Shadow Hearts Arranged Tracks: Near Death Experience had me slightly worried when it was announced. I had enjoyed two superb soundtracks and I couldn’t really see how Yoshitaka Hirota, Yasunori Mitsuda, Kenji Ito & Tomoko Ito would be able to re-arrange these priceless tracks into something shockingly different. However in true Shadow Hearts fashion the arrangements you’re used to aren’t going to be what appears on this album
“Near Death Experience – Muddy Water Edit” is as close to the easiest rock arrangement you’ll get. The acoustic orientated guitars power in at high speed and the percussion follows with some intricate details between the two playing out through an energetic and exhilarating piece that will get your heart pumping. Kyoko Koshikawa’s vocal treats from Shadow Hearts 1 also return to give the song a helping hand. Yet still much is familiar as you can hear much of the original song samples playing throughout and it’s this that sets Shadow Hearts Arrangements very much apart from the rest. “Astraroth – 8-minute Note Mix”, which doesn’t last 8 minutes may I add, builds on that notion with using the vocal samples and the haunting bell arrangements from the original and building them up to a fabulous climax to what is a very well thought out arrangement. I especially like the inclusion of acoustic guitars once again which finishes off the fuller sound of the piece.
“The Wheel of Fortune – Fortuna” then heads the album off onto the more experimental side. This is a sweeping vocal demonstration set to an ever gathering collection of harps, organs and cymbals. You can recognise the catchy “Icaro” tune that’s given so many forms in these soundtracks at one of its simple yet stunning forms. This followed by the despondent “Never Ending Sadness – Pain Edit” which is just ambience with echoed piano and high pitched string action bleeding its heart over your speakers for you. I haven’t really clicked with this arrangement yet but it doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate that it is still a good piece.
However I have completely connected with “Twilight Street – Ambient Remix”. After hours of the beautiful original version in the game, I must admit I have largely left the original alone but converting it into a heart wrenching piano piece was genius and it works so well. When the other instruments join in at the half way point it may fill your ears with more sound but it’s still very haunting yet somewhat like a new fresh dawn all at the same time. Like a rebirth…
“Ala of Sacrum – Spirit of the Air” is where we do get quite random with galloping horses and near dance drum beats to ambience nothingness and running water that might send you running for the nearest toilet! However this and this discord of vocal shrieks and electric guitars does come together for an interesting if not entirely hooked experience. One for the more left of centre music lovers! “Deep In Coma – minimal work” takes that premise up a step with a Shadow Hearts version of what I’d imagine to be a skeleton nightclub dance anthem! Excellent usage of vocals in this song which purposely strips the song down to its bare bones and sucks all the major instruments out to leave you feeling very cold despite the pace of it all.
“Asian Parafait – Jasmine” rectifies that with a perfect oriental helping of fun and pleasure in an unashamedly bouncy and catchy tune that will stay in your head for hours. I adore the instrumentation on this piece of art and how its been produced to meld together for warmth.
“Grey Memories – Floating Edit” is in a similar vein to “Deep In Coma” and is actually completely different to the original which is quite a daring trial to attempt. Very low-fi and once again sucked out of life, it reminds me of a plague of flies for its bass lines!
“The 3 Karma – Cogito, Ergo, Sun” was one of the songs a lot of people wanted to hear arranged and here we have a beautiful arrangement that starts off quite majestic before the drums pick up with the bells and violins bringing up the tension for a while. Then it all fades away for the grand organ to take over and off we go into what’s the only real dramatic section of the whole arrangement with some excellent workings and interlacing of instrument and sound clips. I think some might be annoyed at its lack of freak-out but I really enjoyed the restraint it carries for most of the song. “Sphere -qu- Sacred Shrine Edit” ends the album with saxophones and tweeting birds amongst ambience and percussive loops – just as ambiguous as the original itself and leaves you surrounded in mystery again.
I really enjoyed these tracks and I would recommend this arranged tracks album to anyone who is slightly bored of the same old arrangements and are looking for a complete escape. However Shadow Hearts as a whole offers that so I wouldn’t stop just at this CD either.