Genso Suikoden – the series that has spawned four games and about 44 arranged soundtracks! Some of them good, some of them not so good, but one in particular for me in a class of its own. Welcome to Genso Suiokden: Orrizonte – a very Celtic crossed with traditional Japanese sounding album that simply reminds you why we can anticipate arranged albums.
Yuji Yoshino and Yuko Ueno arrangements are usually extremely well conceived but here they are astounding. “Withered Earth” opens with an assault on your ears. Soaring strings, panpipes, saxophones and pounding drums take a powerful tune into another level. Having recently purchased various Celtic and Asian instruments, I take extra joy from this track by being able to drum away to the song – a top class arrangement. “Currents” on the other hand is possibly one of the best acapella arrangements of a piece of music I’ve heard. There’s no poor elocution that riddles the vocal collections of Genso Suikoden and the melody is given a smooth and melting flow of a Celtic sunset. Just a main voice and two backing vocals tracks make up the song but you’ll still be lost in the memorable track.
“Freedom Again” is a chirpy track made completely of wind instruments that’s delicate and intricate in its design although I’ve heard some say it outstays its welcome by about a minute, I like the way how it returns to the beginning of the tune for its final outro section. “Everyday Is a Carnival ~ The Even More glorious Golden Capital” is in a similar veins to the opening track but is less cohesive with it yet manages to pack more power and a triumphant finish with all the strings suddenly shooting up the scales to a lovely little finish…only to suddenly restart and the cut out! It’s a very artistic way of ending a song as if the song just simply can’t stop flowing and moving and taking you on its whirlwind adventure – a lovely touch to a fantastic frenzied piece.
“Amid the Silence” works perfectly off the back of the previous track with its slow deliberate pace, and it’s almost tick-tock-of-the-clock speed. While it doesn’t take you over completely I do think its a very valid piece for the album as you can’t have complete manic tracks all the time! “Imprisoned Town” continues the slower more melancholy route with a lovely piece that has guitars and vocal ad-libs work in perfect harmony together and the low brass works at its best here too with a lovely saxophone solo section. “The Republic Forever” then rolls out the military drums for a very Scottish piece. You can image rows upon rows of Kilted Men strolling out on parade with bagpipes and drums ahoy but it still doesn’t come across as clichéd – very uplifting.
“Plastic Castle in the Sky” is our second vocal piece, two of which are English. This is a very peaceful song with whistles, acoustic guitars and minimal percussion helping add to the trio vocal melodies. Maybe not as stunning as “Currents” but definitely holds its own.
“Let’s Climb That Hill!” is a soft and passive acoustic guitar melody which is a nice departure from the rest of the album before “Those Who Don’t Work, Don’t Eat” settles us to sleep with a sweet vocal blanket of soothing voices before the other instruments come into play. It carefully builds itself up into a short frenzy of percussion before settling back down again and while it’s an interesting piece that is very enjoyable, it doesn’t quite work as stunningly as the others. “Ah Beautiful Dancer ~ Nahala Yam Koong” takes us to the most Japanese side of the work with brash vocals, oriental twists and chords and percussion too. A thoroughly enjoyable piece indeed. The album then closes with “Orrizonte”, the shortest track which is also the most passive too. Like falling into clouds the soft vocalists, xylophones and keyboards will send you into slumber and round off a near perfect CD.
In terms of Celtic/Traditional arrangements I have two that stick out in my mind – Xenogears: Creid and Genso Suikoden: Orrizonte as the crème of the crop. If that’s not a recommendation then I can’t think what is!