me lies within the relentless drive created by continuous low, brash, brass stabs, and a good deal of rhythmic intensity in the strings. However, I feel it lacks the flair of previous battle pieces in the soundtrack, such as "A Resolution to Stand Opposed", "I Bet My Belief" and, to a lesser extent, "Flickering is Divided into Light and Darkness". It also cannot help diversity to put every single battle theme so far in the same key (E minor) — one wonders what the rationale behind this was, as it makes each successive battle theme feel too similar to the last. (6/10)

5) An Inspection Which Values Harmony (Written by Don)

For some reason, this track is giving me religious vibes. Perhaps it's the combination of organ, harpsichord, and chorals, but that's what I'm feeling. That being said, I rather find this track enjoyable. Granted, the chorals are just a series of "aaah's," but they help add a nice texture to the entire piece. However, I feel that the dramatic flair that this piece obtains as it develops is the key attraction for this piece. The addition of strings and percussion help to move the track along and keep it from becoming stale. I think Sakuraba did a great job with this one. (9/10)

6) From Tomorrow... (Written by Don)

This is a very poignant and calming piano piece. It brings about strong emotions and bears an extremely moving melody. While it isn't the most developed piano piece, I find the simplistic approach to be effective in this regard. Definitely a recommended listen for anyone who likes piano music. (8/10)

7) A White Mirror (Written by Jampot)

This is a beautifully calm and serene piece, which mainly takes the form of a solo violin melody accompanied by the various tinklings of piano, harpsichord, and the ubiquitous bells. An unusual set of instruments, they blend wonderfully, decorating the ever-present accompanimental figure in the piano. The textures conjure up a snowy scene, for me, one where the snowfall has dampened and calmed — it even reminds me a little of the slow movement from Vivaldi's Winter concerto. (8/10)

8) Rock and Burn You (Written by Don)

While this track definitely sounds like it may feature some of Sakuraba's signature progressive rock style, if you've heard the rest of the album, you know that this is purely an orchestral work. This track is rather dark in nature, but I don't find it entirely boring as some of his other ambient and dark pieces. This is most likely due the interesting dynamics that the choral work and the sinister string melody adds to the entire mix. Overall, I find this track is mixed quite nicely and creates a very nice listen. (8/10)

9) Nocturne (Written by Don)

This is another one of Chopin's additions, and unfortunately, the original name eludes my thoughts at the moment. The melody itself is extremely moving and really helps to create a perfect scene, whatever the listener may deem that to be. The pianist definitely seems to do a good job at playing this piece and makes the track all the more enjoyable. (10/10)

10) A Step (Written by Chris)

"A Step" is one of the stronger ambient themes on the soundtrack. The track dichotomises a warm, dynamic, and melodic lead with a cold, static, and percussive accompaniment to create a soundscape that is unique yet minimal. It is very melody-driven, making particularly good use of a clarinet duet in another example of inspired woodwind writing. The harmony sometimes lets the piece down, since it tends to revolve around two sporadically repeated notes that becomes tedious quickly. However, there is some interesting contrast between arco and pizzicato string use in conjunction with timpani that varies the percussive timbre created. There is a certain dramatic arch resulting in a modest but affecting development section. This piece would have benefited from a little less of the harmonic sterility created to reflect its experimental intent, but there is enough mastery from the clarinet duet, development, and varied articulation to guarantee at least a few repeated listens. It's also very effective in portraying a dungeon during the game. (7/10)

11 The Boundary of Snow and Ice (Written by Don)

The use of the harp, woodwinds, and percussion create an extremely magical piece of music here. While it still doesn't do anything super creative, the fact that it manages to keep my attention is one of its strong points. I just find the entire piece enjoyable and the mysticism created by the combination of the instrumentation makes for a track that fits its name quite well. (9/10)

12) Repeated Tide (Written by Chris)

Sakuraba offers one of his trademark solo piano performances with "Repeated Tide". It is highly improvisational featuring reverberations between modernist jazz-inspired chords and fragile, often monophonic, motifs. There is a lot of colour in this piece and it is clear that Sakuraba was inspired by a lot of imagery while writing it. However, its abstractness might well be oppressive for some — it's certainly not a rounded or concise creation like you might expect from Chopin, but it has its merits nevertheless. (8/10)

13) Stark Determination (Written by Don)

For a relatively lackluster third disc, it's a shame that "Stark Determination" has to show up near the end. This is by far my favorite track on this disc. It's dark, develops nicely, and definitely creates a beautiful soundscape with its choice of instrumentation. The strings and chorals work well both melodically and harmonically to create such an epic piece. There's just something about this piece that sends chills down my spine in a similar fashion to "How Wicked Ruler" did in Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria. (10/10)

14) La Chanson de l'Adieu (Written by Bryan)

Here we have another original piece by Chopin himself. As far as the selection of pieces from him on this soundtrack, I feel that this is my favorite. The melody is something of a tear jerker. Bunin does an amazing job of conveying the emotion that I know Chopin would want to hear in a replay of one of his pieces. I was hooked on this track when I first heard a section of it on one of the trailers. I'll leave it at that, as I find reviewing classical music somewhat hard. A great piece of music we have here though! (10/10)

15) Continuous Divider (Written by Bryan)

This sounds like something from Sakuraba's Tales of soundtracks, most notably one of the more modern ones. Don't let that steer you away, though, as it is an amazing orchestral piece. The emotion behind the strings and wind sections really hit a place in your heart that only Sakuraba can get to. The only qualm I have with this piece, and most of Sakuraba's tracks for that matter, is it just sounds the same as any other standard orchestral piece he's ever done. This is a very good representation of Sakuraba's skills with this style though. I love it! (9/10)

Disc Four

1) Your Truth is My Lie (Written by Bryan)

WOW! We are finally on to my favorite battle theme, and also my favorite piece on this soundtrack! While this is a remix of a past Sakuraba battle theme, he totally takes it in a new direction. That's something you didn't expect to hear coming from him, did you? The beat of this piece is nothing you've ever heard from one of his orchestral battle themes. The piece is mostly carried by a violin and flute, with the flute taking the lead in the beginning, another first from him. This track is one of the most powerful orchestral battle themes Sakuraba has ever conceived! Just take a listen and be amazed! (10/10)

2) Captured Phantom (Written by Don)

This is a nice piano and violin combination piece. While I find the piano bass line to be a bit repetitive, I think it complements the violin line rather well. The melody produced by the violin is both beautiful and haunting at the same time. This is one of the more memorable discs on the soundtrack and this track only adds to that effort. (8/10)

3) The Etudes of Spirit (Written by Don)

While I believe this is another battle theme, I'm not entirely sure. It seems to have some interesting features about it. The initial build up that is present will also play in his arrangement of "Revolution" found later in the soundtrack. Other than that, the melody is pretty decent, although it does seem to borrow from "Influence of Truth Appearance" a bit, but I find the accompaniment to be a bit bland. I'm not really fond of this battle theme at all, but it does have a nice melody. (6/10)

4) Where We End Up (Written by Chris)

One of the most beautiful creations on the soundtrack, Motoi Sakuraba creates a wonderful soundscape with an piano, acoustic guitar, and dabs of strings and choir. It wanders throughout its lengthy development, impressing with its elaborate but subdued piano and guitar passages and the way the forces diverge and converge. This work will surely touch those that don't mind a Sakuraba work without a square shape and clear melody. It's a subtle timbrally focused work that is easy to relax to. (9/10)

5) Spiral Twister (Written by Don)

"Spiral Twister" is a much more fast-paced track than some of the previous entries on this soundtrack. Sounding like it may serve as a dungeon theme, the piece itself evokes a powerful melody. Strings and brass take the forefront in crafting this melody and they mesh quite well. The piece itself shifts from a more dramatic tone, to that of a semi-militaristic one at times, with the percussion pattern changing every once in a while. While there is some standard Sakuraba fare, I find it's done quite nicely. (8/10)

6) Broken Balance (Written by Don)

Ah, another Sakuraba battle theme, full of Sakurabaisms. Starting off almost exactly like "Highbrow," we are treated to a rather brief, but sinister, opening before the violin takes center stage in this piece. Personally, this is my favorite battle theme. While it may be full of Sakurabaisms, honestly ask yourself this question? How many don't have Sakurabaisms in them? While the violin may take the show in terms of melody, I find the piano accompaniment to be extremely fitting while the chorals only add to the sinister sound of the piece as a whole. This is definitely a track to watch out for. (9/10)

7) The Unreasonable Theory (Written by Bryan)

This is probably one of the darkest themes I've ever heard from Sakuraba. I think we all know by now that he is a master of setting any mood with the piano, and thats exactly how he starts this bad boy off. Piano carries us into the main melody, which is of course played by the synth strings Sakuraba is so famous for in his mood setting pieces. After a bit of a tug of war so to speak with the piano and string sections, we get to see some female choir voices take up the lead. This adds a really nice "cap" to an already incredible mood setting theme. Yes, I will reinforce that this is my favorite of his "dark themes". It's just incredibly powerful and evil. (10/10)

8) Heroic (Written by Chris)

A rendition of Chopin's 1842 Polonaise in A flat major Op. 53 (Maestoso), better known as the Polonaise h�ro�que. At 7:16, it is the longest, last, and most ambitious of Stanislav Bunin's Chopin interpretations, representing the impending conclusion of the dream. The impressive introduction is dominated by chromatic runs and sudden chord shifts inspired by the Military Polonaise. At 0:33, Bunin exposes the delightful main melody of the piece in 0:33 in the character of a polonaise, a Polish dance in triple metre and moderate tempo. With flowing rhythms, a patriotic melody, and lush octave harmonies, it is complemented by the use of Ab flat major, Chopin's mostly widely used key signature. The melody subsequently repeats with more elaborate ornamentation and a subtle change in Bunin's performance.

At 2:00, a solemn interlude is introduced with an ascending progression of darker chords. This leads to an affecting passage coloured with minor modulations. The initial melody returns at 2:42 and Bunin's exuberant piano use becomes obvious through the audible sounds of pedal. At 3:25, the piece moves into its secondary section, where a rapid ostinato in the left-hand accompanies a march-like main melody. As the piece becomes further enpassioned on the repeat of this melody, it moves into an extended interlude around 4:44. Complex and emotionally guided passagework occurs across a series of lush modulations occurs with hints of the initial melody offered in the turn- and trill-laden ornamentation to enhance lyricism and flow. Following this highlight, the main melody returns in a powerful but straightforward coda to complete a complex and emotional composition of tremendous in-game importance. (10/10)

9) Embarrassment Consistency (Written by Chris)

A solo piano piece from Motoi Sakuraba, it is once again very improvisational and disjointed, but wonderfully atmospheric and quite virtuosic. Now all will enjoy this out-of-context like I do, but it forms a wonderful backdrop to the final battle in the game, establishing the nightmarish scene and helping the bridge the gap between Sakuraba and Chopin musically. (8/10)

10) Scrap and Build Ourselves -from Revolutionary- (Written by Don)

At last we make it to the final battle theme. Sakuraba treats us to none other than an orchestral arrangement of "Revolutionary" heard earlier in the album. While some people may think that Sakuraba ruined Chopin's original composition, I think the arrangement fits quite well. The original composition itself can be heard as the piano line, while the orchestral instruments take control of the piece. To me, it adds some very nice texture and contrast to the piece. While portions of it are melodic fragments of the main theme, I find this abruptness to be rather refreshing. It separates this theme from the other battle themes found on the album. I can honestly say that the combination of the chorals, striking violin line, the piano line playing the original theme, and the supporting orchestration really mesh well together to create a wonderful battle theme. While this isn't my favorite on the album, I do think it's the best composed, or arranged, battle theme on the album. (10/10)

11) Facts and Honesty, and then the Truth (Written by Don)

Cue the first of several ending pieces. "Facts and Honesty, and then the Truth" is one of my favorites on the soundtrack. While it's extremely simple, I feel that Sakuraba crafted a wonderful piece of music here. Led mainly by the piano, the melody really sticks out. Of course, the addition of some chorals and strings help to accentuate the melody, and they do a good job, but there's just something peaceful, yet mysterious about this piece of music. It really moves me. (9/10)

12) A Light (Written by Don)

"A Light" is another piece of music that is really beautiful. Piano, glockenspiel, woodwinds, and strings all work together to craft a wonderful melody full of mystery and small dramatic cues. As with the last piece, the piano takes a small focus over the other instruments, but it doesn't dominate this piece. It's used as a great accompaniment and melody starter. (9/10)

13) An Important Person (Written by Don)

This piece follows a similar format as the previous piece. The melody that Sakuraba crafts is beautiful and the replacement of piano with harp to use as the accompaniment keeps it from sounding too much alike its predecessors. The dramatic feel of the orchestration, with the woodwinds and strings taking the forefront, adds so much to the piece. The piece ends with the inclusion of some choral work that both add a sense of mystery to the piece. (9/10)

14) Someone's Evening, Someone's Daybreak (Written by Don)

This piece's tone introduction is a complete shift from the previous pieces. It's a rather dark and sinister sounding piece to start; however, as the track progresses, it grows to become more dramatic. Unlike the other pieces, the melody crafted has more somber tones rather than happier, more peaceful ones. While I find this melody weaker than the others, I find the orchestration to make up for this. The strings, the chorals, and piano really help bring this track to life and the listener can definitely see the ideas of an evening and daybreak in this piece. (9/10)

15) Kyoutenka (Written by Jampot)

This piece begins, after a simple introduction, as a song with simple piano accompaniment. Underneath the first verse, the piano sounds Ab softly in quavers, casting the listener's mind back to the beginning of the soundtrack, where Chopin's 'Raindrops' Prelude had used the same repeated note to suggest the rain beating down. The effect is no less mesmerising here than it was there, and it provides a clever, circular element to the soundtrack, reminding us of the beginning, here at the end. Musicians will enjoy noting that the Ab in the 'Raindrops' prelude was the dominant (fifth) of that piece's home key, Db major, and thus created anticipation — appropriate for the beginning of a soundtrack and a game ѿ whereas here the Ab is the tonic (first), for we are in Ab major — a settled sound, appropriate for the end of the journey. So, barely 40 seconds in, and we already have some incredibly clever and well thought-out music!

In composing this soundtrack, Motoi Sakuraba has taken pains to ensure that the music maintain a more 'classical' flavour than some of his previous work, to reflect the nature of the world — it is after all taking place inside the mind of a 19th century composer! In keeping with this, he has eschewed the usual choice of a 'popular' singer for this vocal theme, instead choosing a classically trained voice, that of Akiko Shinada, apparently at present making her mark as an interpreter of Mozart in Japan. Her sound is beautifully controlled, with a well-modulated vibrato that does not threaten to overpower the song, even in the high passages of the 'B' section (the song is in an AABA ternary form). She adopts a legato approach perfectly suited to Sakuraba's long melodies — which also require fairly good breath control.

The accompaniment is generally in simple arpeggiated figures, though in the introduction to the B section the rising and descending diminished seventh chord (2:52) reminds us of the virtuoso influence of Chopin (it is a device he used frequently). The occasional rise in the harmony from the tonic to the minor subdominant (fourth) of Db minor is also something he would have thoroughly approved of!

As if one beautiful rendition of this theme were not enough, at the half-way mark Shinada steps back for a stunning string-led exposition of the theme. Following this, all the stops are pulled out as — of course — the choir join in. Here, deft touches of orchestration pale into insignificance and Sakuraba bombast takes over. Perhaps the piece could have ended with more of a whimper, but not knowing the context I shall assume a more affirmative ending was necessary. Sophisticated the ending is not, really, but enjoyable it certainly is.

In all, it's a remarkable synthesis of Romantic-era lieder with a certain popular sentiment, stretching right from the intimate piano introduction to the grand orchestral finale. Sakuraba creates this ballad by mixing in astutely-observed elements of Chopin's style with his own, to produce a work of which even the old master himself may have approved. I feel it serves as a good summary of and testament to his achievement in this score. (10/10)

16) Shape of Life (Written by Don)

The soundtrack ends with "Shape of Life." It's a beautiful piano piece that boasts a strong melody, an air of happiness, and most importantly, a fitting closure to the album. While I find this to be the weakest of ending pieces, I feel that without this track, the entire ending experience would probably be incomplete. To sum up what I want to say, from "Facts and Honesty, and then the Truth" to "Shape of Life," Sakuraba crafts one of my favorite ending sequences from him in recent years. (8/10)


Written by Chris

What amazed me about this soundtrack was the extent of Motoi Sakuraba's expressiveness. With pieces like "Pyroxene of the Heart", "Can You Recite the Dream?", and the entire ending sequence, he perfectly depicts the fantasy, romance, and tragedy of Chopin's dream world. The soundtrack also displays strong use of instrumentation, with Sakuraba employing use of piano, woodwinds, strings, choruses, and even brass in an almost consistently artistic way. There is also impressive fluidity with respect to integrating instrumentation, maintaining pace, and achieving extensive development, separating it from some of its predecessors. Despite adjusting his palette, Sakuraba makes few efforts to directly emulate Chopin's compositions and aspects of his progressive rock background are even evident in the harmonies of some of the aforementioned masterpieces. I think this was mostly a wise decision.

The selection of Chopin pieces to be featured in Trusty Bell was appropriate. The majority of the pieces are very well known in popular culture and will be appreciated by most mainstream listeners. Stanislav Bunin's commanded performance excellently emphasises the emotionally charged nature of the piece while flawlessly dealing with technical demands. Given most pieces are so emotional and have an extensive backstory, their use in the game is very meaningful. Furthermore, their integration at key points in the soundtrack is artistically done and, overall, Sakuraba and Chopin's appearances complement each other.

The soundtrack does have its limitations. The battle themes were somewhat obnoxious among the more artistic creations due to their abuse of the violin, bombastic textures, and similarity right down to the key signatures. There are stronger action themes like "Leap the Precipice", "Rapid Fire", and the controversial "Scrap and Build Ourselves". The dark ambient themes like "Pressure", "A Stratagem", and "A Step" are not always enjoyable on a stand-alone level despite working wonderfully in the game. Sakuraba's own piano works are a select taste, varying from the fairly simple to the virtuosic, but are competently composed and artistically inspired. Brassy themes like "Dive Into the Vast Expanse of Plains", classical emulations such as "Everyone Seeks the Mediocre", and the frivolous "DANTOTSU!" will also polarise opinions.

Overall, the soundtrack pretty extensively samples styles and occasionally themes from Sakuraba's recent works, so the collective experience will not be enjoyed by those who have disliked his other works and many people will find it varies in terms of artistic worth. While I regret aspects of this soundtrack and took a long time to warm to it, the individual highlights together with the excellent overall portrayal of Chopin's dream makes Trusty Bell's soundtrack a solid creation. The unlikely Chopin-Sakuraba alliance turned out more fluid than expected and no Sakuraba soundtrack has brought out such deep emotions in me like this one does. (8/10)

Written by Don

Trusty Bell is an interesting soundtrack. While some of the pieces may sound similar to some of his previous works, like "Pyroxene of the Heart" or "Leap the Precipice," he brings a whole new element to the table with his more original pieces of work. The entire ending sequence is gold in musical form, with "Kyoutenka" being the stand out piece there. His battle themes, while borrowing from previous works, provide a fitting atmosphere to the soundtrack, given he doesn't use his signature prog rock at all. I definitely feel that this soundtrack is one of his better ones in recent years, but it still has its flaws. The borrowing of his "Cutting Edge of Notion" battle theme is getting rather trite and some of his piano pieces don't really sound as good as they could. They seem to be lacking something. On the piano topic, Chopin's pieces fit well within this soundtrack and help provide some contrast to the orchestral side of the album. All in all, this is a pretty good soundtrack, and while the prospect of another classical album, like Valkyrie Profile 2, may scare off some people, I assure you. There aren't as many dark and ambient pieces on this one, so give it a shot! (8/10)