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Ar tonelico Original Soundtrack :: Review by Marc

Ar tonelico ~The Girl Who Sings at the End of the World~ Original Soundtrack Album Title: Ar tonelico ~The Girl Who Sings at the End of the World~ Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-10012/3
Release Date: December 21, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


The GUST Sound Team, comprised of Akira Tsuchiya, Ken Nakagawa, and Daisuke Achiwa, is well known for their organic contributions to the Atelier series. For the Ar tonelico Original Soundtrack we see their organic sound make a return, as well as a more technological, inorganic aspect, to reflect the more futuristic premise of the game world. Can the team craft a suitable blend of the aforementioned styles?


The opening track for the game, "Singing Hills," is the original Ar tonelico's portrayal of the overarching theme for the entire Ar tonelico series. Composed by Akira Tsuchiya and performed by Akiko Shikata, the track is an excellent introduction to the series, featuring organic instrumentation interlaced with the voice work to portray the significance of the voice throughout the game's world. The ending theme, "Phantasmagoria," is likewise an excellent closing track, featuring a hopeful melody supported by the interwoven voices of the game's three singers, each representing a different one of the heroines, Akiko Shikata, Haruka Shimotsuki, and Noriko Mitose. The violin is sweeping and paints a grandiose, enjoyable picture. The track is long but never feels lengthy, expertly melding from one section to the next, all supported by the same, revisited, theme.

There are a plethora of recurring motifs feastured in the soundtrack. The most interesting consists of a robotic voice declaring in a monotone, "I shall give you endless courage". This inorganic element is rather prominent, seen in such tracks as "Prayer," which consists almost entirely of said motif along with a short beat, and "Whisper," where it serves as an introduction to a soft melody by a synth choir. Interestingly, the melodic line that accompanies the sentence — a simple yet memorable downward progression — itself recurs in several tracks. For example, it serves as a backdrop for "A Requiem's Melody,"which features another monotone robotic voice, this time saying, "A-R-T-N-E-L-I-C yes," oddly missing both O's from the game's title, serving as a faux consistency of sorts.

"A Requiem's Melody" also betrays the most significant melody in the game, here heard in the bass on the choir. It's a very simple and theme, but it serves as a backdrop some of the most important pieces in the game. "Silver," for example, is the theme for the most important member of the team's party in the game. Though minimalistic, it is frankly fantastic with its simultaneously forlorn and hopeful tones. The motif also appropriately features at the start and conclusion of the game's final battle theme, "Final Chapter - Illusory Gene". While the introduction for orchestra and chorus uses the motif in a compelling way, the climax offers a slower, more dramatic display. Inserted into the middle is a beautiful solo on the church organ, which is both epic and satisfying.

Speaking of battle themes, there are more than enough to satisfy any listener. They are perfectly suited for battle, with pounding rhythms and memorable melodies, with each being just distinct enough from the last. A few, however, have sections of rapping intermingled, which does not fit in with the feel of the remainder of the soundtrack, and just gives off an awkward impression. "Audhumla" is most guilty, initiating with the nonsensical, blaring lyrics, instead of more tastefully hiding them near the end of the track as is found otherwise.

Fortunately, the theme presented in the rap's wake is a hugely entertaining electronic battle piece. "Fenrir," the game's initial main battle theme, is slightly organic in its percussion, though anything but in the synth that carries the track. "Vidarr," extensive in its use of electric guitar, is a more dramatic battle theme, representing the evolving story. "Beserkr" and "Vidohunir" meanwhile offer contrasting cultural depictions, the first primarily focusing on the koto, the latter initially featuring the sitar. "Valhalla" is worth a mention for being initially excellently bombastic with its use of choir, before settling down somewhat into a more grandiose, though no less spectacular, battle theme, helped by its driving militaristic beat. Finally, "Nidohogg" is the most blatantly organic battle theme, being the only track to utilize the melody otherwise heard in "Singing Hills"; it therefore presents a more primal feel than the others.

Indeed, this organic side is most represented in the rest of the album, especially the various setting themes. Take, for example, "Green Lands." The flute carries a peaceful, yet grandiose melody along, supported by a very earthy percussion line. The following track, "The Melting Morning Dew," features a return of the flute in conjunction with a lighter melody. The flute trades places throughout with the piano, which otherwise provides a constant barrage of delightful chords. The track is short, but very much memorable. "Peaceful Song" starts with a guitar duet, yet is quickly accompanied by another earthy percussion. The tune blossoms at about the halfway point, and expands with a whole ensemble. However, still manages to embrace its namesake, serving to comfort rather than agitate the nerves.

The pan flute in "Your Feelings" is mournful, a facet only accentuated by the plucked pizzicato. Soon the piano and strings take the melody away, dramatizing it, but never feeling overdone. "Singing Girl" features a forlorn, fantastic melody, swapped between two different wind instruments at the halfway point. The percussion work here is fantastic, and once again gives off a more natural sound. The downwards melodic progression motif is heard in the background here, as well. "The Azure Sky," attempts to describe the deep blue sky as observed from a high vantage point in the game, and it accomplishes this task by providing a minimalist track, providing no real melody but accurately conveying the feeling of being present before something grandiose and spectacular, managed by utilizing a roaring wind, light pitched percussion, and a gradually strengthening, repetitive sequence of notes on bagpipe, which fades out quickly once it reaches its fullest potential. It works well. "Sky Town" is introduced with a choir, and soon gives way to a melody on the sitar, which itself soon fades away back to the former instrument. The graceful melody in this track manages to be one of the most memorable on the album.

A few other tracks feature live vocal performances. "Scar" and "Hell - Orica Castle" portray two differing sides of the same theme, both featuring simple 'ahs,' sung by Haruka Shimotsuki; whereas the former being softer, the latter sounds significantly more malicious. Akiko Shikata plays a greater role, providing the voice to two other similarly styled tracks, "What my World is Wishing For," and "Lost Performance - Paradox." These tracks two display two sides of the same theme, the latter once again being a more dramatic, heinous twist on the former. She also lends her voice to "Voice of Life AE" and "Voice of Life," tracks whose melodies are made significantly more fulfilling thanks to her breathing life into them.


The Ar tonelico soundtrack is best appreciated as a stunning complement to the scenery, action, and characters of the game. It's impressive how the GUST Sound Team managed to convey the world so well by using recurring motifs, contrasts of inorganic and organic elements, and, of course, an emphasis on appropriate vocalists. On a stand-alone basis, few of the tracks stand out as being extraordinary for any particular reason. However, all are expertly crafted and feature excellent melodies, so are certainly enjoyable nevertheless. The stand-alone listen still serves as an excellent listen that no lover of the medium should pass by. It is perhaps the GUST Sound Team's finest conception.

Overall Score: 9/10